For the past two days I've been up in Palm Beach County covering the Bar trial of former Broward Circuit Judge Ana Gardiner. Gardiner stands accused of carrying on a "significant personal and emotional relationship" with a homicide prosecutor who trying a death penalty case in her courtroom and misleading investigators about it under oath.
In the legal and political world, it was a star-studded affair. Gardiner's list of character witnesses was headlined by former Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth and included former U.S. Attorney Tom Scott. Former Broward Chief Judge Dale Ross testified for Gardiner, as did sitting Circuit Judge Susan Lebow. Also along for the ride were veteran attorneys like Bill Scherer, Kelly Hancock, and Larry Davis.
Understand that Gardiner was a darling of the political elite in Broward County, an up-and-comer whose career was buoyed by the likes of Butterworth, who recommended her as a judicial appointee to the late Gov. Lawton Chiles. State Attorney Mike Satz, and former state senator and Broward County Sheriff Ken Jenne, whose own political career ended in scandal (he wasn't on the witness list). They are circling the wagons of one of their own. Loyalty notwithstanding, it was a bit unsettling to see such heavyweights talk glowingly about a judge who has been found to have essentially lied under oath.
Butterworth told me he didn't in any way condone Gardiner's behavior but that he felt she'd already paid a high price after having been essentially forced to resign her judgeship and that he felt that her career as a whole should be considered in her fight to keep her law license.
One of only two Bar witnesses used against Gardiner was Nova Southeastern University law professor Bruce Rogow, who made the recommendation to Satz to throw out the death sentence and conviction of Omar Loureiro based on Gardiner's undisclosed relationship with then-prosecutor Howard Scheinberg, who left the State Attorney's Office and is now serving a one-year suspension from practicing law as a result of the case.
Gardiner's own attorney is another courthouse star, attorney David Bogenschutz, whose clients include numerous politicians. But this case is special for Bogenschutz -- he and Gardiner struck up a much-talked about romance after he began representing her.
The only suspense was whether or not
es spirited defense of the former chief criminal judge. Bogenschutz and Gardiner struck up a romance as well.
The cast included legal heavyweights -- headlined by former Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth -- lining up as character witnesses for the former chief criminal judge.
Gardiner is accused of having a "significant personal and emotional relationship" with a prosecutor who was trying a death penalty murder case in her courtroom.