The Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission on Thursday filed ethics charges against Broward Circuit Judge Dennis Daniel Bailey, alleging he violated five rules of judicial conduct by losing his temper with attorneys in a felony criminal trial in April.
According to the JQC’s complaint, Bailey became frustrated with two defense attorneys while presiding over State v. Genesis Espejo, and inappropriately had one of them physically removed before the jury. The lawyers had attempted to argue the same objection during a sidebar conference, according to the complaint.
According to the JQC’s investigative panel, audio from the hearing clarified that the attorneys weren’t talking over one another or being disrespectful.
“When one of the attorneys tried to help his colleague articulate a point during the sidebar, Judge Bailey repeatedly attempted to quiet him by saying, ‘One lawyer at a time,’ ‘Only one lawyer argues,’ followed shortly thereafter by, ‘You have a hard time understanding me? Two lawyers can’t argue one argument,’ ” JQC Chair Krista Marx wrote in her findings.
Bailey allegedly then gave the defendant 45 minutes to file a motion to disqualify him — a motion he branded legally insufficient and denied, along with a motion for mistrial.
Read the JQC’s charges against Judge Bailey:
According to court records, Fort Lauderdale public defenders Gustavo Javier Martinez and James Allan Foretich represented the defendant.
Martinez told the Daily Business Review that he felt the JQC’s findings reinforced the importance of fairness and respect in the judiciary.
“In our criminal justice system, it is of utmost importance for judges to treat both the state and the defense equally. It is important to remember that in a criminal case the life and liberty of a human being is on the line. Therefore, judges should address the matters before them with objectivity, respect and neutrality. Most judges certainly live up to this calling, but unfortunately some do not,” Martinez said.
It wasn’t the first time the defense had attempted to remove Bailey from the case.
According to the JQC, Bailey had denied an earlier motion that claimed he should be disqualified for being condescending, sarcastic and intemperate with the defense attorneys, and for reprimanding one of them for whispering in their co-counsel’s ear during a hearing.
The jury ultimately rendered a not guilty verdict — an outcome that the JQC suggests could have stemmed from sympathy for the defense lawyers.
According to the panel’s findings, Bailey argued that the verdict proved the jury was unaffected by the incident and claimed the defense’s motions to disqualify were a trial tactic.
Bailey’s attorney, Michael Dutko of Dutko & Kroll in Fort Lauderdale stressed that his client has accepted responsibility and fully cooperated with the JQC.
“A written settlement agreement has been entered by the parties,” Dutko said. “Out of respect for the dignity and integrity of the process, Judge Bailey will have no further formal statement or comment until the stipulated settlement proposal has been accepted, reviewed and finalized by the Florida Supreme Court.”
JQC attorney Alex Williams declined to comment.
The JQC’s investigative panel has alleged that Bailey’s behavior violated five canons of the Florida Judicial Code of Conduct and warrants a public reprimand. In a stipulation filed on Thursday, Bailey agreed and accepted full responsibility.
Bailey was elected to the bench in 2014 and has never been disciplined.
The Florida Supreme Court will decide whether to accept the JQC’s recommendations.