FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A Broward County judge who made headlines after her DUI arrest last year has agreed to a 90-day unpaid suspension and a public reprimand under the terms of an agreement with the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission.
Judge Lynn Rosenthal agreed to the suspension, reprimand, 12 hours of continuing legal education in ethics, family counseling and the repayment of fees and costs associated with the JQC's investigation, according to a JQC filing obtained Monday by Local 10 News.
"Judge Rosenthal has acknowledged that some of her answers during her testimony before the commission were incomplete and misleading," Duval County Judge James Ruth, vice chairman of the JQC, wrote in the report filed Friday. "The judge has explained that her lapse in judgment was borne out of personal family crisis, which Judge Rosenthal has acknowledged caused her best judgment to be overcome by a desire to protect her family and the judge's own difficulty in dealing with the family crisis. Judge Rosenthal now also acknowledges that her conduct eroded public confidence in the judiciary and demeaned the judicial office she holds."
Rosenthal, who pleaded guilty to a lesser charge after her DUI arrest in May 2014, told Local 10 News that she was "sleep driving" when her sport utility vehicle plowed into a deputy's cruiser in the parking lot of the Broward County courthouse.
She blamed the crash on Ambien, a sleep-inducing pill for which she is prescribed, that she took the night before.
"I was sleep driving and unaware of what I was doing until long after I got to the courthouse," Rosenthal told Local 10's Bob Norman.
Ruth also wrote that Rosenthal admitted to erasing "pertinent records" from her cellphone and provided "some misleading or incomplete statements to the commission during her testimony." Ruth wrote that Rosenthal's actions "brought disrepute" to the judicial system.
After her arrest, Rosenthal told the Broward Sheriff's Office that a truck had tried to run her off the road earlier that morning on Interstate 595 and showed the deputy a cellphone video she had taken of the incident. The deputy reported that the video only showed her vehicle weaving in and out of traffic before it collided with a guard wall.
Rosenthal had her DUI charge reduced to reckless driving and was sentenced to three months of probation and 25 hours of community service.
Her actions didn't seem to dissuade voters, however, as Rosenthal was re-elected last August.
The recommendation for a 90-day suspension goes to the Florida Supreme Court, which can accept or reject the punishment. If the court rejects the suspension, Rosenthal will be subjected to a trial in which her judgeship could be at stake.
"I think the Supreme Court needs to send a very strong message to those (who) still think it's OK to screw around and be a Broward judge that this is not tolerated," courthouse blogger Bill Gelin told Norman.
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