Broward 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.
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?