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Court suspends, fines Circuit Judge Albritton

first_imgCourt suspends, fines Circuit Judge Albritton Court suspends, fines Circuit Judge Albritton Mark D. Killian Managing Editor The Supreme Court fined and suspended 14th Circuit Judge Richard H. Albritton, Jr., after he admitted to 14 violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which called into question his impartiality and involved his use of judicial office for personal gain.The court’s sanctions included a public reprimand, a 30-day unpaid suspension, a $5,000 fine, and payment of $1,203.70 in Judicial Qualifications Commission costs. The court acted September 7 in case number No. SC05-851.The JQC in September 2005 filed formal charges against Judge Albritton charging him with 36 ethical violations. In a stipulation, Albritton admitted to 14 of the charges and the impropriety of that conduct.“These violations are extreme not only in their number and seriousness, but also in the plethora of code violations they encompass,” the court said. “This conduct demonstrates not only a lack of judicial temperament but also, and more importantly, Judge Albritton’s use of his office to pressure individuals to act for his own benefit.”In its opinion, the court specifically noted the following stipulated charges: • Albritton required as a condition of probation that a defendant attend church. When advised by the staff attorney that this was unconstitutional, he responded, “I know that’s wrong, but the defendant doesn’t know it.”• During a hearing, Albritton put a young mother in a holding cell for most of the day because she could not recall what her address was.• In dependency cases, when a parent came before Albritton, he would sometimes ask the person if they were using drugs and if the person said “no,” might order a drug test on the spot. If the test came back positive, he would hold the person in contempt and immediately jailed.• Albritton once called a lawyer up to the bench and stated, to the effect, “You heard they’re giving me a party. We need people to donate money and you need to give $100 to [an investigator for the public defender].” A day or so later while in court, Albritton mentioned the money to the attorney and she then wrote a check, gave it to the investigator, and told him to make sure he told Albritton she had paid.• During court one day Albritton asked an attorney is she was “taking us to lunch today?” The attorney said she responded, “I guess so,” and about eight people went to lunch. The attorney said the bill came to just under $100, which she paid.• An attorney appeared in a dependency case and after it was concluded, Albritton said he wanted to talk with him. The attorney went into Albritton’s chambers where Albritton told him he was concerned that in the hearing there was an objection that the judge thought the attorney should have made. Albritton continued, “I intend for DCF to prove their case.”• At various times during breaks in trials, Albritton entered and sat in the public defender’s office in the Jackson County Courthouse in his robe.The court said that conduct clearly falls “far and inexcusably short of the high standards of integrity and independence that we demand of our judicial officers.”Chief Justice Fred Lewis, and Justices Charles Wells, Peggy Quince, Raoul Cantero, and Kenneth Bell concurred. Justice Harry Lee Anstead, dissented with an opinion in which Justice Barbara Pariente concurred.“In view of the number and seriousness of the assertions of misconduct involved herein, I conclude that there is a substantial question as to whether this judge is presently fit to serve as a judge in Florida’s justice system,” Anstead said. “Accordingly, I would reject the proposed stipulation and remand to the JQC for further proceedings.” October 1, 2006 Regular Newslast_img

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