Thursday, November 5, 2020
The Florida Supreme Court has approved a reprimand of a judge
We approve the parties’ stipulation that Judge Miller behaved inappropriately in the lobby outside his courtroom, that Judge Miller’s conduct violated the Code of Judicial Conduct, and that the appropriate discipline is a public reprimand.
While the judge was presiding over a civil trial
the trial proceedings were interrupted continuously by loud noise from the public lobby outside of Judge Miller’s courtroom. The source of the sound was a result of many people congregating and not promptly disbursing [sic] from the public lobby at the conclusion of Judge William Altfield’s investiture ceremony, which had occurred in the ceremonial courtroom on the same floor.
After the bailiff and clerk's efforts to achieve quiet failed, the judge went into the lobby in robes
While trying to quiet the groups of people in the lobby, Judge Miller observed one person shaking her head while looking at him. Judge Miller believed she was telling him, “no,” indicating that she would not cooperate with his attempt to quiet the crowd. He acknowledged, however, that with hindsight she could have been shaking her head in disbelief over his behavior. Responding to what he believed was contemptuous behavior, Judge Miller approached the individual and shouted, “Do not shake your head at me.” Judge Miller then twice threatened the person with contempt, demanding to know, “Do you want to be held in contempt?” When the person answered that “no” she did not want to be held in contempt, Judge Miller continued to question the individual asking her name and whether she was employed in the Courthouse, before going back into his courtroom. Two judges who were standing and conversing with the individual, who is employed by the 11th Judicial Circuit as an Assistant General Counsel, observed that she did not yell or say anything disrespectful, and, in their opinion, did not act in any way contemptuous.
The court here found mitigation
Although it by no means excuses Judge Miller’s conduct, we are constrained to observe that the circumstances presented in this case arose only because a loud crowd disrupted trial court proceedings and persisted in their noisemaking after extended efforts were made to bring quiet so that the trial could go on. The lengthy disruption of that trial should never have occurred. Investiture ceremonies are significant events in the life of our courts, but they should not occasion the disruption of judicial business. The participation of judges or court staff in any such disruption of court proceedings is a matter of serious concern. Administrative measures should be taken to ensure that such problems do not recur.
The title of the post is a favorite song from childhood performed by Danny Kaye. (Mike Frisch)