Florida Judge John Sloop is back in the news.
TALLAHASSEE -- Members of the Florida Supreme Court lashed out at embattled Seminole County Judge John Sloop on Friday, with one justice calling him "rude, abrupt,abusive."It would be nice if Sloop would apologize to those he jailed, but public officials almost never issue sincere apologies. The most recent example being this man.
Sloop faced a barrage of tough questions from the court, mostly about why he threw 11 people in jail when their only mistake was going to the wrong courtroom. Friday's hearing was the last step before the justices decide whether to toss Sloop from the bench.
It's unclear when they will make their decision. But they did not appear to be in a forgiving mood.
Chief Justice R. Fred Lewis was especially critical, saying Sloop's actions left the 11 people, most of whom were in court on traffic violations, shackled then jailed for several hours.
"Could there be anything more egregious?" the chief justice asked. "Apparently, he didn't care."
None of the seven justices spoke in defense of Sloop during the 50-minute session.
Justice Harry Lee Anstead took issue with Sloop for keeping the 11 people locked up and refusing to admit he'd made a mistake even after two other judges tracked him down to explain the mix-up.
"Even with fellow judges telling him, 'You can't do this,' he went forward," Anstead said.
He remains on the job but no longer regularly handles criminal cases, except on holidays and a limited number of weekends.
Sloop's new attorney, Damon Chase of Lake Mary, fielded most of the justices' questions, saying Sloop was "incapable" for three hours of seeing that he needed to order the release of the 11 people, who were jailed Dec. 3, 2004.
Sloop did sign release orders that afternoon, but it took employees at the Seminole County Jail several hours to carry them out.
Sloop spoke directly to the court only during the hearing's closing five minutes.
"I wrongfully caused the arrest of 11 people two years ago. I did this. I am responsible," he said. "I am truly sorry. I wish to apologize."
However, when Justice Peggy Quince asked if he'd written letters of apology to the 11, Sloop said no.
I've blogged about Judge Sloop's case before. Click here and here.
Until recently, Judge Sloop wasn't even supposed to appear before the court in Tallahasse.
Earlier this year, Sloop agreed not to contest the allegations, but in March he went to trial before a six-member Judicial Qualifications Commission panel, the state agency that polices judges, hoping to save his job.Which leaves me wondering if yesterday's session was all staged just because of next week's election. Three of the Supreme Court's justices are on the ballot.
That panel concluded that Sloop should stay on the job but be suspended without pay for 90 days, pay the equivalent of a $20,000 fine, be publicly reprimanded by the Florida Supreme Court and apologize.
However, last month, the high court hinted it wasn't happy with that recommendation when it ordered him to appear in Tallahassee and explain why he shouldn't be removed.
I wouldn't put it past these knuckleheads in Tallahassee. These Justices may have felt their record of lax discipline towards their own may lead voters to vote them off the Court next Tuesday. There is no question in my mind that Judge Sloop should be removed from the bench. The same goes for the seven judges sitting in Tallahasse. They are a disgrace to the legal system of both Florida and this country.
Bottom line- Judge Sloop is being presented as a sacrificial lamb by the State Supreme Court. Remember that when you vote on November 7th.
Linked to- Bright & Early, Blue Star, Stop the ACLU,