The Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday gave a Miami-Dade County judge a surprise taste of her own bitter medicine.
Tasked with signing off on Judge Jacqueline Schwartz's recommended punishment for telling a store owner last year to “go f--- yourself,” the state’s high court told Schwartz — politely — to do the same.
Instead of letting the judge go with a public reprimand and apology letter, the court opined Schwartz should also be suspended without pay for 30 days and fined $10,000 — a far harsher penalty.
“Upon consideration of the Judicial Qualifications Commission’s Findings and Recommendation of Discipline and the parties’ Stipulation, the Court rejects the Stipulation and disapproves the proposed sanctions,” the court wrote in its 4-3 decision.
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Schwartz and the qualifications commission, which had agreed to the recommended sanctions, have 30 days to accept the court’s stiffer terms. Otherwise, the case would go back to the commission for a new hearing.
“Judge Schwartz respects the Supreme Court and will follow any decision that they render,” said her attorney, Richard Baron. Schwartz, whose courtroom is in Hialeah, has already apologized to the store owner but has not yet been publicly reprimanded.
Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and Justices Barbara Pariente, Charles Canady and Ricky Polston sided with the majority. Justices R. Fred Lewis, Peggy Quince and James E.C. Perry dissented.
In January, Schwartz accepted charges that she broke judicial conduct rules by insulting the owner of a Coconut Grove convenience store last June in a dispute over a political campaign sign. She wrote a letter saying sorry to Firas Hussain, owner of the Kwik Stop at 3101 Grand Ave. She had complained to him about an oversize sign outside the store for one of her election opponents and demanded that it be taken down or that she be allowed to put up her own sign. Hussain told her no; she got upset. Schwartz was later reelected.
She also took responsibility and apologized for a separate incident investigated by the qualifications commission that found the judge interfered with an official court record by writing and then removing notes from a legal file after one of the parties in the case had already photocopied it.
In February, the qualifications commission submitted the agreed-upon punishment to the high court, which could have simply rubber-stamped it.
The justices, however, appear intent on sending a message to other attorneys and judges that misbehavior will be severely punished.