Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Stephen Thomas Millan will step down from the bench at 5 p.m. on Aug. 3 amid allegations he directed racial slurs at black defendants who appeared in his courtroom.
His departure from public office comes after the Florida Supreme Court on June 8 rejected a stipulated settlement in the disciplinary case against Millan.
Controversy has swirled around the judge for several months over charges he used the derogatory term “moolie” to describe a black defendant, and later referred to black witnesses and family members in his courtroom as “thugs.”
Millan admitted making the comments during in-chambers discussion with a bailiff, but denied he meant any offense.
A notice Friday from the state’s Judicial Nominating Commission confirmed the judge’s departure.
“The Eleventh Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission has been asked to provide Governor Rick Scott with nominees for the vacancy in the Miami-Dade Circuit Court created by the resignation of Circuit Court Judge Stephen T. Millan,” the JNC notice read.
Black bar associations had called for Millan’s removal from public office, after the Judicial Qualifications Committee, which investigates alleged misconduct by judges, filed formal charges against Millan on May 21.
Trelvis Randolph, immediate past president of the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. Bar Association, was particularly alarmed to hear of Millan’s remarks, and was among those campaigning for the judge’s removal.
“We did not believe there was a place in our court system for someone who is advocating these thoughts and these words, and also making decisions in regard to people who appear in front of him,” Randolph said.
Randolph also rejected the mere “slap on the wrist” stipulation with the JQC, which had recommended a 30-day suspension and a $5,000 fine.
Before Millan stepped down, the Supreme Court had rejected the proposal and ordered a formal hearing.
Ultimately, Randolph sees the resignation as a sign that the Florida system is responsive, though not without fault.
“We’re not happy that here, in 2018, we’re still dealing with these issues, and we’re not happy that in 2018 we have to have public outcry in order to have some sort of effective or measured consequence for these actions to happen,” he said. “But we are satisfied that there is a process in place to address these concerns, and that our concerns were heard.”
The incoming president of the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. Bar Association, Monique Hayes, is disappointed with the entire debacle.
“It’s a sad day when any judge or attorney has to step down from a position of responsibility and respect in the community,” Hayes said. “But it was in my view, and I think, in the view of the majority of the bar, the appropriate thing for him to do.”
According to Hayes, it’s no coincidence that Millan’s resignation came after months of media coverage and social pressure.
“I don’t know Judge Millan personally, but I do have reports from other attorneys who have appeared before him, and those that are colleagues and friends of his, and they have told me that this is something that weighed tremendously on him. But from what I can tell, it is a result of the efforts collectively of the legal community in recognizing that this is intolerable,” Hayes said.
The Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. Bar Association was joined by other voluntary bar associations in condemning Millan’s actions. Among the critics were the Haitian Lawyers Association, the Gwen S. Cherry Black Women Lawyers Association and the Caribbean Bar Association.
“I just don’t see how he could have remained on the bench, and I imagine that he saw the same thing,” Hayes said.
“We’re happy to see that there was some consequence because we decided to make some noise,” Randolph said. “I’m not certain it would have turned out the way it had if we had not spoken up.”
Read Millan’s resignation letter: