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The Florida Bar

Broward State Attorney’s Office Targets Judge Contini. Huh?

Judge Contini, a newly elected judge is being attacked by the Broward County State Attorney’s office after talking generally about Florida Law with his court public defenders. It is a common practice for judges to help better our young local attorneys so that they may not only better serve the clients that they represent but more importantly assist in the efficient flow of our Florida criminal justice system. Judge Contini has been a well-respected lawyer in Broward County for decades.

I am disheartened I think that what can only be seen as a legal and unbiased act could ever serve to have him removed from presiding over criminal cases in Broward County. It also seems out of character for the Broward County State Attorney’s office. Decades ago we had judges that were accused of quite disrespectful facts towards our local attorneys. It was a difficult time and the allegations were severe. The prosecutors office was silent during that time.

Our current judiciary assigned to the task of presiding over criminal cases is the best and most qualified that is ever been. Many local attorneys practicing criminal law fear that such a bold move by the Broward County State Attorney’s office will serve to dissuade judges from appropriately mentoring the younger attorneys present assigned to their courtrooms.

An examination of the allegations first asserted by the Broward County State Attorney’s office and then filed by way of a petition for writ of prohibition by the Attorney Geneneral’s office reveals nothing more than a discussion of legal issues. General issues pertaining to Florida criminal law. A better understanding of which rapidly speeds up the manner in which criminal cases are processed in Broward County.

Bruce Rogow, who is undoubtedly one of the best lawyers in the state of Florida stated that he did not believe Judge Contini needed to remove himself from presiding over criminal cases in Broward County. Rogow also stated that seeking recusal is an overreaction by the State. There is nothing to suggest that Judge Contini would refrain from looking at downward departure motions on a case by case basis.

This is supported by allegations in the petition for writ of prohibition filed against Judge Contini. Allegations that clearly state that the judge indicated that motions seeking reduced sentences should be filed where appropriate. Any conversation taking place between Judge Contini and lawyers that practice in front of him were not case specific. The communications were also based on established Florida Criminal Law.

Attorney William R. Moore Claims That the Action Taken by the Broward County State Attorney’s Office Is Peculiar to Say the Least

William Moore, a Criminal Lawyer in Fort Lauderdale, states that John Contini has been a well-respected attorney in Broward County for decades. More importantly, he is a brand-new judge. Having only been elected a few months ago, you have to wonder why what the motivation was behind one of the boldest acts taken against a criminal judge by the Broward prosecutor’s office since I can remember. I don’t believe for a second that anyone practicing criminal law in Broward County honestly believes that Judge Contini cannot be fair and impartial. The ultimate result will be a criminal court judiciary fearful of their every move. He is new. He was clearly just trying to be a good judge.

The elected public defender, Howard Finkelstein describes the actions of the state attorney’s office is being disingenuous. He furthered that the actions of John Contini paled in comparison to recent problems associated with our Broward County criminal courts.

Broward County criminal justice system has come under fire over the last couple of years to say the least. The current criminal court judges at this moment are the best we have ever had. Allegations against Judge Contini are weak at best can only serve to undermine the criminal court bench where it is not warranted. A judge that takes lawful an ethical duty to control the manner in which cases are litigated before them is common. Talking about Florida Criminal law is even more common.

Local Broward County criminal defense attorneys have also emphasized how quiet the Broward State attorney’s office has been in response to arrests and wrongdoings alleged against the jurisdiction’s prosecutors.

The writ seeking to have Judge Contini removed from presiding over criminal cases in Broward County speaks loudly, albeit incorrectly. Specifically, language alleging that Judge Contini was providing a method by which defense lawyers could file a motion for a reduced sentence that would be a “sure winner.” There is nothing whatsoever based on the facts that we have reviewed that would tend to support this allegation.

Once again, Judge Contini stated in talking about motions for downward departure that they should only be filed where appropriate. Furthermore, all communications were about the interpretation of Florida criminal law. Certainly a judge is permitted to speak with local criminal defense attorneys about the law. Remember, no discussions took place about any specific Broward County criminal case. No specific criminal defendant was mentioned.

Do Better Attorneys Equate to a More Efficient Judicial Process?

Some Broward County criminal judges seem to think so.

Many criminal court judges called regularly scheduled meetings to discuss issues pertaining to the efficient flow of an already overwhelming criminal caseload. Such an aggressive act taken immediately after Judge Contini has taken the bench seems suspect. From what we can tell advice given in order to prevent improperly filed pleadings from being kicked back and consuming the court’s time.

Remember the more time that it takes for the court to get through its regularly scheduled docking of cases, the more judges that are necessary. More judges means more money.

How much more money? Well you have to take into account that the following. The salary of additional judges, the salary of at least two bailiffs assigned to the courtroom of each new judge, the cost of a qualified and experienced in court clerk, court reporter and judicial assistant, there must also be at least one assigned prosecutor and defense attorney to each new judges division. In Broward County, most often that means three prosecutors and three public defenders. Let’s not forget the cost of the judge’s office, assigned courtroom etc. It may be worth considering that instilling fear in judges who wish to openly communicate with the attorneys litigating criminal cases before them may serve to slow down our judicial process in Broward County.

Like I said more judges more money.

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