Reprimand Recommended for Judge Who Gave PDs 15 Minutes to Write Motion
Posted Feb 5, 2008 8:04 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
Florida’s Judicial Qualifications Commission is recommending that a Miami judge receive a reprimand for setting unreasonable time limits to file disqualification motions and threatening lawyers with contempt for failing to meet them.
Judge Cheryl Aleman was "arrogant, discourteous, and impatient to the lawyers appearing before her,'' the commission found.
The ethics body acquitted Judge Cheryl Aleman of one count and found her guilty of another, both of which concerned her reactions to motions to disqualify herself, the Sun-Sentinel reports. The guilty finding involved a murder trial in which the public defenders filed repeated disqualification motions.
In one instance, Aleman handed the defense lawyers a pen and paper to draft their motion and gave them a 15-minute time limit to draft it. The defense lawyers rushed to their offices to try to meet the deadline and avoid contempt, running up and down the hall in front of jurors.
One of the defense lawyers had campaigned against Aleman in the judicial election, the newspaper says.
The commission noted that the public defender’s office had made seven disqualification motions, calling it “a disturbing pattern." But the commission said Aleman should not have gotten into an unnecessary dispute with defense counsel.
"Counsel in contested matters may occasionally act inappropriately," the commission wrote (PDF posted by the Sun-Sentinel). "However, the court does not have the liberty to respond in kind."
Aleman's attorney, David Bogenschutz, told the Miami Herald he was grateful the panel recommended a reprimand, the least severe punishment, although he would have preferred a full exoneration. The ethics body could have recommended removal from the bench. His client has not decided whether to appeal.
The commission also recommended the Aleman pay the cost of the disciplinary proceeding.
The commission had originally filed five charges against Aleman, but dropped three of them before trial. One involved the judge’s refusal to release an inmate dying of AIDS and another involved her jailing of a defense lawyer for missing a nonurgent hearing, even though she knew he was out of town.