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When Your Judge Behaves Badly

Miami-Dade-area judge Jacqueline Schwartz was recently admonished by the Florida Supreme Court after having found to have used “profane language” with a store owner during Judge Schwartz’s primary election campaign in 2014. In a written apology issued to the store owner, Judge Schwartz apologized for her actions, indicating that her use of vulgar language did not inspire trust or respect in the judiciary.

On the one hand, judges are simply human beings and are subjected to stresses and pressures with which many individuals do not have to struggle. But on the other hand, as Judge Schwartz acknowledged, when a judge behaves badly or inappropriately the entire integrity of the judicial system can be called into question.

Bad Behavior in a Criminal Proceeding

While Judge Schwartz’s use of profane language occurred outside of the courtroom and was not conducted during the course of a pending case, sometimes a judge’s bad behavior occurs in the courtroom and is directed at a criminal defendant. This causes the defendant to wonder if he or she is able to receive a fair hearing and/or trial before this particular judge. In these circumstances, the criminal defendant may request that the judge recuse him- or herself from the case.

Recusal Requires Attention to Legal Requirements

Having a judge recuse him- or herself (i.e., remove) from hearing a case does not mean your criminal charges go away. Instead, the court would assign a new judge to hear your case and decide the legal and/or factual issues therein. While a recusal does not automatically result in a dismissal or acquittal, it can help increase the chances that you will receive a fair and impartial trial and that any motion you make for dismissal or acquittal will be fairly considered.

To ask a judge to recuse him- or herself from you case (assuming the judge refuses to do so on his or her own), you must file a motion with the court within 10 days after you learn of the facts and circumstances justifying a recusal. If you are in the middle of a trial and discover reason for the judge to recuse him- or herself, your motion must be filed right away. In your motion, you must set out facts and circumstances showing a “ground” (or reason) for the judge to recuse him- or herself. These grounds may include:

  • Where the judge has a specifically-described prejudice and/or bias that harms the defendant and calls into question whether the defendant will receive a fair trial;
  • Where the judge or a person closely related to the judge is a party in the case or interested in the result (i.e., if the judge’s brother was the alleged victim in your case);
  • Where the judge is closely related to one of the attorneys; and/or
  • Where the judge is a material witness for one side or the other.

Having an experienced Miami-Dade criminal defense attorney on your side is the best way to ensure your right to a fair trial is protected. Attorney Jeffrey S. Weiner aggressively protects his clients rights and can move to have the judge recuse him- or herself if necessary. He will present your case effectively and persuasively and fight to ensure it gets full and fair consideration by the court. Contact the law office of Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. today by calling (305) 670-9919, or contact him online for assistance with your criminal case.

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