Judge Pando Charged - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

Judge Pando Charged

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WSVN -- Most recently Judge Ana Maria Pando was moved from civil cases to criminal cases after an avalanche of motions demanding she step down from hundreds of cases.

That followed a 7 News investigation that revealed the judge had contacted the state to help Florida Wellness and Rehabilitation Center, a company that had cases in front of her.

She wrote a letter on her judicial letterhead to the Division of Corporations to have the company's operating status returned.

State records show the company was then reactivated by court order.

Carmel Cafiero, Investigative Reporter: "Tell us what you think about a judge writing a letter like this."

Bob Jarvis is a law professor at Nova Southeastern University.

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 for the judge to have done what she did."

Carmel Cafiero, Investigative Reporter: "And now the Judicial Qualifications Commission, which investigates allegations of misconduct by judges, has agreed. It has accused Pando of violating the rules of judicial conduct."

According to the notice of formal charges, her actions "... constitute the practice of law, which is forbidden" and that "the use of judicial stationery additionally burdens your actions by lending the prestige of judicial office to a private interest."

The JQC charges describe the owner of Florida Wellness as a friend of Judge Pando and claim that the two had a social relationship.

Sergeant-At-Arms: "Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye: The Supreme Court of Florida is now in session."

The last time the JQC investigated Pando in 2005, she ended up with a reprimand.

Chief Justice Barbara Pariente: "You have conducted yourself in a manner unbecoming a member of the judiciary."

The action involved Judge Pando accepting improper campaign contributions.

Chief Justice Barbara Pariente: "A second ethical breach will be viewed more harshly."

And now, $2,000 in campaign contributions that she received from Florida Wellness clinics after she wrote the letter have become an issue.

The JQC charges it "gives the appearance of impropriety."

Carmel Cafiero: "If the allegations are upheld, authorities could decide Judge Pando is unfit to be a judge. She has 20 days to respond."

IF YOU HAVE A STORY FOR CARMEL TO INVESTIGATE:

Miami-Dade: 305-627-CLUE

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E-mail: clue@wsvn.com

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