Arrest mug of Broward Circuit Judge Gisele Pollack
Arrest mug of Broward Circuit Judge Gisele Pollack ()

An attorney for suspended Broward County Court Judge Gisele Pollack invoked the Americans with Disabilities Act in a request for reconsideration of a decision leaving her without pay, noting alcoholism is recognized as a disability under the federal law.

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The Florida Supreme Court suspended the misdemeanor drug court judge without pay May 23. At a hearing before a state Judicial Qualifications Commission investigative panel May 16, her attorney expressed concerns about her finances and urged that any suspension be with pay.

In a petition posted on the court’s website Thursday, defense attorney J. David Bogenschutz of Bogenschutz, Dutko & Kroll in Fort Lauderdale cited the ADA to support a paid suspension.

“Judge Pollack is a judge whose personal expenses and financial situation are such that a suspension without pay will cause a tremendous hardship and may require her to sell her home as well as dip into retirement funds to maintain her cost of living over the next several months of her treatment,” Bogenschutz said.

Kelly Kolb, a shareholder at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney | Fowler White Boggs in Fort Lauderdale who is not involved in the case, said the ADA would have limited benefit to Pollack.

A “reasonable accommodation” as defined by the ADA is some alteration to the work environment, he said. “It’s not something that allows you to stay at home with pay and not perform any functions,” Kolb said.

Time off from work would be an accommodation. If Pollack had accrued sick leave or vacation, that ought to be available to her, he said.

“Absent that, she may have some rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act,” Kolb said.

Pollack was removed from the bench after a second incident of presiding in court while drunk. On May 1, she walked away from a rehabilitation facility in Gainesville and drove back to Broward County. She was involved in an auto accident with a minor injury to the other driver. She was arrested shortly after midnight May 2 and charged with drunken driving with bodily injury.

At the May 16 JQC hearing, Eric Schwartzreich of Schwartzreich & Associates spoke for Pollack. He said her insurance was no longer paying for her treatment and she already had spent nearly $40,000.

“It’s very expensive. And I might have to move her to a different program,” Schwartzreich told the panel. Following an initial two or three months of intensive treatment, Pollack would be in “step-down” care with structured living on a monitored recovery campus for up to six months.