September 24, 2022

US: Accused of being drunk on Bench, Miami-Dade Judge suspended with pay

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Screenshot of Miami-Dade County Court Judge Jacqueline Schwartz’s public reprimand before the Florida Supreme Court.

Screenshot of Miami-Dade County Court Judge Jacqueline Schwartz’s public reprimand before the Florida Supreme Court.

By Samantha Joseph, Daily Business Review

Miami-Dade County Court Judge Jacqueline Schwartz was suspended Tuesday [19] after she was accused of being intoxicated in court and starting a drunken confrontation with staff and police at a Miami restaurant.

For now, the suspension is with pay, but the Florida Supreme Court will determine later whether to withhold her $138,000 salary. In its suspension order, the court ordered briefs to be filed by May 9 to justify staying on the state payroll.

The state Judicial Qualifications Commission recommended her suspension Monday over two incidents in March.

Schwartz, who was publicly reprimanded in December for previous misconduct, had been on medical leave since the latest incident, the JQC said.

“It is important for judges, who are entrusted by the public with the administration of justice, to display ethical conduct at all times,” Miami-Dade Chief Circuit Judge Bertila Soto said Tuesday. “I know that the JQC takes this matter very seriously, as do we.”

She declined further comment, citing the ongoing state investigation.

Witnesses said the judge “took the bench and presided over a criminal traffic docket while impaired” March 28, the commission charges said.

“After approximately 90 minutes, Judge Schwartz was removed from the bench by the chief judge and sent home. At first, Judge Schwartz stated that she was OK to drive herself home,” the complaint said. Her bailiff drove her home in her car, but the judge couldn’t remember her address or give directions and didn’t recognize her bailiff or realize she was in her own car.

A second incident on March 18 occurred at a Greek restaurant, where Schwartz appeared impaired and unsteady. She allegedly swore at the staff who refused to serve her any more wine and called Miami police officers “pigs” after patrons called 911.

“None of this — about a lawyer or judge acting out — surprises me. We have one of the most stressful professions on Earth,” said Miami attorney Matthew Dietz, litigation director of Disability Independence Group Inc., which advocates for improved mental health services. “It’s almost to be expected. You look at how stressful our lives are as lawyers, but there is no outlet for any lawyer to be comfortable getting assistance without stigma. That’s always been my issue.”

Foul-Mouthed

Schwartz has a history of “using profanities towards members of the public,” according to the JQC.

In December, the Supreme Court reprimanded her for misbehavior during her reelection campaign in 2014. She swore at retailer Firas Hussain and threatened to sue him for displaying a rival’s campaign sign and refusing to place hers at his Miami KWIK Stop convenience store.

In the restaurant incident, patrons reported a profanity-riddled tirade with the judge berating the wait staff, demanding to speak with the owner and threatening to have employees fired for refusing to serve her additional drinks, the complaint alleged. Officers stopped her from driving, and a friend took her home,

At a suspension hearing Friday, Schwartz didn’t deny eyewitness accounts but testified she didn’t remember what happened at the restaurant.

IMAGE: Screenshot of Miami-Dade County Court Judge Jacqueline Schwartz’s public reprimand before the Florida Supreme Court.

Read more: http://www.dailybusinessreview.com/id=1202755333281/Accused-of-Being-Drunk-on-Bench-MiamiDade-Judge-Suspended-With-Pay#ixzz46Ofk65kf

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