Broward County Circuit Judge (and misdemeanor drug court judge) Gisele Pollack, who was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in early May, is now fighting to save her career after her attorneys filed a document to the Florida Supreme Court this week.
The documents specifically address the investigative panel of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission, which submitted a notice of formal charges against Pollack following her May arrest.
Pollack's attorneys argue that her arrest was the result of her struggles with alcohol dependence but that she was actively receiving treatment.
The formal charges against her, however, are multiple and document a string of incidents that compromised her job as a judge.
Last year, Pollack, 56, admitted showing up to work drunk in the past. When her staff tried to stop her from approaching the bench inebriated, her response was "Fuck you; you're fired." She took a leave of absence a couple months ago, when she again arrived to work inebriated.
Back in March, Pollack was behaving erratically in the courtroom and at times slurred her words. Her meltdown on the bench led Pollack to take personal leave and shortly thereafter to check herself into an outpatient treatment program in Weston.
Her DUI arrest in May led to her being suspended, and she entered into rehab.
Following her suspension in May, Pollack's attorneys filed a petition with the Florida Supreme Court this week requesting that Pollack still be paid her $138,000 annual salary. David Bogenschutz said Pollack's bout with alcohol meant it was a disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act. In the petition, Pollack's alcoholism was compared to cancer:
"A suspension without pay will work an onerous hardship and be emotionally debilitating as she struggles to overcome this disability and disease," the petition reads. "If, in fact, Judge Pollack had been suffering from cancer or another disability that required her to be out of office in treatment or therapy, such a restriction would not have been appropriate."
The petition was rejected by the Florida Supreme Court.
Now comes the fight for her lawyers to save her career.
From the formal charges document:
1. On December 17, 2013 you were acting erratically at the Broward County Courthouse.
2. You had suffered a relapse in your struggle with alcohol and you took the bench while intoxicated.
3. On Friday, February 21, 2014, you met with the Investigative Panel at its meeting in Tallahassee. As a result of that meeting you entered into a Stipulation with the Commission in which agreed to refrain from the use of alcohol, but if you did, use alcohol, you agreed not to take the bench. The Stipulation was executed March 3, 2014.
4. On March 19, 2014 you took the bench while impaired. Judge Zeller was forced to intervene and ask you to leave the bench. You were impaired to the extent that Judge Zeller had to physically assist you in walking. Subsequently you took a leave of absence from the Court and you enrolled in an inpatient substance abuse treatment.
5. On May 1, 2014 you walked away from the inpatient substance abuse program. You drove from the inpatient substance abuse program towards Ft. Lauderdale. You became intoxicated.
6. Sometime around 1:30 a.m. on May 2, 2014, police reports indicate that you were involved in a motor vehicle crash in Plantation Florida. The vehicle you were operating stuck another vehicle, causing personal injuries. You were arrested and charged with Driving Under the Influence Causing Property Damage and Failure to Use Due Care.
According to the document filed by Pollack's attorney on Thursday, Pollack's career and ability as a judge should be considered, and her disease of alcohol dependency should not mean she should lose her career outright.
"The Respondent's judicial and legal career are, and have been, exemplary, and without discipline or complaint of any type, save and except for the issues that gave rise to this investigation over a period in excess of twenty-five years," the document says. "The ultimate sanction of removal is unwarranted in this case. The appropriate sanction is reprimand with special conditions that address this disability."
The document also reiterates that Pollack is seeking help:
"Notice of investigation were caused by, and as a result of, a dependency upon alcohol that incapacitated her and for which she has sought, and is successfully receiving, treatment and therapy the details of which said treatment and therapy will be further expanded upon at hearing in this matter."
Among the more notable achievements in Pollack's career was a misdemeanor drug court she put together that specialized in helping people arrested for marijuana violations by having them checked into a treatment facility rather than spend any time in jail.
You can read both the notice of charges from the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission and Pollack's document pleading to reconsider removal below.