Arrest mug of Broward Circuit Judge Gisele Pollack ()
The Florida Supreme Court on Friday suspended Broward County Court Judge Gisele Pollack without pay for her actions on and off the bench while intoxicated.
Pollack was twice removed from the bench for presiding in court while intoxicated, and she was arrested May 2 on a charge of drunken-driving with injury.
Pollack was a well-respected judge who handled DUI cases and was open about her alcoholism. However, she suffered a relapse and took the bench while impaired Dec. 17.
In a notice of formal charges filed Thursday by state Judicial Qualifications Commission general counsel Michael Schneider, the commission said Pollack met with an investigative panel in Tallahassee on Feb. 21 and agreed not to use alcohol or stay off the bench if she did.
On March 19, County Court Administrative Judge Sharon Zeller helped walk Pollack from her courtroom after another incident.
Pollack went into an inpatient substance abuse program in Gainesville, but she walked out and drove back to Fort Lauderdale on May 1. During that trip, she became intoxicated.
“Sometime around 1:30 a.m. on May 2, police reports indicate that you were involved in a motor vehicle crash in Plantation,” the JQC charge states.
In the JQC’s suspension recommendation filed along with the charges, Pollack through her attorney, Eric Schwartzreich of Schwartzreich & Associates in Fort Lauderdale, stipulated she violated her agreement with the commission.
Schwartzreich told the commission at a May 16 hearing that Pollack intended to take responsibility for criminal charges that might result from the accident. She also agreed a suspension from her judicial duties would be appropriate.
Pollack was not present at the hearing because she was back in treatment, Schwartzreich told the panel.
“She’s in a very fragile state,” he said.
Schwartzreich emphasized during the hearing Pollack’s earnestness in making amends.
“We’re not here to play games. We’re here to be contrite and tell you, for lack of a better term, she’s had her come-to-Jesus moment,” he said. “I’ve known her for 19 years. I used to be a public defender with her, and she’s very compassionate. She’s a very fair judge, which is what we want our judges to be, a very impartial judge.
“She’s had some struggles and addiction issues, never made a secret of it. She campaigned on this and was a drug court judge. If anyone understands addiction and recovery, Judge Pollack does.”
Schwartzreich said Pollack’s addiction was so severe that he considered “Baker Acting her,” a reference to the state law on involuntary commitment. In fact, he filed the petition.
“But she went voluntarily,” Schwartzreich said. “I think that, after she spent the night in jail and got the DUI and realized what happened to her, she’s embarrassed. She’s humiliated.”
The commission panel voted to recommend to the state Supreme Court that Pollack be suspended “with or without compensation, pending the final determination of the inquiry.” The high court ordered the suspension without pay.