Benched: Third Broward County Judge Arrested For DUI

rosenthal-judge-thumb-200x200fl-judge-gisele-pollack-dui-arrest-20140502-001Broward Circuit Judge Lynn Rosenthal (left) has been arrested for DUI after she not only alleged struck a car while driving drunk but it turned out to be a cruiser of the Broward County Sheriff’s Department. She is the third such judge in the county to be arrested. Last November, yet another Broward judge, Cynthia Imperato, was busted for DUI. Broward County Circuit Judge, Gisele Pollack (right) was arrested two weeks ago. Pollack’s case however raises an interesting issue. She has objected to a suspension under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and asked that she be placed on paid leave to overcome a “disease.” For the county citizens, the line of hammered (gaveled?) judges does not exactly instill faith in the court system.

Rosenthal, 56, is a former prosecutor who joined the court only in 2012. She was arrested after allegedly slamming her black BMW SUV into the cruiser in the Broward County courthouse parking lot on Tuesday morning. According to the police report of the incident, the judge hit the driver’s side rear bumper of the unmarked patrol vehicle and she then continued towards the judicial parking lot and hit the security gate. The police report said the SUV then was put into reverse and struck the gate several more times before the deputies ran over to the car. The accident caused damage to the side rear-view mirror of the SUV.

What is particularly bizarre is that news reports state that Judge Rosenthal told deputies that she had been involved in another accident on the highway when she said that a truck had tried to run her off of the road. She then produced a video of the incident, which the deputies described as showing her “drifting between lanes and over the solid yellow lane line into the breakdown line” and then colliding with the concrete barrier wall. They reported that they could not see any truck or other vehicle.

However, Rosenthal below a .000 on two sobriety tests and the deputies did not report any smell of alcohol. However, they reported that she failed to maintain balance during instructions, missed all heel-to-toe steps, raised arms to maintain balance, and stopped during turn to request instructions to continue the exercise. Rosenthal admitted to taking an Ambien CR at 10 p.m. Monday.

Notably, Kerry Kennedy recently secured an acquittal based on an Ambien defense to a DUI charge.

Pollack, 56, has long had problems on the bench. In December, Pollack was accused of being inebriated at work and drunkenly threatening her staff with termination when they raised the issue. According to the report below, when her staff tried to keep her off the bench when she was drunk, her response was reportedly to say, “Fuck you, you’re fired.” In March, she had what is described as a “meltdown” after behaving oddly and exhibiting slurred speech. She took took personal leave and checked herself into an outpatient treatment program in Weston.

A judicial panel removed Pollack from her job without pay last week after finding that she broke a promise to stay sober or stay home from work on March 19 — a promise made after she completed an outpatient rehabilitation program following a similar incident last Dec. 17.

Pollack’s attorney, David Bogenschutz, is now arguing in a petition with the Florida Supreme Court that Pollack’s alcoholism qualifies as a disability under the ADA and that she should continue to receive her $138,000 annual salary while being treated as a “reasonable accommodation.”

We previously saw a case of an Illinois judge who claimed insanity in a criminal case but fought to remain on the bench. That judge was recently removed from the bench.

Pollack’s claim however is not trivial. She has a long history of battling this addiction which is treated as a disease in many cases. However, the court has a legitimate right to discipline for misconduct. The two most recent cases leads to an interesting dilemma for the courts in distinguishing between simple misconduct and conduct that is caused by a disease under the ADA. How does the court draw the line if any judge claims a disability by showing a history of heavy drinking? Yet, groups like the Mayo Clinic stress that “alcoholism is a chronic and often progressive disease.” If this is an accepted medical view (as it appears to be), how can a judge be fired for alcoholism any more than being fired for a physical disability?

Sources: Broward Palm Beach and Sun Sentinel

23 thoughts on “Benched: Third Broward County Judge Arrested For DUI”

  1. Almost all of the judges that I knew who were drinkers were also the best of the pool of judges. The sober ones were snot nosed and their itShay did not stink but they were itShay judges. It they get in trouble and can not drive because they lose their license to do so then so be it but keep them on the bench for Christ sake.

  2. bettykath,

    Your comment presupposes that the person is born an addict. While there may be a genetic predisposition toward alcoholism, that predisposition is not triggered unless someone takes that first drink. That first drink is an exercise in judgment.

    Moreover, people with less resources than the judge overcome alcoholism. I know alcoholics who haven’t had a drink in 25 years. They can sit in a bar and drink iced tea and diet coke all day and all night. If they can do it, so can the judge. Meanwhile, she should not be on the public payroll.

    1. Vince – I know an alcoholic who has been sober more than 40 years.

  3. Therw is a stark contrast between the Judge on the Left photo and the Judge on the Right photo. I would keep the one on the left. Its not a righty lefty thing.

  4. Vince, I don’t think you understand the pull of alcohol on the addict. Your approach seems consistent with those who tell the depressed person to just get over it.

    1. bettykath wrote: “Vince, I don’t think you understand the pull of alcohol on the addict.”

      Good point here. Alcoholism is very much like homosexuality. There usually is some element of choice involved with a genetic predisposition toward it. Once a person chooses to go down that path, it is very difficult to change simply by choosing to change.

      1. bettykath – studies have shown (and no I am not going to find them) that you are just a likely to just get over depression as getting professional help for it.

  5. Poor judgment gets even tighter with these occupations:

    Airline pilots, air traffic controllers, tour bus drivers, train engineers, crane operators, cruise ship captains, and cops on duty or off duty (packing a gun).

  6. Whether alcoholism is or is not a disease should not be the focus of this discussion. The key to this discussion should be “judgment”. If the public expects anything from its judges, it is judgment. Note the same root word there. That is not a coincidence. Judges are supposed to have judgment. There are two facets to judgment as it relates to alcoholism.

    First, alcoholism is caused by lack of judgment. If the judge has the disease of alcoholism, its onset and continuation is one of her own making, that is, it is the product of her own poor judgment. No one forced her to take the first drink without which she would not be an alcoholic. An individual with good judgment will understand that consuming alcohol could lead to alcoholism just like playing Russian roulette could lead to damaged brain cells. Furthermore, if the judge exercised good judgment, she would have realized she had an incipient problem (ok, call it a disease if you want) and stopped drinking or sought professional assistance just like if she contracted the flu. Full disclosure here: I enjoy an alcoholic beverage or two; in my youth it was more than a beverage or two.

    The second component of judgment as it relates to alcoholism is what alcohol does to judgment. Alcohol impairs judgment. Therefore, one from whom the public expects judgment should not do anything to impair her judgment. Contrast other diseases. Being blind, deaf or in a wheelchair does not impair judgment. So, whether alcoholism is or is not a disease misses the point. Regardless of how one categorizes alcoholism, it impairs judgment which is an essential component to the job of being a judge.

    It is clear that the judge exhibited poor judgment in becoming an alcoholic. It is also clear that her alcohol consumption impairs her ability to do her job. Therefore, it is clear that the judge should be off the bench.

    The only question is whether she should be paid for her leave of absence. For the reasons noted above, I believe the judge’s poor judgment should not be rewarded. As judge’s have often said to my criminal clients, actions have consequences. Bad judgment must be sanctioned. The judge has exhibited judgment inconsistent with her job description. She should not be rewarded. I believe the only question should be whether her departure from the bench should be permanent.

  7. Reasonable accommodations are appropriate, e.g. time off for rehab (how many times?) The emphasis should be on reasonable. Be sober on the job or go home, by taxi. If she can’t do the job sober, she should be fired. Alcoholic pilots lose their licenses. So should judges.

  8. Whast, My bet is she was tough on alcohol and drug offenders. Overcompensating.

  9. I would be curious to hear what decisions she put down against alcohol and drug offenders.

  10. The ADA was a well intended law signed by a Republican. It has done much good. Increasingly, it has been abused. The draconian requirement that EVERY pool in the US have a lift is one example. However, addicts/alcoholics abusing the law is probably the most destructive. I have dealt w/ addiction/alcoholism in my family. I have much empathy. But, if there is EVER a need for tough love, it is in this area. The natural consequences of losing your job is KEY TO RECOVERY. So, ADA becomes an ENABLER, taking away the natural consequences of an addict/alcoholics negative behavior. It is madness.

  11. Alcoholism is an insidious disease. A friend of mine, who spent his life as a parole office, once told me that the consensus of opinion of himself and his colleagues had become that if you have any problem at all, at all, with alcohol, then you are an alcoholic. Varying degrees of varying types of problems equals varying degrees of varying types of alcoholics. The disease does not differentiate between professions.

    However, it will be interesting to see how the results of the actions of these judges differ from the results of the actions of people without legal powers. Those in the legal profession should be held to a higher standard and receive more focused and effective punishment and treatment but instead they typically slide due to connections and their understanding of the law and how it can be made to work.

    We need the highest quality of people in these positions and the accountability to society must also be of the highest level. The most interesting post will be the one describing what happens to these judges. For an average person a DUI next to ruins a life: some jobs are forever out even if the person became a tea totaler, the record of the ‘crime’ is never erased no matter how old and whether the person ever drinks or has a problem again, it is considered as a felony when entering some countries and must be declared, (Canada), etc. A person could never become a judge, police officer, etc if they had a DUI but after having achieved that job it seems that they get treated more leniently than the average person.

    The most interesting posts would be those describing the punishment of these upholders of the law and protectors of us.

  12. Paul,

    Could be the Judge job is driving them to the bottle. I wonder if she’s doing screwdriver drinks. How about three strikes your out, and I mean removed.

    1. We have a DUI program here called “Drive hammered, Get Nailed.” If you are truly an alcoholic any job is going to drive you to drink. Part of getting and staying sober is taking responsibility for your disease. You are the one putting the drink to your lips.

  13. DavidM: Natural law is a bunch of hokum subject to whatever interpretation someone wants to make. Talk about judicial activisism

    1. RTC wrote: “Natural law is a bunch of hokum subject to whatever interpretation someone wants to make. Talk about judicial activisism.”

      Actually, Natural Law Theory provides a more scientific approach toward legislation. It is certainly much better than oligarchs simply making up whatever laws they want as they go along.

      I don’t know what it is going to take before lawyers realize that these anti-discrimination laws tend to cause more problems than they help. Once a law is in place, it becomes very difficult to remove them. They then become distorted to protect the guilty, as we see in this case. All anti-discrimination laws should have an automatic expiration date tied to them that would cause them to have to be legislated again from scratch after that expiration date. Their purpose clearly serves only a temporary service against temporal periods of injustice.

  14. I cannot remember hearing on anyone surviving more than two times in rehab and keeping their job unless they were a celebrity.

  15. The disease is not causing her to drink, she is causing herself to drink. The effect of the alcohol on her system is different if she is an alcoholic. I think the only accommodation that she needs under that ADA is that she not be required to go to parties where alcohol is served if it is a problem for her.

    The usual procedure is that a person is given one chance at rehab, if they fail after that, they can be fired for the disability.

  16. This is an example of another nexus that happens when positivists invent laws instead of discovering laws according to Natural Law Theory. We need to stop treating criminals as victims of disease.

  17. How does the court draw the line if any judge claims a disability by showing a history of heavy drinking?” – JT

    The court should consider the damage to the Public’s confidence in government … the judiciary … and not treat the case as it would a private citizen.

    Two of them have to go.

    “Rosenthal admitted to taking an Ambien CR” so she is having some sort of medical reaction perhaps.

    Still, she should not be at work until the medical problem is solved because it impairs her professional judicial abilities.

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