Broward County judge criticized for handling of homeless defendants

Public defender Howard Finkelstein calls for Judge John 'Jay' Hurley to be transferred from post

By Bob Norman - Investigative Reporter

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A Broward County judge is being criticized by some for the way that he deals with homeless people in his courtroom.

South Floridians see them on the street holding signs and panhandling for money, but one judge seems to have had enough of it. Broward County Judge John Hurley recently gave one homeless man a piece of his mind.

"Why can't you get it through your head that you can't panhandle in traffic," said Hurley. "Why don't you stop banging on people's windows in traffic and leave them alone?"

Hurley said his own window had been banged on once in traffic, but the man, Michael Cochems, a chronic offender, said he is battling drug addiction and denied banging on anyone's windows.

Public defender Howard Finkelstein said that exchange and others show that Hurley has personal contempt for the homeless and should be transferred out of his post.

"If the judge is so upset at homeless people, then he should not be sitting as a judge on their cases," said Finkelstein.

Hurley didn't want to speak about the issue on camera to Local 10 News, but Chief Judge Peter Weinstein came to his defense.

Weinstein called Hurley a "very hard worker" who is "extremely responsible."

"I have no plans to remove him," said Weinstein.

This is just part of the rising tensions between the public defender's office and Hurley. Earlier this month, the judge had an assistant public defender removed from his courtroom after she argued on behalf of a homeless defendant.

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