Posted Apr 24, 2012 06:13 pm CDT
A referee for the Florida Bar has recommended a one-year law license suspension for a former homicide prosecutor who sent hundreds of texts and made hundreds of phone calls to a state court judge during a 2007 capital murder trial.
Howard Scheinberg, 51, was admitted in 1987 and is now in private practice in Plantation after two decades as a prosecutor. He resigned after the communications between him and a then-Broward Circuit Court judge, Ana Gardiner, came to light. Both maintained that the approximately 1,400 calls and texts they were found to have made to each other during the trial had nothing to do with the case, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports.
However, the referee, Sheree Davis Cunningham, said in a 10-page report that the communications should have been disclosed to defense counsel for Omar Loureiro and that failing to do so was prejudicial to the administration of justice. Loureiro, who had been convicted and sentenced to death, won a new trial as a result of the communications. He was since convicted again in another trial and given a life prison term.
Attorney Bruce Lyons, who represents Scheinberg, said his client is crushed by the damage to his reputation and plans to appeal the one-year suspension recommendation, the article says.
Gardiner, who is now 50, resigned from the bench after the communications came to light and now practices with Cole Scott and Kissane.
She avoided a judicial ethics complaint by resigning, but is currently facing a Florida Bar complaint, as an attorney, over the communications with Scheinberg. The Florida Bar has also said that Gardiner misled the Judicial Qualifications Commission into thinking that her communications with Scheinberg were more minimal than they were. A hearing is scheduled in May.
“I would like to think they would punish her more harshly,” attorney and legal ethics professor Bob Jarvis of Nova Southeastern University told the newspaper. “You can certainly make the argument … that as a judge she had a much greater duty to make sure that this didn’t happen.”
ABAJournal.com: “Complaint Against Judge Puts Ex-Prosecutor Back on Hot Seat re Claimed Ex Parte Contacts”
ABAJournal.com: “Ex-Judge Faces Ethics Case, as Lawyer, re Alleged Chats with Murder Prosecutor While Still On Bench”