ABA Journal


Criminal Justice

Dressed for a night on the town, judge ‘froze’ in jail after DUI arrest

Jul 8, 2013, 05:15 pm CDT


Oh! She took a hard line against parents? We now should take a hard line on this judge. Off the bench!

By Peter C. Lomtevas on 2013 07 08, 5:46 pm CDT

This judge sounds interesting. And quite a pic of her at the gym:

By wow on 2013 07 08, 6:41 pm CDT

I think it's refreshing to see a story about a judge who behaved badly, but apologized and is willing to take full responsibility. So often we see the ABA posting stories about judges who have messed up and refuse to admit it happens, etc.

She should get some sort of discipline, but I don't know that she should be booted off the bench for drunk driving if she is punished by the law, accepts that punishment, and follows through. Everyone screws up sometimes - at least she's willing to take responsibility for it.

By RecentGrad on 2013 07 08, 7:20 pm CDT

The Judge, no doubt, will receive a punishment proportionate with the offense in question. Since we all make mistakes; I see no reason to pile on, just because this involves a member of the judiciary.

By Yankee on 2013 07 08, 8:41 pm CDT

I'm often a critic of "corrupt judges," but I don't think judges should be punished any more or less than if you or I were arrested and punished for DUI (I don't drink, but even that is no guarantee of no drunk driving arrest).

She has a point about the cold jail cell. Deputy sheriffs in Santa Barbara County, California, will sometimes harass an arrestee (*before* conviction) by withholding protection from the cold. It could be dangerous if hypothermia kicks in, especially since there is no way to contact a jail guard and they will usually ignore the arrestee. They won't even give the arrestee the time, unless they feel like it.

By Daniel on 2013 07 08, 11:27 pm CDT

She looks so happy in her booking image, but I suppose the antifreeze was likely still working at that point. Bummer that she had to detox on a cold, concrete bench, but perhaps the jail did not have any monogrammed, terry cloth robes on hand to lend her. They probably get a lot of bad reviews over that, and scant gratuities from their over-chilled guests as well.

By B. McLeod on 2013 07 09, 5:28 am CDT

McLeod - I checked Yelp and couldn't find any reviews of the jail.

Why do people in this situation say "it will never happen again." If you look at Sheehan's personal history this is just what you would have expected. The remarkable thing is that it hasn't happened until now (though that's probably wrong).

By Pushkin on 2013 07 09, 2:33 pm CDT

Is she honest? Fair? Hard working? Reasonably intelligent? If so, she's in the top third of all judges I've appeared before. And if so, let her be human and make a human mistake. Punish her like anyone else, and then move on. Will she do it again? Time will tell. If she does, it's a different story. But if sh's a good judge, she will be humbled and, as a result, will become even better at her craft.

By Ohio Lawyer on 2013 07 12, 10:30 am CDT

Come on, guys, a drunken driver is a menace and this woman should quit. Now.

By Andrew on 2013 07 12, 12:28 pm CDT

Every one of us has probably been a "menace" in some way, Andrew. I lost a good friend to a drunken driver. The cuprit spent years in jail, which she should have. She's been punished, and we move on. Once this judge is properly punished, we need to move on. If she's good at what she does and doesn't repeat the offense, let her make a difference in the lives of others.

By Ohio Lawyer on 2013 07 12, 12:40 pm CDT

I read the title and thought this was about a judge bitching about her treatment in jail. As it turns out it's about a judge who admits freely having made a mistake, and just made an offhand comment about chilling her posterior on a cold bench.

I'm not about to condone her actions, but a judge who states out in public, "I did XXX, it was wrong, I take responsibility," in a way that's practically asking the book be thrown at her, has something going for her in terms of integrity. Of course, there's a strike against her in terms of basic sense, but integrity absolutely.

@1 & @9: Negligence happens when people aren't paying attention. How many people, indeed how many lawyers, do you know who never lapse in their attention? She deserves the punishment leveled against her, and I'm sure the ethics board is reviewing this. But seriously - if we're going to start kicking people out for things like being drunk and getting stupid, a lot of lawyers are going to be out of jobs.

By Edmund Wilfong on 2013 07 12, 12:54 pm CDT

The fact is there is no legal limit above .08 there is a presumption of being impaired this is a legal paper and even it gets it wrong. Drunk driving is a taxation issue the actual percentages of accidents are extremely smal. Soon at least 50 percent of all drivers will have one DUI. Bravo that the judge has the integrity to admit error. How sad that the ability to admit error and have integrity stands out for a Judge. Most will not understand the irony

By Todd on 2013 07 12, 1:21 pm CDT

Last I checked, DUI isn't just a "lapse in attention," it's a serious crime. Drunk driving kills people, including people I know. This judge's blood alcohol level was tested at more than twice the legal limit. She knew she was going out on the town "bar hopping" with her cousin -- it doesn't require much "attention" to know that you're going to need someone who isn't drinking to provide the transportation. This woman, of all people, should have been fully cognizant that failing to provide a "designated driver" in such a situation was likely going to be a crime. And sure enough, it was.

It's a sad commentary on our culture when we have such low standards and expectations for the people we select and uphold as our judges.

By Seriously on 2013 07 12, 2:11 pm CDT

Random thoughts:

1. That judge has some guns! Must have a lotta time to spend at the gym.

2. Anyone else think she's just a wee bit on the old side to be out bar-hopping and wearing "skimpy sundresses"?

3. Wonder why she would have agreed to a BAC test when she must have known she'd be over the (very low) .08 threshold?

4. Agree that it's nice she appears to be taking full responsibility for her actions and not making excuses, but, really, what choice does she have? She got caught. True responsibility would have been not to engage in such behavior in the first place.

4. Having said that, I agree w/ Todd @ 12, .08 is a very low threshold designed primarily to generate more revenue for the state. Some people are entirely competent to drive above that level, while other drivers, as we all have witnessed, are completely incompetent even when stone sober. And Seriously @ 13, I'm sorry about your losses, but no, drunk driving in and of itself does not kill people. There are literally millions of people a month who drive under the influence and never cause anyone's death, or any other harm. Plowing one's car into another vehicle or person can cause death, and that happens every day, with or without the assistance of alcohol.

By Just Some Bloke on 2013 07 12, 3:28 pm CDT

DUI without an injury is a victimless crime. Most "alchohol-related" driving deaths do not have alcohol as a cause. The statistics are gamed.

But I have no issue with putting the screws on the Judge. This is a person who ruins familes and lives on a daily basis, because it is her job to do so in a family court setting. Even the most righteous person cannot do the job, because the authority is not proper in the first place, except perhaps in the most egregious cases of abuse.

But most Americans, like commenter #13, still have the Scarlet letter mentatliy. If you sin, and heaven forbid, get convicted, it's like you aren't a person anymore. The state could skin you or gas you, and the run of the mill Joe would say "well they shouldn't have committed the crime!". How far we have come from an older, more learned time.

So when the disgusting system is turned on its minions, I have to smirk. Jesus called the lawyers hypocrites, so let the Judge bear the burdens she puts on others.

By Perry Mason on 2013 07 12, 4:47 pm CDT

It appears that people are confusing two different issues here:
1) Her violation of Fla. Stat. Ch. 316.193;
2) her status/employment as a judge.
Unless it is the position of those who apparently believe that by committing the first, she should forfeit the second, that such a standard should apply to every person in a similar position; e.x., lawyers, doctors, elected officials, teachers, I smell hypocrisy.
Furthermore, if one does hold such a opinion, then one should explain the rationale behind it, cite the underlying legal and socio-economic theories, and then explain why this doctrine does not apply to every one who is found guilty of a 1st offense DUI.
A history of misdemeanor offenses, similar or otherwise, or a felony offense- I could understand calling for her removal. But this? By itself, no.

By Vastly Amused on 2013 07 12, 4:58 pm CDT

Oh how the mighty have fallen!

Still not as ironicas the founder of MADD getting popped for drunk driving several years back.

By You call this coffee!? on 2013 07 12, 5:04 pm CDT

@ Pushkin
Kinda puzzled here- what do you mean by "If you look at Sheehan’s personal history this is just what you would have expected."?
I've read the Tampa Bay Times article on her, do you know more about her than that?

By Vastly Amused on 2013 07 12, 5:05 pm CDT

@13 Seriously.....Seriously??? DUI is a serious crime?? Know the law before you make such a sanctimonious judgment. It would have been a serious crime IF she had caused an injury or death to someone.
She made a mistake in judgment (and who among hasn't at some point in some way in our life?), and thankfully no one was hurt. Kudos to her for owning her mistake. At least she didn't try to use her position as a judge to berate the arresting officer or make a complete ass out of herself when she got to jail. Gee, how many times have we heard of that by members of this profession in a situation like this?
Perhaps she has learned a valuable life lesson and can be an example to others.....

By Dixie Chick on 2013 07 12, 5:12 pm CDT

@ 15- "DUI without an injury is a victimless crime". So- if I stand along I-64 and shoot at deer on the other side of the interstate, so long as I don't hit any cars or people, that's okay? What if I want to shoot pigeons in downtown NYC- same theory apply? Or drive my car, blindfolded, down the highway during rush hour, at 100 MPH?
So, endangering the lives of innocent 3rd parties by my actions is an victimless crime? Amazing.
And having seen many, many people with BACs of 0.08 or higher- I have my doubts that "Most “alchohol-related” driving deaths do not have alcohol as a cause." is an accurate statement. It's appears to be the kind of weasel-wording that makes people despise lawyers, e.x., "My client didn't murder anyone- the deceased died of heart failure." "Wasn't he shot thru the heart?"

By VAstly Amused on 2013 07 12, 5:17 pm CDT

Dear Just Some Bloke,

At least in my state, you have no choice on giving a blood sample when arrested for DUI. According to out state laws, when you decided to drive you gave consent - and it cannot be withdrawn later. So get arrested for DUI and you will give a blood sample; if you physically resist, the S.O. has a very interesting chair that they will literally velcro you into so that your blood sample can be drawn.

By Prosecutor on 2013 07 12, 5:28 pm CDT

I have long thought it would be salutary for judges, prosecutors, and defense lawyers to spend a little time in jail just to have some understanding of what it's like. I toured the new jail in our county just before its activation, and clearly remember the feeling when the door closed behind me. I knew I would need help to get out. At least now this judge knows what's up when she sentences someone to jail time.
And yes, driving while intoxicated is a crime fraught with danger. I get nervous when that maniac comes weaving down the street at high speeds.

By George Renneberg on 2013 07 12, 8:00 pm CDT

vastly amused--seriously? This very night--friday, July 12, 2013, some number in excess of 30 million people in america will get behind the wheel after consuming alcoholic beverages. By contrast, you will be the ONLY one shooting deer across the expressway, or driving blindfolded at 100 mph into NYC so you can shoot pigeons in Manhattan--the only one--that is unless you are home watching the ball game in your mom's family room while mom and dad are out making a Toyota commercial in their new Venza.

If arrested you would be given a psych exam, while the thousands of DUIs who are picked up tonight will be given a breathalyzer or blood test.

Speeding is just as deadly as DUI--same mechanism too. And every driver in America but you speeds almost every day. Get a life. Time to move out of your parents house.

By observer on 2013 07 12, 8:23 pm CDT

The comments reveal more than the story.

Judge drinking and driving = bad. Admitting she is guilty = good. No excuses = good. Time in jail, probably good for the educational experience. Not complaining about treatment in jail =good.

I have never driven drunk as I don't (never have) drink. I driven while sick, sleepy, and distracted (no texting). I have lost friends to drunk drivers.

If you are looking for perfect judges, move along. I know and have known many judges. Haven't met a perfect one yet. Have met several that thought they were perfect, even though they weren't on the federal bench.

By Redneck Lawyer on 2013 07 12, 10:17 pm CDT

As a criminal defense attorney, my hope is that this experience will make the judge more human if she ever has occasion to order the incarceration of someone and does not, instead, make her holier than thou.

By fnlawyer on 2013 07 13, 1:33 am CDT

This does not hurt the reputation of the judiciary at all. It shows that they are not above Joe Citizen and that the law applies equally to all of us. This is a great story! I hope she gets to stay on the bench and learn a lesson from it. This is like a little reality TV. This is the opposite of the cursing lawyer videos (which I've now shared on FaceBook.) That story suggests that attorneys should not be in charge of regulating themselves. Well, that's what those videos say to me at least.

By Tom Youngjohn on 2013 07 13, 11:02 pm CDT

Drunken driving does kill people, and .08 is a reasonable threshhold (and the person that questioned why she acceded to the test, if she did not then they could still obtain a warrant and test her anyway-- which she's probably signed a few and knows that.)

If she is arrested again and is a chronic drunk driver then yes, it would be grounds to remove her from the bench, but one time is not enough for her to lose her job over. She'll probably get a fine, maybe a few days in jail or community service and have to attend counseling-- pretty standard for a first time DUI.

That said, there is only one person in the history of the world who never made a mistake, and he was hung on a cross. It's amazing to me how we insist on the perfect person for everything. That's why there are so many vacancies in the government (and have been for at least a decade) because everyone who is nominated the other side can find SOMETHING they said, wrote, did or whatever in their past and they use that as an excuse to raise 'serious questions about their qualifications.'

By Eli Blake on 2013 07 15, 6:36 pm CDT

Well, Your Honor-suck it up and quit apologizing. What's done is done, just keep your focus on your public service and remind yourself that you are a devoted public official who only slipped, but caught yourself before any actual damage occurred. Phoney ethical pontifications are always the highlight for lesser mortals who sit and review you unkindly. I'm grateful for anyone who'd put their money where there mouth is and donate $100G's for the benefit of citizens', and I feel the judge deserves a pass on this(fine, slap on wrist, etc.)-minimal trashing of her life/record, please!

By Deborah Kennedy on 2013 07 16, 4:47 pm CDT

@23 (observer): "And every driver in America but you speeds almost every day." WRONG!!! While I am not in a position to speak for anyone's behavior but mine, I can assure you that I do not speed at all, let alone every day.

Why? Because I believe that respect for the rule of law is essential to the continuation of an orderly society. Do I think that all of the laws and regulations are reasonable or necessary? Hardly. But neither do I believe that it is within my purview to decide which of these I choose to follow.

We have legislatures and courts to determine what are the laws which EVERY member of society should honor. For each individual to pick and choose which ones he will abide will lead to chaos and anarchy.

And I detest the mentality that believes that, if everyone else is breaking the law, then that justifies my disregard.

By Non-Practicing Attorney on 2013 07 16, 9:26 pm CDT abiding citizen who never drives even 1 mile over a posted speed limit and a non-practicing attorney. Umm....

By Dixie Chick on 2013 07 17, 8:14 pm CDT

@30 Dixie Chick - "Umm" what?

By Non-practicing Attorney on 2013 07 17, 11:25 pm CDT

I'm amazed at the ignorance on this thread, ranging from people over a certain age have no right to go to bars to DUI is a victimless crime. I certainly hope you folks are not attorneys. Talk about lowering the "bar." Jeez.

By flipflop on 2013 07 21, 2:56 am CDT

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