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Legal Ethics

Judge Accused, Prosecutor Cleared re 3,388 Calls & Texts During & After Death-Penalty Case

Posted Mar 4, 2010 4:54 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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It isn't just in Texas that a judge is accused of having presided over a capital murder trial while simultaneously having an inappropriate relationship with the prosecutor.

In Florida, Broward Circuit Judge Ana Gardiner was charged in a legal ethics complaint yesterday with having exchanged hundreds of phone calls and text messages with then-prosecutor Howard Scheinberg over a 155-day period in 2007 that coincided, at least in part, with the trial and the judge's sentencing of the defendant to the death penalty, reports the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

The 48-year-old judge is also accused by the Judicial Qualifications Commission of having talked and joked about the murder case with Scheinberg, 49, at a meal in an upscale Fort Lauderdale restaurant four days before the jury in the case returned a guilty verdict.

The convicted defendant, Omar Loureiro, has been granted a new trial, the Sun-Sentinel notes. Another prosecutor who dined with Gardiner and Scheinberg that night supported his petition for a new trial with an affidavit, but denies having complained to the JQC.

The JQC alleges that Gardiner failed to disclose her relationship with the prosecutor to defense counsel and misled an investigative panel when it questioned her about the issue in 2008. It says she and Scheinberg exchanged 3,388 calls and text messages during the trial and thereafter.

Gardiner and a lawyer who represented her in the past did not return the newspaper's phone calls. She and Scheinberg have said in depositions that they happened to bump into each other at the Timpano's restaurant shortly before the murder verdict but denied discussing the case.

Gardiner now oversees civil cases and Scheinberg is in solo private practice.

He was cleared of wrongdoing by the Florida Bar last year and his lawyer, Bruce Lyons, says the two didn't communicate about the case.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Judge’s Affair With Prosecutor Raised Too Late; Appeals Court Denies New Trial"

ABAJournal.com: "Appeals Court Reverses Death Sentence, Doesn’t Mention Judge-Prosecutor Affair"

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