I've raised the issue of whether U.S. District Judge William Zloch should recuse himself from the Scott Rothstein forfeiture case based on Rothstein's friendship with Zloch's brother and, at the very least, acquaintanceship with the judge himself.
I've been told that Zloch doesn't take kindly to such suggestions, and over holidays the former Notre Dame quarterback and Ronald Reagan appointee proved it.
On December 30, Zloch hit local Fort Lauderdale attorney Loring Spolter hard, slamming him with nearly $100,000 in sanctions and suspending him from practicing law in the Southern District of Florida for three and a half years.
This comes after Zloch threatened to put another attorney, Lee Cohn, behind bars for life for representing a client after being disbarred. And it comes on the same day that Zloch ruled against the informant in the UBS banking investigation who was featured on 60 Minutes yesterday and is doing 40 months in prison after whistleblowing on banking fraud.
Zloch came down hard on Spolter after the lawyer went to the media and filed motions trying to force Zloch to recuse himself from three employment cases, claiming Zloch's hard-core Catholic beliefs biased him against women in the
workplace. Spolter also claimed that Zloch purposefully presided over his cases in order to rule against him.
In his extraordinary 68-page order, Zloch writes that Spolter is no "First Amendment martyr" and insists he's not punishing the lawyer for criticizing him but for placing a "cloud" over the entire district and abusing the system. "Mr. Spolter has the absolute right to criticize a judge," Zloch writes, "but what he does not have the right to do is file pleadings in Federal court for an improper purpose and in bad faith."
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Yes, it's a good thing all the other filings in federal and state court are made with pure and upstanding purpose and faith. Otherwise our justice system might be in trouble.
I haven't heard from Spolter, but he recently sent me a summary of his arguments against Zloch.
Spolter claims that Zloch made several "bizarre" and "highly irregular" decisions in a pregnancy discrimination case involving a Toys 'R' Us employee named Renee Bettis. A linchpin of Spolter's argument that Zloch is a Catholic zealot is that the judge recruited many of his assistants from Ave Maria Law School, which he describes as an "arm of the extreme right-wing movement." Ave Maria, which is now located in Naples, is indeed an ultraconservative school supported chiefly by Domino's Pizza owner Tom Monaghan and aligned with neocon Supreme Court justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Spolter also pointed out Zloch's membership in the right-wing and secretive Federalist Society.
What I find most interesting about Spolter's allegations is that he says Zloch has violated federal ethics rulings by refusing to fill out federal financial disclosure forms, making it impossible to know if he has conflicts of interest in the cases over which he presides. If that is true (interestingly, Zloch doesn't address the issue in his order), then Zloch appears to be guilty of something far worse than anything Spolter did in questioning and skewering him, and an investigation is in order.