Broward News

Chief Judge Victor Tobin's Questionable Exit Prompts Massive Public-Records Search

Would you trust Broward judges to supply compromising information about themselves? That's what they're being asked to do now, essentially...

A few weeks ago, we wrote about outgoing Broward County Chief Judge Victor Tobin leaving his post to join a foreclosure law firm that stands to benefit from policies he crafted.

Among Tobin's accomplishment as head honcho at the courthouse is the institution of the "rocket docket," which allows judges to move a foreclosure case forward in the blink of an overworked attorney's eye. (Matt Taibbi wrote a scathing account of the process in Rolling Stone.)

Now somebody -- we swear it wasn't us -- has initiated a vast public records request that could

reveal whether Tobin or other judges were actively angling for employment based on their current positions.

From our story by Eric Barton:

The widespread belief that he's biased toward banks seemed supported this week when Tobin announced that he'll be leaving the bench for a job at the law offices of Marshall C. Watson, one of the largest foreclosure firms in the state. It's a move that angers foreclosure defense lawyers who say it appears as if Tobin established a system that will favor his new position. Worse, Tobin may have been negotiating his new job while creating rules that will benefit him later.

As reported on JAABlog, the request filed under Florida's saving-grace public-records laws seeks a broad range of communications from the year preceding Tobin's announcement that he was leaving the bench:

All records of the judicial branch relating to discussions of employment and career opportunities, salary offers, salary negotiations, benefits, other forms of compensation, employment starting dates, current employment exit strategy, hiring procedures, job applications, letters of recommendation, and/or incentives regarding the employment of judges of the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit to or from any employee or representative of the Law Office of Marshall Watson, including but not limited to emails, letters, meeting minutes, calendar pages.

Now that's certainly a hell of a lot of information for anyone to search for... which is why courthouse General Counsel Alexandra V. Rieman is outsourcing the duty of supplying the information to the judges themselves. In an email, she forwarded the request to circuit judges and asked them to supply her with copies of documents matching the description. "If you have any questions," she wrote, "please contact me."

Yes, how quickly does the "empty trash" button work??

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Stefan Kamph
Contact: Stefan Kamph