A strong message was sent late last week to Florida judges who think it's OK to habitually show up late to court proceedings for no reason: Meh, it's cool.
Ocala Circuit Judge William Singbush has been the subject of an investigation by the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission, which was looking into reports that the judge has been consistently showing up hours late to proceedings in his own courtroom for the past 21 years, bringing his lateness to the degree that it "inconveniences and economically burdens lawyers, litigants and the judicial system."
How did he defend himself? He didn't. He admitted to doing it, and though the initial charging document included the statement that the allegations, if proven, "would demonstrate your unfitness to hold the office of judge," he gets to keep his job.
You are habitually late for court... When hearings cannot be concluded in the time allotted, you sarcastically state that you are "here to serve" and then offer to resume the hearing at inconvenient dates and times, such as Friday afternoon at 5 p.m. or Saturday morning...
Your tardiness is compounded by the length and number of the smoke breaks that you take. This further compromises the parties' ability to have their cases heard promptly...
Even though first appearances are scheduled to begin at 9:00, you generally fail to appear until 11:00 a.m. ... You take long lunch breaks and have been known to finish as late as 8:00 p.m.
by saying that he had "prior health difficulties" and had to take care of his ill parents. He acknowledged that "some delays in docket management were without valid excuse," but that he's "already taken steps reasonably necessary" and is "no longer habitually late for court; thereby demonstrating in relevant part his present fitness to hold office." You'd think for $142,000 a year
, the state would be able to find someone who was capable of actually doing his job the right way.
The panel investigating him filed a recommendation to the Florida Supreme Court on Friday that recommended Singbush be required to write "a letter of apology to the public, his fellow judges, and the legal community for his tardiness." They also ordered up a "public reprimand" from the Supreme Court.
Oh, and he also has to submit written logs to the commission saying that he shows up on time. He was late to work for two decades. What's a guy have to do to get fired around here?
The court can in theory not accept the recommendation, but there's no indication when a decision might be handed down.