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Florida Judge Arrested on DUI Charges: Many More Removed from the Bench for Other Bad Behavior

First Posted: Jun 28, 2014 06:07 PM EDT

Florida Judge Lynn Rosenthal's recent arrest on drunken driving charges is another case added to the growing number of Sunshine State judges going to court for their own criminal behavior. Rosenthal was arrested May 27 after she crashed her BMW SUV into a police cruiser parked in a Fort Lauderdale courthouse parking lot.

Rosenthal is a judge in the 17th judicial circuit in Broward County. Her car hit the driver's side of the police vehicle and kept going until it hit the security gate, according to police reports. It was then shifted into reverse and hit the gate a few more times before deputies could contact the driver. Deputies reported that Rosenthal "appeared unsteady on her feet, her speech was slurred and she had difficulty obtaining the required documents."

When asked if she had been drinking, she replied that she hadn't had any alcohol, but had taken an Ambien the previous night. Police administered a field sobriety test, during which Rosenthal struggled to keep her balance, yet blew .000 on two breath tests. When officers asked her to provide a urine or blood sample for testing, she refused. Deputies arrested the judge on suspicion of DUI and property damage and took her to the main jail that afternoon. She posted bond and left that evening.

For one member of the Broward judicial community, it casts doubt on the judge's integrity and authority.

"It calls into question whether you can have a judge be fair and impartial when in fact they are having to deal with the same type of criminal conduct in their own personal life," said assistant public defender Gordon Weeks.

Recent stories of judges behaving badly throughout Florida have been racking up. These traditionally austere government figures have been caught allegedly punching a public defender in the head and creating sexually explicit online profiles. One judge was caught with his pants down at a resort while attending a state judicial conference. Five days before Rosenthal was arrested, Broward County drug court Judge Gisele Pollack was suspended for a DUI charge while on leave because she had twice taken the bench while intoxicated.

This rise in questionable activity is concerning to Broward County's elected public defender, Howard Finkelstein.

"I do think it belies an underlying systemic problem in Broward County," Finkelstein told The New York Times. "I don't think this stunningly embarrassing fact of having all these charges pending at the same time is indicative of a judiciary with substance abuse problems, but I do think it is a manifestation of the greater problem."

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