Florida Judge Combines Criminal Sentencing With Weight Loss Offer

Florida Judge Donna Miller is delighted by the results of a novel sentence that she handed down to a 345-pound man jailed for driving with a suspended license. Miller told George McCovery, 37, that she would reduce his time by a pound a day for weight loss. He lost 25 pounds in 20 days and received early release. Miller is one of the judges who has merged justice with the entertainment industry — replaying proceedings on the television show “Lake Courts.” I have previously written about the dangers of such “novel” sentencing in judges using their courtrooms for entertainment or self-aggrandizement. While some judges have been sanctioned for crossing the line in merging judicial with their entertainment careers, Miller appears to be flourishing in the practice.

Of course, weight loss is not one of Miller’s functions as a judge. However, such sentences are rarely about justice as opposed to the jurist. She insists, however, “I do what I do to try to change the person in front of me.” Thus, she views the criminal code as her license for self-improvement lessons — while being filmed for a larger audience. While such efforts may appear harmless, it reflects a trend that is undermining the integrity of our legal system as more and more judges yield to the temptation of television fame. These judges use defendants as effective props in their own entertainment production. In this case, Miller has found a way of merging “The Biggest Loser” with “Judge Judy.”

Source: Yahoo

10 thoughts on “Florida Judge Combines Criminal Sentencing With Weight Loss Offer”

  1. Hey Jonathanturley,
    This question may be a little off-topic, If you are heading towards a trial day, and not resolving your pending criminal matter, then there are three rights that protect you that your criminal attorney must advise you about. They are the right to trial by jury, right to have the state prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, and right to have a speedy trial.

  2. I have no problem with creative sentences…so long as it is not repugnant….How do they force folks to go to treatment when the state cannot force religion on one…but yet most all programs are religious based…

  3. Getting a person to change how they act is part of her job description…this may fall in that gray area…..

  4. I’m confused, is she a judge or a jenny craig spokes person? I’ve never heard of such a thing. While I agree that obesity and weight loss is a big problem in this country I think she should stick to her judicial duties and leave the weight loss issues for someone more qualified for that.

  5. This is the problem with the other post about the gentleman who died, the kids who kicked the elderly man, and some others. It is all seen as entertainment. The law is just another chance to be seen on TV.
    As a non lawyer I see nothing wrong with it if the sentence and the behavior addtion are related, for instance sending the DUI person to work in the morgue.

  6. Rehabilitation is one of the most important goals of the system, though it is one that many people seem willing to do away with completely. The problem is not seeking to identify lawful sentences which will serve this goal–the problem is adding public entertainment into the mix. Suddenly all the legitimate goals of the system become less important and the smell of ham becomes overwhelming.

  7. I like that. As long as she isn’t doing it for Felons, I can go along with it. Good for her…

  8. Bette – my guess is that if she is that publicity driven you could work out the arrangements a head of time.

    Gene – I think it might just be a matter of degrees. I can think of many cases where judges have imposed unusual conditions on sentencing based on some perceived benefit to society and the defendant. There is nothing inherently wrong with that but is ripe for abuse. In this particular case it looks like just another publicity stunt.

  9. “I do what I do to try to change the person in front of me.”

    Sorry. That’s not part of your job description as a judge. Your job is to provide a fair and impartial hearing on matters of fact and law presented to the bar and apply the rule of law as it relates to sentencing. If you want to “try to change the person in front of” you, you should either be a teacher who changes people by the merits of educating them, a psychiatrist, a psychiatric social worker or in some clerical endeavor, but if you think this kind of behavior is fitting from the bench, it’s time for you to hang up the gavel and retire the robes, Donna. I have to agree with the Professor that such gimmick sentences undermine the integrity of our legal system.

  10. Six months in jail might be just what I need. What carries a six-month sentence, and how to I assure that this judge is the one who passes sentence?

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