Judge Allegedly Faked Court Calendar to Take Time Off From Work
There are a couple of lessons to be learned from the ill-advised actions of Judge John Patrick Contini.
Obviously, judges shouldn't fake their dockets to take time off from work. When you are making $160,000-a-year from taxpayer dollars, you owe it to the people to do your job.
But judges -- and counsel -- should learn another lesson on their first day in the courtroom: treat the staff with respect.
Apparently, Contini's courtroom staff blew his cover. Contini allegedly scheduled hearings on cases that had already settled to make it appear that he had a busy calendar, but they knew better.
Instead of coming to court, he was off doing his own thing. He would ask his judicial assistant to send him documents to review and sign in his absence, according to the Judicial Qualifications Commission.
"On numerous occasions, you have instructed your judicial assistant to create dockets of fictitious cases or hearings on particular days of the week on which you planned to be absent from the courthouse," wrote Alex Williams, assistant general counsel for the commission.
Even though Contini has already resigned, the ethics commission is pursuing a formal complaint. The commission typically drops cases when judges resign, but officials want to make a point.
"Pit of Hell"
"Former Judge Contini's conduct and behavior violated the canons governing judicial conduct," Chief Judge Jack Tuter told the Sun Sentinel. "That conduct and his resignation is not a reflection of the many fine judges working in the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit."
It's an important statement for Broward County because Contini is the second judge to resign there under a cloud this year. Judge Claudia Robinson quit after allegations she steered more than 80 percent of her division's mediation appointments to an adviser on her 2014 election campaign.
Contini, for his part, had been reprimanded two years ago for calling a prosecutor a liar over an ex parte communication with opposing counsel. It was "a lie from the pit of hell," Contini said at the time.
In addition to faking dockets, the new charges accuse him of having his judicial assistant pay his bills, make travel arrangements and do other personal tasks. He also allegedly treated court staff "in an arrogant, demeaning and dismissive tone."
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