Boy that's an ominous title for a Florida Supreme Court opinion, and this one issued today deals with Broward County Judge Dale Cohen.
If you don't recall the charges, here's a refresher:
The charges arose out of a hearing on a motion for disqualification that was filed on August 6, 2009, by an attorney appearing before Judge Cohen. The motion alleged the existence of a conflict between the attorney and Judge Cohen‘s wife. At a hearing on the motion, Judge Cohen called his wife as a witness to refute the allegations in the motion. Judge Cohen later held additional hearings in which he questioned the attorney‘s clients and threatened to file a complaint against the attorney with The Florida Bar.Ok, so holding a hearing on a recusal motion and calling your wife as a witness -- pretty pedestrian for Broward -- what exactly did the Judge do wrong?
Pursuant to rule 2.330(f), Judge Cohen was required to either grant the motion for disqualification or to deny it as legally insufficient. Judge Cohen testified before the Investigative Panel that he believed the allegations in the motion were exaggerated. During lunch, he asked his wife to come to the courtroom with the intent of calling her as a witness. When court resumed, Judge Cohen called his wife to the witness stand over counsel‘s objections and questioned her regarding the facts set forth in the recusal motion. In doing so, Judge Cohen forced counsel to place his own credibility against the credibility of the judge‘s wife. Judge Cohen acknowledged in his testimony that he violated the canons by allowing his wife to testify as a witness and in not following the law.I love the explanation by Judge Cohen -- I was just trying to keep things buddy-buddy, we're talking Broward here:
Judge Cohen explained that he held the hearing in order to remain on friendly terms with Melnick and to resolve what he believed to be a misunderstanding between Melnick and his wife. Judge Cohen thus allowed his conduct on the bench to be influenced by social and family relationships, in violation of Canon 2B.Well if that's now illegal we're all screwed.