Legal Ethics

Judge who abruptly resigned is accused of creating 'contrived dockets' to take time off

  • Print

Sebastian Duda/

A Florida judge who abruptly resigned July 6 faces allegations that he scheduled fake cases so he could secretly take time off from work.

A notice filed Monday says there is probable cause to bring judicial ethics charges against now-former Broward Circuit Judge John Contini, report Law360, the Daily Business Review and the Sun Sentinel.

“On numerous occasions, you have instructed your judicial assistant to create dockets of fictitious cases or hearings on particular days of the week on which you planned to be absent from the courthouse,” the notice says. “Your fabrication of these dockets was designed to create the impression that you were present in the courthouse, when in fact, you were not.”

Hearings were scheduled for cases that had already settled, or for cases that had already been heard or that had been postponed. The “contrived dockets” wasted judicial resources because bailiffs, clerks and other court personnel “needed to be on standby for hearings that were not real and would never happen,” the notice says.

Contini has been absent from work more than 30 days since the beginning of 2018, the notice says.

The notice also accuses Contini of:

  • Sealing a case for a friend and a business associate even though the matter wasn’t assigned to his family law division. The friend was working on a “reputation rehabilitation” project for Contini.
  • Requiring his judicial assistant to perform personal tasks for Contini, such as paying his bills and making personal travel arrangements.
  • Addressing court staff and litigants “in an arrogant, demeaning and dismissive tone.”
  • Posting confidential information about an adoption case on social media.

The Daily Business Review spoke with Indiana University Maurer School of Law professor Charles Geyh about why ethics charges would be brought after the judge’s resignation. Geyh said ethics regulators may want to make clear that this type of behavior is unacceptable and censure can’t be avoided by retirement.

Contini previously accepted a reprimand for advising public defenders in an email about how to seek lenience and then blasting a prosecutor who objected to the ex parte communication. Contini had said the prosecutor told “a lie from the pit of hell.”

Contini declined an interview with the Sun Sentinel.

According to the Daily Business Review, notice of the new ethics allegations was posted by the Judicial Qualifications Commission late Monday, but it was not publicly available Tuesday morning.

The notice was available on Wednesday, however, through a link on the commission’s website to a disciplinary case archive maintained by the Florida Supreme Court. The commission’s assistant general counsel, Alexander Williams, told the ABA Journal that the document is live and available to all.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.