The profane outbursts of Judge Jacqueline Schwartz seem nearly quaint in such an indecorous time.
After all, our very presidential candidates have been injecting ribald innuendo into campaign narratives. At least Schwartz didn’t embarrass us on national television.
But society and the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission hold judges to a higher standard than other elected officials. So the Florida Supreme Court — the same august body that lately has been pondering the death penalty, redistricting, abortion and gambling — will now consider a profane utterance by a Miami-Dade County judge. The words “f--king idiot” will be weighed by the high court.
An impaired Judge Schwartz, according to the JQC report released Monday, had become irate March 18 after servers at a Coconut Grove restaurant cut her off. She berated them, employed the vulgarity, then committed an even graver sin: She invoked her office, as if a judge deserved special deference. “You don’t know who I am,” she warned the waiters. Later, she called intervening police officers “pigs” and, according to the JQC, told the officers that “they couldn’t do anything to her because she was a judge.”
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If Judge Schwartz was, say, a county commissioner demanding special treatment, that would hardly had been a concern for the state’s high court. When Miami-Dade Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz tried to slither out of a DUI charge in Key West last September by mentioning his lofty office (and his friendship with the Monroe County sheriff), there were no such repercussions. (Of course, Commissioner Diaz, however impaired, was unfailingly polite to his arresting officers. Didn’t call them pigs. Didn’t use profanity.)
But judges can’t pull a Pepe. Schwartz should have known that. Just a few weeks before, Broward Circuit Judge Cynthia Imperato resigned after the Florida Supreme Court had decided the three-month suspension and $20,000 fine recommended by the JQC for her untoward behavior was too lenient. During a 2013 DUI arrest, Imperato had tried to slither like Pepe when a police officer asked her for her driver’s license. Instead, she pulled out her judge’s badge.
The intemperate Schwartz, known as Wacky Jacky around the courthouse, complicated her problems on March 28 when, according the JQC, she “took the bench and presided over a criminal traffic docket while impaired.” After 90 minutes of “slurring her words,” and being “unable to focus or concentrate,” she was sent home by the chief judge.
Schwartz, who was suspended by the Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday, could face a heavy penalty. Just last December, the court fined her $20,000 and imposed a 30-day unpaid suspension for two earlier offenses. One problem had to do with mishandling court records. But there also was her run-in with a Coconut Grove convenience store clerk during her 2014 reelection campaign, when she had spotted her opponent’s oversized campaign sign on the premises. Schwartz threw a fit, uttering what one Supreme Court justice called, “one of the worst profanities known to the English language.”
You guessed it. She told the store owner to “go f--- yourself.”
Obviously, Schwartz has been running for wrong elected office.