Florida Judicial - TRIAL CONDUCT and SANCTIONS
Court erred in granting motion to disqualify guardian ad litem without holding hearing and by applying erroneous standard. [Added 7/27/20]
In a contested divorce case Husband filed a motion to disqualify the guardian ad litem. The court sua sponte granted the motion without a hearing, ruling, “While few guardian ad litem assignments are without challenges, this case, due to its pugnacious tone, brought with it added challenges. The dispute over the payment of the Guardian Ad Litem fees has poisoned the necessary relationship between the Husband and the Guardian Ad Litem.” Wife petitioned for certiorari relief.
The Second DCA granted the petition and quashed the disqualification order. The court departed from due process requirements by granting the motion without providing notice and holding a hearing. Further, the court applied an erroneous legal standard in granting the motion. “[T]he court based its decision to disqualify the GAL on a finding that the relationship between the GAL and the Husband had been "poisoned" by the fee payment dispute. Such a finding might support a determination that the GAL was biased or prejudiced, but the court did not address the issue.” Bouchard v. Bouchard, __ So.3d __ (Fla. 2d DCA, No. 2D19-3592, 7/8/2020), 2020 WL 3815546.
Amended final judgment reversed because it appeared from record that judgment “does not reflect the judge’s independent decision-making.” [Added 11/6/18]
Husband appealed from an amended final judgment of divorce. He argued that the record as a whole created the appearance that the judgment did “not reflect the judge’s independent decision-making.” The Second DCA agreed and reversed.
The appellate court explained: “The judge adopted [Wife]'s proposed sixty-five-page final judgment without a single alteration. While this fact alone might not convince us the judge had failed to exercise independent decision-making, when viewed in the context of the record as a whole, and in particular some of the judge's comments at the final hearing, we face a scenario much like the one we described in Bishop v. Bishop, 47 So.3d 326 (Fla. 2d DCA 2010). There, we concluded that the ‘errors and omissions’ in the judgment together with the circumstances under which it was entered did not establish that it was the product of the judge's own ‘thoughtful and independent analysis of the facts, the evidence presented, and the law that applies.’ Id. at 329 (citing Perlow [v. Berg-Perlow], 875 So. 2d  at 390 [Fla. 2004]).” Toth v. Miller, __ So.3d __ (Fla. 2d DCA, Nos. 2D15-3835, 2D16-389, 10/31/2018) (on denial of rehearing), 2018 WL 5623636.
Judge committed fundamental error by commenting on criminal defendant’s veracity during sentencing. [Added 11/3/16] -- Chatman v. State, __ So.3d __ (Fla. 1st DCA, No. 1D15-4671, 10/28/2016), 2016 WL 6394248.
Court’s questioning of witnesses must be made with neutrality and impartiality, regardless of whether it is during bench trial or jury trial. [Added 4/7/16] -- R.W. v. Dept. of Children and Families, __ So.3d __ (Fla. 3d DCA, No. 3D15-2838, 3/30/2016), 2016 WL _______.
Criminal conviction reversed because judge suggested that state move for reconsideration of predecessor judge’ suppression order. [Added 4/24/15] -- Williams v. State, __ So.3d __ (Fla. 4th DCA, No. 4D12-3723, 4/1/2015), 2015 WL 1455989.
Criminal conviction reversed because judge fundamentally erred in departing from neutral role during trial. [Added 9/8/12] -- Johnson v. State, 114 So.3d 1012 (Fla. 5th DCA 2012).
Judge’s actions to control attorney behavior in courtroom are not grounds for disqualification, per Third DCA. [Added 6/29/12] -- Bert v. Bermudez, 95 So.3d 274 (Fla. 3d DCA 2012).
Supreme Court criticizes judge in a death penalty case for independently researching credentials of expert witness, but denies postconviction relief. [Added 4/16/12] -- Krawczuk v. State, 92 So.3d 195 (Fla. 2012).