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Broward judge could face discipline

A Broward County circuit judge could receive a public reprimand from the Florida Supreme Court because of what court documents described as “misconduct” during a criminal trial.

Circuit Judge Dennis Bailey and an investigative panel of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission on Thursday submitted an agreement to the Supreme Court calling for Bailey to receive a reprimand.

The Supreme Court receives recommendations from the Judicial Qualifications Commission but has the ultimate authority to decide disciplinary measures for judges.

The agreement stems from Bailey’s conduct during an April criminal trial in which two defense attorneys were trying to make arguments during a sidebar conference. Bailey became frustrated and ordered a courtroom deputy to approach the bench and remove one of the defense attorneys, with the order made in the presence of the jury.

“Thankfully for all involved, the attorney immediately retreated away from the sidebar and back to counsel table as soon as he saw the deputy approaching,” according to investigative findings submitted to the Supreme Court. “This occurred in full view and hearing of the jury, who were seated in the jury box near the bench. Disturbingly, Judge Bailey indicated to the commission that he would have allowed the deputy to use physical force, ‘if necessary.’ ”

Bailey also subsequently denied a motion that he disqualify himself from the case and a motion for a mistrial. The agreement, known as a stipulation, said Bailey acknowledged that he did not handle the situation properly.

“While it is necessary for a judge to maintain order and decorum during proceedings, the evidence shows that the two attorneys were speaking respectfully to the court during the sidebar, and were merely taking tums addressing the court, not speaking over each other,” the findings said. “It appears that the attomeys had not breached the order and decorum of the proceedings in any way, other than aggravating Judge Bailey by working together to articulate an argument during a sidebar.

“Judge Bailey has admitted and acknowledged that his conduct was not patient, dignified, and courteous as required by (a judicial canon); that he did not act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary …  and that he did not personally observe the high standards of conduct required to preserve the integrity and independence of the judiciary.”

The News Service of Florida provides journalists, lobbyists, government officials and other civic leaders with comprehensive, objective information about the activities of state government year-round.

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