The Florida Supreme Court on Friday rejected stipulated settlement in disciplinary cases against Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Stephen Millan and Miami-Dade County Court Judge Maria D. Ortiz.
Millan faced a 30-day unpaid suspension after admitting he used racial slurs to describe black defendants and their relatives. He also repeatedly reached out by cellphone to the defendants’ attorney after the incidents, but one lawyer said he was uncomfortable with the ex parte communications and reported Millan for ethics violations. The judge discussed six pending cases with the attorney and offered to “help out” by setting the cases for a plea hearing, according to the charging document.
But the high court, which has the final word on judicial discipline, rejected the stipulation.
“Upon consideration of the Judicial Qualifications Commission’s findings and recommendation of discipline and the parties’ stipulation, the court rejects the stipulation and disapproves the proposed sanctions,” the justices ruled. “We remand for further proceedings to include a full hearing before the Judicial Qualifications Commission in order to fully develop the facts regarding any misconduct that occurred, so that the court, in determining the appropriate discipline, will be apprised of all the facts and circumstances bearing on the alleged violations.”
Ortiz also got bad news from the high court.
She stipulated to ethics violations for free hotel stays with her husband, who faces public corruption charges. Her husband is the former director of Miami Beach’s building department, Mariano Fernandez, who lost his job amid scandal. Her husband is charged with felony counts alleging he accepted free hotel stays and other valuable gifts to speed up city permits for Spain’s RIU Hotel Group.
The high court rejected the stipulated agreement and ordered a full hearing before the JQC.