Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Carmel on the Case: Judge
The behavior of a South Florida judge is being questioned tonight. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero has this exclusive.
WSVN -- Judge Ana Maria Pando: "Good morning."
Attorney: "Good morning, how are you?"
County Court Judge Ana Maria Pando handles civil cases in her Hialeah courtroom. But now she is being asked to step down to rescue herself from some of those cases.
So far, five attorneys have filed 16 motions charging Judge Pando violated the Code of Judicial Conduct, "As she lent the prestige of her judicial office to advance the private interests of Florida Wellness & Rehabilitation Center Inc."
Carmel Cafiero: "Florida Wellness has had a number of cases before Judge Pando. Late last year the company told the State the corporation was dissolving. That was apparently a mistake."
An accountant for Florida Wellness accidentally sent the state paperwork the company was closing. Using her judicial stationary, Judge Pando wrote the state to help get the company's operating status returned. State records show the company was then reactivated by "court order".
Carmel Cafiero: "Tell us what you think about a judge writing a letter like this."
We showed the letter to Nova Southeastern law professor Bob Jarvis. He teaches ethics and says judges should not become advocates.
Bob Jarvis, Nova Southeastern University: "There's no reason why a judge should be writing on behalf of anybody to begin with, certainly not on her official stationary. But if this is a party that is regularly in her court, or that has even been in her court, I mean that just makes the appearance of impropriety even greater and really makes it inappropriate even more so for a judge to have done what she did."
Judge Pando is up for reelection but has no opposition. So far she has raised close to $70,000. Among the contributors- $2,000 from four Florida Wellness & Rehabilitation Centers, reported the month after the letter was sent.
The judge turned down our request for an interview.
Carmel Cafiero: "I just want to talk with her about the reasons behind her writing that letter."
Judge Pando's bailiff told me she couldn't talk about the issue because the recusal motions are pending.
Sgt. at Arms: "Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye. The Supreme Court of Florida is now in session."
In 2005, Judge Pando was reprimanded for violating the judicial code of conduct.
Chief Justice Barbara Pariente: "You have conducted yourself in a manner unbecoming a member of the judiciary."
The issues before the court then involved campaign donations and misleading statements. It ended with a fine and a warning.
Chief Justice Barbara Pariente: "A second ethical breach by a judge will be viewed far more harshly."
It remains to be seen how this latest controversy will impact Judge Pando, if at all.
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