Broward Circuit Judge John Patrick Contini gave same-day notice of his plans to step down from the bench, according to a resignation letter submitted Friday to the governor’s office.
It appears the judge was the subject of an ongoing ethics investigation.
Contini’s July 6 letter informed Gov. Rick Scott of the judge’s plan to leave at 5 p.m. that day.
“I have been honored to serve the people of Broward County,” the judge wrote in the two-sentence document copied to Broward Chief Judge Jack Tuter and the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission, which investigates ethics charges against jurists.
Read the resignation letter:
Contini copied the JQC on his resignation letter, a highly unusual step for a judge announcing his resignation plans, for reasons that were not enumerated. The JQC does not comment on judicial investigations. Neither Contini nor Tuter responded to requests for comment.
Contini was the subject of an ethics probe launched in 2015, about 11 months after he took office, over allegations he had emailed a public defender with sentencing tips. That case appeared to have ended in February 2017 with a public reprimand.
Contini’s attorney, David B. Rothman of Rothman & Associates in Miami, declined to comment Monday.
Contini rose to the bench in 2015, after serving as a criminal defense attorney since 1987 and a state prosecutor for four years before that. He was on the bench a little more than two months and attending Judicial College training when he wrote Broward Assistant Public Defender Samuel Perlmutter on March 16 outlining a strategy for getting lower criminal sentences. Perlmutter forwarded the email to others in his office, and the message reached the state attorney’s office, which asked Contini to recuse himself.
Contini later had a heated argument with Assistant Attorney General Heidi Bettendorf, believing she misled a state appellate court about fallout from the letter.
The judge found the state’s recusal motion legally insufficient and refused to disqualify himself, prompting a challenge in the Fourth District Court of Appeal. The appellate court stayed hundreds of cases in Contini’s criminal division, which left some defendants behind bars with no rulings or determinations in their cases.
When Contini found out later that the state attorney’s office helped Bettendorf, he “engaged in a heated argument” with Assistant State Attorney Joel Silvershein, according to the JQC, which recommended a public reprimand and a written apology from the judge.
The Supreme Court docket shows no activity in that case since the high court administered the public reprimand in February 2017.