Broward News

Broward Circuit Judge Laura Watson to be Removed From Office

The Florida Supreme Court has ordered that embattled Broward Circuit Judge Laura Marie Watson be removed from office, according to JAABlog. Watson had been accused of negotiating a $14.5 million settlement of a 2002 a civil lawsuit against Progressive Insurance in secret when she was an attorney. Watson reportedly did not include the other attorneys who were representing the plaintiffs that she too was representing at the time. 

The Judicial Qualifications Commission began to investigate Watson in 2012, just after she was elected to the bench. The JQC's investigation eventually concluded that Watson's actions in 2002 undermined her integrity as a judge.

In March, Watson argued for a rejection of the JQC investigation, claiming in a motion that it was based on perjury, fraud, and mishandling of evidence by those investigating her. She claimed that her adversaries had influence over the investigation. The JQC concluded that Watson should be removed from office for “serious, egregious” ethical violations of the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct.

In April, the Supreme Court turned down Watson's motion and decided to take up the JQC recommendation that she be removed.

On Thursday, citing the JQC's "clear and convincing evidence" against Watson, the Supreme Court opinion reads that the court agrees with the recommendation that she be removed from the bench. 

"This matter is before the Court to review the determination of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission that Laura Marie Watson has violated the Rules Regulating Professional Conduct and its recommendation that she be removed from office," the ruling reads.

Watson's removal is just the latest case of improper conduct by Broward judges over the past couple of years.

In 2013, Judge Cynthia Imperato was busted for DUI after driving home from a social gathering with fellow judges and lawyers at Maggiano's restaurant in Boca. 

In May 2014, Broward County circuit judge, and misdemeanor drug court judge, Gisele Pollack, who has had a history of substance abuse, including one time when she arrived to work drunk, was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in Plantation. Pollack resigned her position in January rather than face being fired.

Also in May 2014, Broward Circuit Judge Lynn Rosenthal was arrested after she rammed her black BMW SUV into a parked police car in the Broward County courthouse parking lot. She claimed she had mistakenly taken some Ambien.

Also, in 2007, Judge Lawrence Korda was caught smoking pot in a park.

Watson JQC Opinion by Chris Joseph

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Chris Joseph
Contact: Chris Joseph