Florida Supreme Court Disciplines Judge Shea of the Ninth Judicial Circuit

by appealattorneylaw

The Florida Supreme Court recently issued an opinion adopting the recommendations of the JQC, and disciplined the Judge Shea, a Circuit Court Judge for the Ninth Judicial Circuit.  I thought I’d pass this along because if you are criminal defense attorney who has cases pending before Judge Shea, or if you handle criminal appeals of any of Judge Shea’s cases, you should probably be aware of some of his inappropriate behavior (that is, if you’re not already).  In the opinion, Judge Shea stipulated to five charges:

[1.]  In the summer of 2007, Assistant State Attorney Sarah Freeman was sitting in the jury box with two other attorneys making notes on her pretrial docket while [Judge Shea addressed] a matter that was not hers.  When [Judge Shea] observed her shake her head, [Judge Shea] got up out of [his] seat, stood behind [his] chair and screamed loudly at her for what [he] perceived as disrespectful conduct.
[2.]  In 2007, during an off-the-record sidebar argument by Assistant State Attorney Camelia Coward regarding a plea to the bench, [Judge Shea] remarked to the opposing attorney, “Do you know what I do when my wife and I disagree? I just let her talk.” [Judge Shea] continued, “I find that it is best just to let her talk until she’s finished.”  [Judge Shea] then indicated that, once she is finished, you can do what you want anyway.
[3.]  On August 18, 2009, in State [v.] Habeych Case No. 48-2008-CF-12888-0, [Judge Shea] sentenced Mr. Habeych without his attorney present.  This was done over his objection. Mr. Habeych was charged with Trafficking in Hydromorphone, which carries a minimum mandatory sentence.  [Judge Shea] imposed the mandatory minimum sentence.  [Judge Shea] then told [Mr. Habeych’s] father that if he had any questions that he could go upstairs to the courtroom where the defense lawyer was appearing before another judge.
[4.]  In State v. Bullock, Case No. 48-2009-CF-8037-0, [Judge Shea] granted a Judgment of Acquittal on one of the counts of an Information alleging Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon.  That count had been severed for a separate trial from another count of the Information charging the defendant with Grand Theft of a Motor Vehicle.  At the subsequent trial call, on April 12, 2010, when Assistant State Attorney Stephen Brown announced his intention to proceed on the remaining count, [Judge Shea] mistakenly believed the State did not have a good faith basis to proceed on that charge. [Judge Shea] became visibly angry and reprimanded the attorney in open court by saying his duty was to act in an ethical manner and to follow his oath as an attorney rather than merely follow office policy guidelines of the State Attorney’s Office.  [Judge Shea] then ordered him into the jury room where [Judge Shea] continued to berate his ethics.  To [Judge Shea’s] credit, when [Judge Shea] realized [his] mistake, [Judge Shea] then apologized.
[5.]  These repeated actions constitute conduct unbecoming a judicial officer and lack the dignity appropriate to judicial office, with the effect of bringing the judiciary into disrepute.
I think it goes without saying that the Judge’s behavior is unacceptable, and I’m glad to see that he was disciplined.   So, what discipline did the Supremes dish out for the Judge?  A public reprimand accompanied by letters of apology and continuing mental health treatment.