A new judge is under scrutiny over improper her relationship and conduct. Ana Gardiner, the chief criminal judge for the 17th Judicial Circuit, is accused of having a romantic relationship with defense attorney John Cotrone and also discussing pending murder cases over dinner with prosecutors — including laughing about the evidence, jurors, and capital charges.
There is nothing strange about a lawyer dating a judge. After all, they have much in common. However, such relationship normally call for recusal in cases and avoidance of official acts that could benefit the lawyer or create the appearance of impropriety. Lawyers have complained that Gardiner and Cotrone openly flirt in court and that Gardiner has used her office to bestow special appointments on Cotrone.
In one account, Gardiner had drinks with Sunrise Commissioner Sheila Alu and Assistant State Attorney Howard Scheinberg at the high-end Timpano Chophouse and Martini Bar .
Alu reportedly said that Gardiner and Scheinberg talked about a pending criminal case — with Gardiner as the judge and Scheinberg as the prosecutor. If true, it would be an astonished breach of judicial and professional ethics for both Gardiner and Scheinberg.
According to the article below, the man was convicted five days later.
Scheinberg issued a statement of denial: “I’ve been prosecuting homicide cases for 11 years,” he wrote. “During that time, I have never discussed a pending case outside of the court with a presiding judge, including this case with Judge Gardiner.”
To add to Gardiner controversial tenure, she was recently involved in a bizarre accident with a parked car and accused of spying on an “ex-boyfriend” and flooring the car when someone stepped outside, click here. Lawyers on the scene said that she said that she was looking for an address and then refused to give more information.
Just having drinks with the judge during a pending case would be a remarkable act for a prosecutor and a judge. The fact that Gardiner is the Chief Judge supervising over a dozen of other judges makes this all the more important to investigate.
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