The Knucklehead of the Day award
Today's winner is Broward County Probate Judge Mark Speiser. He gets the award for the following.
Broward Probate Judge Mark Speiser helped his campaign treasurer earn thousands of dollars by appointing him to work in probate court cases.What Speiser did was wrong, though I'm betting nothing will ever come of it. Broward County is the land of law breaking and dangerous judges. In addition the Florida State Supreme Court and the Judicial Qualifications Committee rarely discipline judges in this state.
Court records show Speiser has appointed Charles Auerbach, the volunteer treasurer of his 2006 and 2000 re-election campaigns, to jobs such as trustee, personal representative and estate curator at least seven times since 2001.
Florida's Code of Judicial Conduct says judges must not allow political relationships to influence their judicial conduct. Likewise, judges are expected to avoid favoritism in making appointments.
In two interviews, Speiser said he appointed Auerbach because Auerbach is the only certified public accountant he knows very well.
''I don't have a social relationship with him. It wasn't paying him back a favor,'' Speiser said. ``I trust the person; he does good work. I trust the person; his fees are reasonable.''
Speiser estimated the fees he has awarded Auerbach over the years totaled between $70,000 and $75,000.
Auerbach did not return four telephone messages left with his Hollywood office.
Anthony Alfieri, director of the University of Miami law school's Center for Ethics and Public Service, said the judge's decision to appoint his campaign treasurer creates at least an ``appearance of impropriety.''
State and local rules govern how judges choose lawyers to represent the poor in criminal and certain civil matters, such as guardianships. But no rules exist to guide judges in doling out probate work to attorneys and accountants in cases involving disputed private trusts and estates.
Appointing someone who you've had a business relationship with to do work for the court is just plain wrong. Its called favoritism, something impartial judges are supposed to avoid. Judge Speiser either forgot that, or thinks he is above reproach as a judge and can do anything he wishes. One thing is certain, Broward County Judge Mark Speiser is today's Knucklehead of the Day.
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