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Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC)

The Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) is an independent agency created by the Florida Constitution solely to investigate alleged misconduct by Florida state judges. It is not a part of the Florida Supreme Court or the state courts and operates under rules it establishes for itself.

 

Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission
1110 Thomasville Road
Tallahassee, FL 32303-6224
(850) 488-1581

Authority for The Judicial Qualifications Commission is found in the Florida Constitution, Article V Judiciary, Section 12 Discipline; removal and retirement.

 

Constitution Of The State of Florida
As Revised in 1968 and Subsequently Amended

How Judges Are Disciplined for Misconduct

How Judges Are Disciplined for Misconduct

The Judicial Qualifications Commission is an independent agency created by the Florida Constitution solely to investigate alleged misconduct by Florida state judges.  It is not a part of the Florida Supreme Court or the state courts and operates under rules it establishes for itself. The JQC has no authority over federal judges or judges in other states.  Complaints against state judges must be filed in writing with the JQC, not with the Supreme Court or any other state court or judge.  Neither the Supreme Court nor its Chief Justice have any authority to investigate alleged misconduct by state judges or to investigate the JQC. Read more here

Pending JQC Cases Against Florida State Judges

Who is on the JQC?

There are 15 members of the JQC. Two must be district court of appeal judges chosen by all the judges of the 5 district courts. Two must be circuit court judges chosen by all the judges of the 20 judicial circuits. Two must be county court judges chosen by all the judges of the 67 county courts. Four must be registered voters who also are lawyers, chosen by the Board of Governors of The Florida Bar. The final five must be non-lawyers who are registered voters, chosen by the Governor.

Brooke S. Kennerly, Executive Director                     
Michael L. Schneider, General Counsel

________________________________________________________


Brooke S. Kennerly JQC Exec. Dir. failed to lawfully perform and discharge her duties

 

Letter September 5, 2013

 

Brooke S. Kennerly, Executive Director
Michael Schneider, General Counsel
Judicial Qualifications Commission - JQC
1110 Thomasville Road
Tallahassee, FL 32303-6224

RE: "Re: Complaint No. 10395, Judge Cook", and the August 30, 2013 letter response of Brooke S. Kennerly, JQC Executive Director, copy enclosed.

Dear Ms. Kennerly and Mr. Schneider:

The letter response of Ms. Kennerly August 30, 2013 shows conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation, conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, and conduct to knowingly assist a judge or judicial officer in conduct that is a violation of applicable rules of judicial conduct or other law.

Apparently that is why Ms. Kennerly responded to my complaint against Martha Jean Cook rather than JQC counsel Mr. Schneider, which conduct would have subjected him as a lawyer to a bar complaint for violation of Rule 4-8.4(c), (d), and (f)....

...Brooke S. Kennerly is the Executive Director of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, and is by virtue of that position of trust an officer and employee of state government, responsible for lawfully performing and discharging her duties without bias, favoritism, extortion, improper influence, personal self enrichment, self-dealing, concealment, conflict of interest, or the Unlicensed Practice of Law.

Unfortunately Brooke S. Kennerly engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation as the Executive Director of the Judicial Qualifications Commission. The JQC’s letter to me August 30, 2013, sent through the U.S. mail, shows Ms. Kennerly used the mail to carry out a "scheme or artifice to defraud" another, 18 U.S.C. § 1341, of "the intangible right of honest services." 18 U.S.C. § 1346.

Ms. Kennerly corruptly and knowingly assisted a judge or judicial officer, Martha Jean Cook, in conduct that is a violation of applicable rules of judicial conduct or other law.

Thus, Brooke S. Kennerly failed to lawfully perform and discharge her duties. Instead, Brooke S. Kennerly engaged in fraud or impairment of a legitimate government activity....read on Scribd

 

________________________________________________________

 

Complaint against Judge Martha Jean Cook, Hillsborough County, Florida, August 21, 2013, read the complaint on Scribd

________________________________________________________

How is the JQC Structured?

The JQC is divided into two panels, an "investigative panel" that acts much like a prosecutor, and a "hearing panel" that acts much like a panel of judges reviewing the case. Judges accused of misconduct often are represented by a private attorney.

JUDICIAL QUALIFICATIONS COMMISSION RULES

These rules apply to all proceedings before the Judicial Qualifications Commission involving the discipline, retirement or removal of justices of the Supreme Court, and judges of the District Courts of Appeal, Circuit Courts, and County Courts pursuant to Article V, Section 12 of the Constitution of the State of Florida, as amended, and removal or disqualification of members of the Commission. These rules shall be known as Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission Rules and may be abbreviated as "FJQCR." . . . .

JUDICIAL QUALIFICATIONS COMMISSION RULES
The Rules may be abbreviated as "FJQCR"
JQCRules.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [71.8 KB]

JQC Complaint Form

JQC Complaint Form
Only signed complaints will be considered
JQCComplaintForm.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [86.3 KB]

Code of Judicial Conduct, State of Florida

Canon 1. A Judge Shall Uphold the Integrity and Independence of the Judiciary

Canon 2. A Judge Shall Avoid Impropriety and the Appearance of Impropriety in all of the Judge's Activities

Canon 3
. A Judge Shall Perform the Duties of Judicial Office Impartially and Diligently

Canon 4. A Judge Is Encouraged to Engage in Activities to Improve the Law, the Legal System, and the Administration of Justice

Canon 5. A Judge Shall Regulate Extrajudicial Activities to Minimize the Risk of Conflict With Judicial Duties

Canon 6. Fiscal Matters of a Judge Shall be Conducted in a Manner That Does Not Give the Appearance of Influence or Impropriety; etc.

Canon 7. A Judge or Candidate for Judicial Office Shall Refrain From Inappropriate Political Activity

Application

Opinions of the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee

The Structure of the Florida Judicial System
http://www.ninja9.org/courtadmin/courg.htm
The Structure of the Florida Judicial Sy[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [34.0 KB]

JQC Complaint Against Judge Wm. "Jack" Singbush

Florida Supreme Court case SC11-905

Judge Is Reprimanded for Excessive Tardiness, Christ Comment

 

By Debra Cassens Weiss
June 8, 2012

A Florida judge has agreed to write a letter of apology to the public and the legal community after he was given a public reprimand for excessive tardiness and an inappropriate religious comment.

The Florida Supreme Court issued the reprimand (PDF) against Judge William "Jack" Singbush of Marion County on Thursday, report the Legal Profession Blog and the National Law Journal (reg. req.).

The Judicial Qualifications Commission had alleged Singbush was habitually late for court; offered to schedule late-running hearings at inconvenient times, such as 5 p.m. on Friday; took multiple, lengthy smoking breaks; and made an inappropriate comment introducing religion into the decision-making process.

Singbush made the comment in response to a mistrial motion filed because the judge obtained a criminal background check of a witness. "I don’t know of anybody that’s [not] made a mistake—and except for perhaps one, and for that we murdered him. You know, he was faultless and we murdered him for it. That’s not politically correct but I happen to believe in God. ... Christ is the intercessor."

In a stipulation, Singbush had admitted making the comment and being habitually tardy. He will submit the apology letter to the Judicial Qualifications Commission, and for the next year he will also submit weekly logs documenting his courtroom timeliness. Read more here

Supreme Court of Florida, SC11-905, Jun-08-12
Reprimand against Judge William "Jack" Singbush
sc11-905.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [116.3 KB]
Judge Singbush

 

Florida Supreme Court case SC11-905

 

JQC Complaint, Formal Charges, PDF

 

INQUIRY CONCERNING A JUDGE

RE: WILLIAM SINGBUSH

 

Briefs & Other Documents in Case No. 11-905

Singbush admits tardiness
Ocala Star Banner
By Vishal Persaud
April 20, 2012

Circuit Judge Jack Singbush has struck a deal with judicial investigators that, if approved by the state Supreme Court, would keep him on the bench.

In a stipulation released by the investigative panel of the Judicial Qualifications Commission on Friday, Singbush admitted being late to proceedings on a regular basis and causing an economic burden for lawyers, litigants and the judicial system. He conceded he had no valid reasons for being late.

He also agreed it was wrong to make this comment during a sidebar conversation at trial: "I don't know of anybody who hasn't made a mistake — and except for perhaps one, and for that we murdered him. You know, he was faultless and we murdered him for it. That's not politically correct but I happen to believe in God … Christ is the intercessor."

The stipulation recommends a punishment on which both Singbush and the JQC agreed.

The judge would write a letter of apology to the public for his actions, receive a public reprimand before the Supreme Court, and provide written logs to the JQC for one year to show that he is arriving on time for proceedings.

The Florida Supreme Court will consider the stipulation and recommendations. It can accept or reject them. Read more here

Ethics Complaint Accuses Florida Judge of Too Many Smoking Breaks, Religious Bias
ABA Journal Law News Now
by By Debra Cassens Weiss
May 12, 2011

A Florida judge has been accused in an ethics complaint of being late to court, taking too many smoking breaks, and showing religious bias.

Judge William "Jack" Singbush of Marion County faces formal charges filed Wednesday by the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission, according to the Orlando Sentinel and Ocala.com.

Singbush is accused of making litigants and lawyers wait because he is "habitually late" to court and takes long and numerous smoking breaks, according to the notice of charges posted by Ocala.com. When hearings can’t be completed in the allotted time, Singbush offers to resume the proceedings at inconvenient times such as Friday afternoon at 5 p.m. or Saturday morning, the complaint alleges.

The notice of charges also cites religious statements by Singbush, made after a lawyer sought a mistrial because the judge obtained a criminal background check of a witness in a civil suit on his own initiative.

"I don’t know of anybody that’s not made a mistake—and except for perhaps one, and for that we murdered him. You know, he was faultless and we murdered him for it. That’s not politically correct but I happen to believe in God. … Christ is the intercessor."

The case concerned rights to an airport runway, and Singbush’s reference to murder apparently referred to the death of Christ, Ocala.com said. The witness was Jewish.

Singbush's lawyer, William "Dude" Phelan, said in a statement he is disappointed by the commission’s choice to file formal charges. "Nobody has proven anything," Phelan said. "We are confident the process will ultimately confirm him to be a fair and dedicated judge who does his best to discharge his judicial duties in scrupulous compliance with the Code of Judicial Conduct." Read more here

Hillsborough FL Judges Work Part-time, Get Full Pay

Some Hillsborough Co., Florida judges apparently only work part-time hours while collecting a full-time salary of $142,178 plus benefits. This came to my attention June 15, 2010 during the 13th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) interviews to fill the vacancy created when Judge Black was appointed to the 2dDCA. I attended the interviews as a nonlawyer observer. The JNC interviews are open to the public. The JNC was so concerned about judicial workloads that applicants were specifically asked what hours they planned to keep if appointed. 

Applicant Ryan Christopher Rodems (left) described to the JNC criticism he heard about Hillsborough judges leaving court early on Fridays. The situation was so pervasive, Rodems told the JNC, that one could "fire a bullet" in the Hillsborough courthouse it was so empty. On the left is Rodems’ photograph submitted with his application for judge. The photo is not recent and looks about ten years old. (Rodems is heavier and balding now)

Read the email between JNC Chair Pedro Bajo and Neil Gillespie discussing Rodems’ "fire a bullet" comment, provided below in PDF. Read more on the Justice Network

Email between JNC Chair Pedro Bajo and Neil Gillespie discussing Rodems’ "fire a bullet" comment, Jul-05-10
2010, 07-05-10, email, Pedro Bajo to NJG[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [44.7 KB]

Would you like this garbage can moved closer in case you have the baby?

I witnessed the following while attending a Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) interview in Tampa June 15, 2010 as a civilian observer. This was the 13th Circuit JNC, Hillsborough County, Florida. One commission member asked an applicant for judge if the applicant had seen any behavior from a judge in court that was unprofessional.

The applicant responded that a judge said to a woman who was obviously pregnant and about to give birth, words to the effect "Would you like this garbage can moved closer to you in case you have the baby?" The judge was referring to a trash can in the courtroom.

The JNC asked this question of a number of applicants. Some applicants responded with examples of judicial misconduct. Others applicants were evasive or brushed-off the question. My notes show that applicants who described bad behavior by judges to the JNC were nominated at a rate lower than applicants who did not describe bad behavior by judges to the JNC. Initially I dismissed this as coincidence.

But in hindsight, and with the benefit of subsequent information, in my opinion it is possible that this question is used as a screening tool to eliminate applicants critical of sitting judges, to ensure that nominees, if appointed, will be team players and look the other way if they see another judge engage in misconduct.

Read the email between JNC Chair Pedro Bajo and Neil Gillespie discussing the ‘garbage can’ comment, provided below in PDF. Read more here on the Justice Network

Email between JNC Chair Pedro Bajo and Neil Gillespie discussing the ‘garbage can’ comment, July 1, 2010
2010, 07-01-10, email, Pedro Bajo to NJG[...]
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Florida’s Judicial Protection Society

Florida’s Judicial Protection Society
North Country Gazette
COMMENTARY
By June Maxam
February 22, 2010


Can you believe that the 764 judges in Florida are so ethical that there are disciplinary complaints pending against only three of them?

In fact, since 2001, the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission has accepted only 38 cases for judicial disciplinary action, less than half of 1% of the state’s judges.

Only one of the three cases still awaiting final disposition involves alleged judicial misconduct on the bench and that judge had been arrested for possession of cocaine and driving under the influence. The other two cases concern improper political activity during the judges’ election campaigns.

It’s almost as if the JQC only disciplines judges whose egregious conduct they can’t hide or those who aren’t part of the good ole boy network.

One of the most controversial cases of judicial discipline in the state concerned Judge Michael Allen of the First District Court of Appeals. In an unprecedented move that egregiously raped the First Amendment and effectively served to stifle dissent within the judiciary to the public detriment, the Florida Supreme Court voted to discipline Allen for criticizing a fellow judge in a written opinion and in essence, calling that judge corrupt.
Read more here

Are closed JQC complaints confidential? My opinion

Are closed JQC complaints confidential? My personal opinion.

The JQC has authority from the Florida Constitution, Article V, Judiciary, section 12, discipline, removal and retirement. Part (a)(4) reads "all proceedings by or before the commission shall be confidential". This suggests present tense. Therefore I conclude closed proceedings are not confidential, since they are no longer "by or before the commission". This is my personal opinion as a nonlawyer. Neil Gillespie.

 

Also, see the letter to Michael Schneider, JQC General Counsel, March 30, 2010, at the bottom of this page. 

Closed complaint, Judge Martha Cook, Docket 12554

JQC Docket 12554 Judge Martha J Cook
January 24, 2013
JQC Docket 12554 Judge Martha J Cook.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [2.1 MB]

Closed complaint, Judge Martha Cook, Docket 11375

JQC Complaint and Response, Circuit Judge Martha J Cook, Docket No. 11375
Closed, letter September 13, 2011
JQC complaint, response, Circuit Judge M[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [388.9 KB]

Closed complaint, Judge Martha Cook, Docket 10495

JQC Complaint and Response, Circuit Judge Martha J Cook, Docket No. 10495
Closed, letter January 7, 2011
JQC complaint, response, Circuit Judge M[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [4.4 MB]

RobeProbe - World's most trusted judge rating site!

RobeProbe - World's most trusted judge rating site!

RobeProbe is here!!! The only comprehensive website that allows lawyers and litigants to rate the judicial performance of judges and bankruptcy trustees in a civilized, easy to use forum. RobeProbe will revolutionize the legal community and the courts. Did you ever walk into a courtroom totally prepared for your case, but completely unprepared for the curve balls a judge could throw at you? Did you ever go to court knowing very little about a judge, and come out knowing how great or how terrible that judge is by just spending five minutes before him or her? Well, with RobeProbe on your side you will be prepared for both your case and the judge--and you'll know the judge before you enter the courthouse. Read more here

McGrane defends JQC’s confidentiality

Miles McGrane

McGrane defends JQC’s confidentiality
The Florida Bar News
By Annie Butterworth Jones
April 15, 2011

 

"I’m not here to protect bad judges," said McGrane during his presentation to the board

 

Just two weeks after his appearance at the House Civil Justice Subcommittee meeting, former Bar President Miles McGrane spoke to the Bar Board of Governors at its March meeting, advocating again on behalf of the Judicial Qualifications Commission and its right to confidentiality.

 

On March 9, the House panel moved HJR 11-05, a bill that would amend the Florida Constitution and make JQC proceedings public. Currently, nearly all JQC records are confidential. Complaints are only released to the public once formal charges are filed. HJR 11-05 would change that, requiring the JQC to match the standards of the Florida Commission on Ethics. McGrane, chair of the JQC, argued that improved transparency of the JQC process could occur without hindering attorneys — particularly younger attorneys and those in smaller counties - from filing complaints.

 

"I’m not here to protect bad judges," said McGrane during his presentation to the board. "If it was only about transparency in government, I wouldn’t be here, because obviously you can’t win that battle. What I need to do is discuss with you why there is confidentiality in complaints of the JQC and why a system that was established in 1966 and has operated well needs to go on as the same system." Read more here

McGrane defends JQC’s confidentiality
April 15, 2011
2011, 04-15-11, McGrane defends JQC’s co[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [28.6 KB]
HJR-05 House Bill to Amend Constitution
and make JQC proceedings public
HJR 11-05.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [113.5 KB]

Bill would make complaints against judges public

Mark D. Killian

Bill would make complaints against judges public record
The Florida Bar News
By Mark D. Killian, Managing Editor
April 1, 2011

 

Some worry the move could have a chilling effect on complaints


A House panel has moved a bill that would make public most Judicial Qualifications Commission proceedings once the commission has determined whether to file formal charges.

Shawn Harrison Rep. Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa, told the House Civil Justice Subcommittee March 9 that HJR 11-05 would amend the constitution so that the JQC process matches the standards of the Florida Commission on Ethics that apply to all other elected officials. "The upside of this bill is transparency," Harrison said. "We are giving the voters the opportunity to decide whether or not we want to have the same transparency standards apply to the members of the judiciary as apply to other elected officials."

Nearly all records of the JQC are currently confidential. Only if formal charges are filed against a judge are the records open, and then only the records created after the filing of charges. If charges are not filed, the records never become public.


“Because this process is not open to the public, we don’t really know what the statistics are,” said Harrison, a commercial litigator. “We know how many complaints were filed [and how many] resulted in formal charges. But we don’t know what happened in the middle. We don’t know if 50 percent of the complaints — or 75 percent — are just totally frivolous and without merit, or if they were close calls. I think that is good information to have, and I think, ultimately, that’s probably information voters are entitled to have, too.” Read more here

Bill would make complaints against judges public
April 1, 2011
2011, 04-01-11, Bill would make complain[...]
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Butt out, JQC tells high court

Butt out, Judicial Qualifications Commission tells high court
Tampa Bay Times
By Lucy Morgan
April 19, 2008

The Supreme Court can't stop the trial of a judge, the qualifications body contends.

TALLAHASSEE - No court, not even the state's highest court, can intervene in the affairs of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, attorneys for the JQC said in a sharply worded brief filed Friday with the Florida Supreme Court.

The JQC was responding to an unprecedented effort to get the high court to intervene and block the JQC from proceeding against 1st District Court of Appeal Judge Michael E. Allen.

In the brief filed Friday, lawyers for the JQC said the Supreme Court cannot supervise the JQC, investigate it, fire or select its members or order it to perform any official act.

Allen faces trial June 9 for conduct unbecoming a judge and lying to the JQC as a result of a 2006 opinion questioning the conduct of a fellow judge who attempted to overturn the criminal conviction of former Senate President W.D. Childers.

Allen said Judge Charles J. Kahn Jr. should have recused himself from the Childers case because he was a former law partner of Pensacola attorney Fred Levin, a longtime Childers friend and sometime attorney. Levin's son, Martin, filed the JQC complaint against Allen.

In its brief Friday, the JQC said that because the agency was established in the Florida Constitution as a body independent of the courts or other branches of government, the only way anyone can stop it would be for state legislators to impeach the judges who are members and the governor to suspend members who are not judges. Read more here

Measure to make JQC complaints public defeated

Measure to make JQC complaints public defeated
The Florida Bar News
By Amy K. Brown, Assistant Editor
March 1, 2002

A bill to make complaints against judges public was defeated in the House Judicial Oversight Committee in February, although the committee agreed to reconsider the bill, and an amendment, at a later meeting.

Legislators voting against the measure — which would have made public the pre-probable cause portion of Judicial Qualifications Commission proceedings — said they were wary of passing any legislation that could result in decreased public confidence in the judiciary.
Read more here

Measure to make JQC complaints public defeated
March 1, 2002
2002, 03-01-02, Measure to make JQC comp[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [31.1 KB]

Justice Teaching, Judicial Discipline and Accountability

Justice Teaching, Judicial Discipline and Accountability
JQC Case Studies
Judicial_DisciplineAccountability.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [231.9 KB]

Panel tries to keep files secret

Judge Holder

Panel tries to keep files secret
St. Petersburg Times
By DAVID KARP, Times Staff Writer
January 31, 2002


At issue are Judicial Qualifications Commission records about Hillsborough Judge Gregory Holder


TAMPA -- The state agency that regulates Florida judges has hired noted attorney Barry Richard to make sure records about Hillsborough Judge Gregory Holder stay secret.


The Judicial Qualifications Commission hired Richard, who represented President George W. Bush during the 2000 election recount, to fight newspaper requests to inspect records on Holder.


The JQC charged Holder in January with giving a false or misleading answer on an application to become a federal judge. The JQC alleged that Holder did not disclose that the JQC's chairman had spoken with him about unspecified complaints.


But the JQC's publicly-filed charges do not explain what the complaints were or how the JQC handled them. The JQC special counsel on the case did not return calls seeking comment.

Read more here

Panel tries to keep files secret
January 31, 2002
2002, 01-31-02, Panel tries to keep file[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [26.4 KB]

Judge steps down in divorce case

Jonathan Alpert

Judge steps down in divorce case
St. Petersburg Times
by JEFF TESTERMAN
November 1, 2003

Prominent attorney Jonathan Alpert tried four times to get Family Law Judge Monica Sierra to disqualify herself from hearing motions related to his divorce. Each time, Sierra said no.

Now, after denying Alpert's fourth motion to disqualify herself, Sierra has elected to step down. The judge signed an order of recusal, without comment, on Monday.

Sierra's move comes a week after Alpert filed a complaint against her with the Florida Judicial Qualifications commission.

In an Oct. 20 letter, Alpert, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, complained that Sierra violated his federal disability rights and inflicted "cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment" on him with her rulings involving Alpert's combative divorce from his wife of 23 years, Liz Alpert.

For Jonathan Alpert, the final blow came Oct. 8, when Sierra ruled after an exhaustive hearing that he was in contempt of court for failing to pay his former wife nearly $104,935 in support. Sierra ordered Alpert to jail that night for five months and 29 days and ruled that he could be released earlier only if he made up all of the $11,892-a-month alimony payments owed.

Jonathan Alpert spent one night behind bars, a period he recalls as "absolute hell," before his sister and a friend loaned him the $104,935 needed to get out of jail. Read more in the PDF

Judge steps down in divorce case
St. Pete Times, November 1, 2003
2003, 11-01-03, Judge steps down in divo[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [20.1 KB]

Motion for Disqualification with JQC Complaint

Motion for Disqualification with JQC Complaint
Jonathan Alpert October 20, 2003
2003, 10-20-03, Motion for Disqualificat[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [742.8 KB]

Letter to Michael Schneider, JQC General Counsel

Letter to Mr. Michael Schneider, General Counsel
Judicial Qualifications Commission, March 30, 2010
2010, 03-30-10, NJG to JQC, Michael Sche[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [838.8 KB]

Mr. Schneider showed little interest in the fact that Mr. Alpert publicized a complaint against a judge contrary to JQC confidentially mandated by the Florida Constitution, Article V Judiciary, Section 12 Discipline; removal and retirement.