MIAMI – Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Martin Zilber apologized for his absenteeism and for mistreating his staff. He agreed to a 60-day suspension and a $30,000 fine, but the Florida Supreme Court wants his punishment to be more severe.
The court ruled on Thursday to send Zilber’s case back to the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission for a full evidentiary hearing, “so that the court, in determining the appropriate discipline, will be apprised of all the facts and circumstances.”
The court’s ruling resolved a complaint by Dixidela Dent, Zilber’s former judicial assistant. In a motion to intervene filed on April 16, Dent referred to the fine and suspension as a “slap on the wrist.” She alleged Zilber regularly coerced her to work on his judicial reelection campaign while on the clock for the taxpayers.
“Judges are charged with upholding the highest standards of personal and professional conduct,” Attorney Bruce Jacobs, who is representing Dent, wrote in a statement. “The Florida Supreme Court should be commended for holding Judge Zilber to those highest standards and calling on the JQC to fully investigate these most serious acts of dishonesty, abuse of power, and theft of public funds.”
Zilber’s annual salary is about $161,000. The list of personal tasks that Zilber allegedly handed down to his staff included online shopping for him, retrieving his Art Basel tickets, registering his car, and putting together a scrapbook about his achievements.
Zilber also allegedly ordered Dent to push a heavy chair and take it up to his courtroom bench while she was pregnant. He also allegedly said the timing of her pregnancy was inconvenient, refused to approve she had worked overtime, and berated her after a hearing.
From January 2019 to March 13, 2020, Zilber took 51 days of leave without notifying the court administration, according to the JQC. Dent reported Zilber forced her to clear his calendar on Mondays and Fridays.
“You often left the courthouse early and frequently did not come to the courthouse at all,” Alex Williams, JQC’s general counsel, wrote in the April 9 notice of formal charges.
His social media posts showed he traveled to Malibu, California because he planned to work remotely.
He allegedly ordered his assistant to cancel and reset several hearings. He also allegedly asked his assistant to list four special set hearings that week. It turned out the four hearings were actually social and educational Zoom meetings, including a Cuban American Bar Association luncheon.
Related link: Zilber’s case docket
Related document: Motion to intervene