It's being reported on BrowardBeat that rumors swirling about Broward Circuit Judge Ana Gardiner have been confirmed: She has resigned her spot on the bench and is joining a private law firm.
In return for her leaving the bench, the Judicial Qualifications Commission investigation involving ex parte communication with former prosecutor Howard Scheinberg during a death penalty trial and her alleged untruthfulness about the relationship will be dropped.
Gardiner is joining the Miami-based law firm of former U.S. Attorney Thomas Scott. Interestingly, Scott worked as a private attorney with Gardiner's lawyer, David Bogenschutz, on the plea deal involving former Broward Sheriff Ken Jenne's federal corruption charges. Gardiner and Jenne, too, are long-time friends and political allies.
It looks like it's not just a smart move by Gardiner, but the only move. I had heard from multiple courthouse sources that if found guilty Gardiner was looking at losing not only her judgeship but also her law license. Now she's got a nice job with a major law firm (more on that later) and could escape any official punishments.
Local attorney and JAABlogger Bill Gelin, who has been closely following the case, says Gardiner may be out of the JQC fire, but the Florida Bar could take over the investigation if a complaint is filed.
"If they find that any of those allegations are true, I personally don't feel that she should even be entitled to
a driver's license," said Gelin.
Gardiner told BrowardBeat that it had been a "long three years," which is telling since the scandal didn't erupt until two years ago, almost to the day. It began with this report of mine on April 24, 2008, which was based in part on revelations that came from Sunrise Commissioner and now-state prosecutor Sheila Alu, who witnessed the ex parte communication regarding the Omar Loureiro murder trial between Gardiner and Scheinberg at Timpano on Las Olas.
Gardiner and Scheinberg, who left the State Attorney's Office to join Rothstein Rosenfeld Adler shortly after the article was published, have both denied under oath that they spoke about the case. Gardiner indicated she had little to no social relationship with Scheinberg, but phone and text message records dug up by the JQC indicated a very close relationship between the two involving many hundreds of phone calls and text messages. From the JQC charging document:
During the period between March 23, 2007, when you began your close personal relationship with Mr. Scheinberg, and August 24, 2007, the date you imposed the death penalty on Mr. Loureiro, your phone records reveal, and you do not dispute, that you had 949 telephone calls with Mr. Scheinberg and 471 text messages, for a total of
1,450 separate communications over a period of 155 calendar days. That averages 9.35 communications per day between you and Mr. Scheinberg, 7 days a week ...
... On April 30 and May 1, 2007, during the penalty phase of the trial, you had a total of 12 communications with Mr. Scheinberg, including 10 telephone and 2 text messages ...
... On August 23-25, 2007, which included the date before, the date of and the date after the sentencing, you had 19 telephone conversations and 25 text messages with Mr. Scheinberg, for a total of 44 communications on those three days ...
... Your relationship with Mr. Scheinberg continued beyond the sentencing date of Mr. Loureiro. For example, during the period March 31, 2008, through the end of August, 2008, you had 1,166 telephone calls with Mr. Scheinberg and 2,222 text messages, for a total number of communications of 3,388. During that 154 day period, you averaged 22 communications per day with Mr. Scheinberg, which is almost one communication per hour for each 24 hour day ...
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... a (JQC) Panel member asked you: "Could you explain the relationship with Howard Scheinberg since 1987?" This question called for an explanation of your relationship with Mr. Scheinberg from 1987 to the date the question was asked, November 13, 2008. Your answer to the question made no mention of your close personal relationship and the high volume of telephone communications and text messages between you and Mr. Scheinberg after March 23, 2007. Your answer was therefore misleading and demonstrates a lack of candor toward the Commission ...
... The same Panel member asked this follow-up question: "Again, just to clarify, my understanding is that you - - during the time your were a judge and he was a prosecutor, you did not have any kind of social relationship with Howard Scheinberg?" And your answer was: "If I saw him maybe at one retirement - - they gave they give plaquings [sic] to the younger prosecutors when they leave after three years. He could have been at a plaquing [sic] where the attorneys and the judges go. But I don't ever remember even sitting with him and socializing." This was a misleading answer because it failed to reveal the personal relationship and the thousands of calls and text messages between you and Mr. Scheinberg between March 23, 2007, and the date of the November 13, 2008, hearing before the Investigative Panel. Your answer demonstrates a lack of candor toward the Commission ...
Gardiner began her public career with the help of two close friends, Jenne and Michael Satz. Before she became a jduge, she was appointed to the heavily political North Broward Hospital District.