One is an outlier. A sad reminder of the legal profession’s struggle with alcoholism. Two is a curiosity. Perhaps a coincidence? But when three judges, all from the same court, get charged with DWI over the course of a mere six months, you’re looking at a trend.
Just this morning, the third judge in this trend was handcuffed and led away from the scene of an accident. In this case, the courtroom parking lot. That’s right, she’s accused of running over the gate to the lot and then ramming a parked sheriff’s car.
At 8:00 a.m.
There must have been an awesome special on mimosas at the local IHOP knockoff….
Apparently the Broward County Courthouse is the place to be if you want to get riggety riggety wrecked, son! This morning was Judge Lynn Rosenthal’s turn to see how the other half of her criminal courtroom lives when she gets booked at the Broward Main Jail. There are scant details of the accident so far, but everyone agrees that a sheriff’s vehicle was hit, and they’re blaming Judge Rosenthal, a Governor Scott appointee facing an electoral challenge this year from the happiest person in Florida today.
But what makes this story interesting is the fact that Broward County judges can’t seem to get away from defending themselves against drunk driving charges. The Broward County bar must be excellent… and I’m sure they have some good lawyers too.
The trend kicked off back in November when Judge Cynthia Imperato was pinched for drunk driving after a fellow motorist called 911:
“He’s all over the road,” said a caller who phoned 911 at 9:49 p.m. Tuesday to report seeing an erratic white Mercedes-Benz turn onto Northeast Second Street from Federal Highway.
“He nearly sideswiped me twice. He’s gotta be drunk,” the caller, who said he wasn’t sure if the driver was male or female, said. “He’s really dangerous.”
It was nearly an hour later and less than three miles away when police witnessed the erratically driven white Mercedes-Benz for themselves, a police report said.
Imperato, a judge since 2003, refused to take a breath test after she was pulled over shortly before 11 p.m. in the 2400 block of West Palmetto Park Road, the report said.
She was in the driver’s seat with her window rolled down and was attempting to use her cellphone when Officer Robert Jesionek approached, the report said.
When he asked Imperato if she knew why he stopped her, Imperato said “she was weaving,” the report said.
“I could smell a strong odor of alcoholic beverage coming from her breath. Her eyes were red and glassy. Her speech was slow and slurred. Her face was red and flush,” Jesionek wrote.
Jesionek set up his in-car camera and asked Imperato to get out of her car, but she refused and said she was calling her attorney, the report said. Jesionek observed that she “was having problems dialing any numbers.”
The video of the incident was eventually released, and despite the characterization of the commentators that she was “uncooperative,” she sounds like she just wants to talk to her lawyer and refuses to comply with the police’s standard operating BS of asking directed questions hoping a suspect will “voluntarily” do something they aren’t prepared to order her to do. She’s not only a judge but a former prosecutor and a former cop, so I think she knew exactly what she was doing.
At the time, Chief Judge Peter Weinstein said he had “no specific protocol in place dictating how to handle a judge in this situation.” He may want to invest some time in developing one. Starting with a designated driver program.
Judge Gisele Pollack was arrested on May 1 after a car crash. In that accident, another driver was injured, prompting Pollack to be charged with four counts of DUI and failure to use due care. Just days ago, the Supreme Court of Florida suspended Pollack for allegedly violating the code of judicial conduct. She certainly sounds like she was drinking on the job based on audio tapes that caught her making slurred and somewhat off-kilter comments in open court:
The news channel, because it’s awful local news, fixates on questioning whether someone with an acknowledged history of addiction should be hearing drug cases. Actually, that sounds like an ideal person to be hearing drug cases, especially if, like Judge Pollack, she’d managed to stay sober for 20 years. Hopefully her suspension will give her an opportunity to get back on track — if not to return to the bench, then at least to get her life sorted out.
Not hanging around her colleagues might be a terrific start.
Broward judge arrested on DUI charge in courthouse parking lot [Sun Sentinel]
Judge Lynn Rosenthal Wreaks Havoc In Courthouse Parking Lot Before DUI Arrest [Daily Business Review]
Broward Judge Gisele Pollack accused of drunken driving in crash that sent man to hospital [Sun Sentinel]
Broward Judge Cynthia Imperato charged with DUI [Sun Sentinel]