Broward County judge hit with favoritism charges

State commission says Claudia Robinson failed to uphold integrity of bench

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A state commission has found that Broward County Judge Claudia Robinson's showering of lucrative judicial appointments to a former top campaign advisor "created the appearance of impropriety and favoritism" and recommended that she be suspended from the bench for the violations. 

The findings come in the wake of a Local 10 investigation that found Robinson had showered the unpaid campaign advisor, attorney Michael Ahearn, with more than 80 percent of her appointments in cases requiring mediation -- worth about $45,000 in business to Ahearn. 

"It looks like favoritism. Is this favoritism toward your campaign manager?" investigative reporter Bob Norman asked Robinson in May. 

"Absolutely not," she said. 

The Judicial Qualifications Commission found otherwise, writing in its report to Robinson: "Your actions created the appearance of impropriety and favoritism … and constitute inappropriate conduct." 

Florida law makes it a third-degree felony for political candidates to promise appointments in exchange for campaign support, but the JQC reported that its investigation didn't find enough evidence to support criminal misconduct and recommended the Florida Supreme Court suspend Robinson for 30 days with no pay.

Robinson apologized to the JQC and admitted there was an appearance of wrongdoing, but said there was no corrupt deal. She said it was rather an "error in judgment," adding that after Norman questioned her about it, she began spreading out those mediations to more attorneys.

The case is now in the hands of the Florida Supreme Court, which has total discretion on Robinson's punishment. The justices can follow the JQC's recommendation of a suspension, go easier on her or bring a harsher punishment, all the way up to removal from the bench.