Broward County judge in treatment after substance abuse relapse

Judge Giselle Pollack removed from bench March 19

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Broward County Chief Judge Peter Weinstein confirmed Monday that drug court Judge Giselle Pollack is in treatment after she had a second relapse of her own substance abuse problems in court just weeks ago.

"She's getting help," said Weinstein. "She is in treatment and she may be out for months."

Pollack was removed from the bench by another judge just 18 minutes into her court docket on March 19 due to slurring words and seemingly erratic behavior, asking one lawyer if he wanted "to have a party" and telling an inmate who had been in custody that he'd been a "bad boy."

Now Weinstein is facing criticism for his decision to immediately return Pollack -- who has a history of alcoholism and cocaine addiction -- to the bench after her initial relapse back in December.

"Should she have come back to sit in drug court? I think most people would agree that was not the right call," said Broward County public defender Howard Finkelstein. "If you have somebody in active addiction, that's usually not someone who should be making life defining decisions involving other people."

Courthouse blogger Bill Gelin echoed those sentiments.

"If this ultimately ends up costing Judge Pollack her job, that's something most people feel could have been avoided if she had been removed from the drug court division when this first happened and had benefit of some long term care and not put in such a vulnerable situation," Gelin said.

Weinstein said he had no regrets about the decision, which he said was made after consulting experts. At the time, he said he was "praying" he was making the right decision.

"Sadly, something happened," Weinstein said. "Whatever it was, she is going to be gone quite some time, that much I do know. I don't believe it because I believe in (Pollack) and she's an excellent judge."

Weinstein said he assumed the Judicial Qualifications Commission was aware of the situation and that the Florida Supreme Court would likely make the final decision on Pollack's return.

"A judge has to be certainly fit for service and capable of serving in their assignment," he said.

"She's got a long road ahead of her both in treatment and when she comes back," said Finkelstein. "My guess is it won't be in drug court. It will probably be somewhere else. I believe she will come back a better human being than before, whether as a judge or not."