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special to the national law journal A toy toilet that makes a loud flushing noise might be a hilarious desk item in a business office. The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that using one in court was conduct unbecoming a judge. For flushing the toilet during a lawyer’s argument and for other demeaning conduct, including continually asking counsel, “What, are you stupid?” the court has sanctioned Broward County Circuit Judge Sheldon Schapiro, ordering him to undergo psychological sensitivity training. In re Schapiro, No. SC01-2419. In one sexual battery case, the judge said to defense counsel, “Do you know what I think of your argument?” and then pressed a button on the device designed to simulate a toilet flushing, according to the official charges against him. In another case, a lawyer was hospitalized by complications in her pregnancy. Schapiro notified her that unless she reported to court, he would dismiss her case. Against medical advice, she left the hospital, and appeared in court. The initial charges alleged that, in a murder case, the judge traumatized the mother of a victim by asking, “What do I need to hear from the mother of a dead kid for?” Schapiro claimed he referred to the victim as a “deceased” kid. Schapiro was also admonished for his demeaning behavior to lawyers and others in his court. The court accepted the stipulated punishment recommended by the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission. It included a public reprimand, psychological counseling and behavioral therapy-with an emphasis on sensitivity training-and a letter of apology to the people of Broward County. The court added the additional punishment of writing apology letters to all those mentioned in the opinion. David Bogenschutz of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.’s Bogenschutz & Dutko, counsel for Schapiro, said the judge was pleased that the Supreme Court accepted the judicial qualification commission’s stipulated recommendation. “He’s really glad to get this behind him, and get on with the impossibly heavy caseload that all our judges have,” Bogenschutz said, adding that the 67-year-old Schapiro would be unable to run for re-election because of Florida’s 70-year-old mandatory retirement age for judges. Never before jurors Bogenschutz surmised that if it hadn’t been a judge in a courtroom, more people might have seen the humor in the toy toilet. “He certainly never used it in front of a jury,” Bogenschutz said. “The humor was lost in the judge’s situation.” The commission’s outside counsel in the case, Michael Green of Tampa, Fla.’s Trenam Kemker, said any comment would need to come from the commission, whose general counsel, Thomas MacDonald Jr., was unavailable for comment. Horrigan’s e-mail address is

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