Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Carmel on the Case: Judge Follow-Up
A Miami-Dade judge has been reassigned to another court after several lawyers questioned her ability to be impartial. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero has the latest.
WSVN -- Judge Ana Maria Pando was hearing civil cases in Hialeah when this video was taken in early February.
But now, she has been reassigned to the criminal division in that city.
7News has learned the move follows the filing of hundreds of motions calling for Judge Pando to step down from pending cases.
The controversy started with a letter Judge Pando wrote on behalf of Florida Wellness and Rehabilitation Center Inc.
The company has had a number of cases before the judge.
An accountant for Florida Wellness accidentally sent the state paperwork the company was closing.
Using her judicial stationary, Judge Pando wrote the Florida Division of Corporations to help get the company's operating status returned.
Records show the company was then reactivated by court order.
Carmel Cafiero, Investigative Reporter: "Tell me what you think about a judge writing a letter like this."
Nova Southeastern law professor Bob Jarvis teaches ethics.
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 stationery. 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 to do what she did."
In early February, 16 motions had been filed asking Judge Pando to step down from cases involving Florida Wellness and Rehabilitation.
The motions charged she violated the code of judicial conduct "as she lent the prestige of her judicial office to advance the private interests of Florida Wellness and Rehabilitation Center, Inc."
A court spokeswoman says the number of motions has now swelled to at least 300. So for the county, it was easier to reassign Judge Pando and have another judge hear these cases instead of transferring them to judges throughout the county.
Carmel Cafiero: "We're told the reassignment is temporary. Neither Judge Pando nor the county's Chief Judge who made the decision accepted our request for an interview."
IF YOU HAVE A STORY FOR CARMEL TO INVESTIGATE: