Miami-Dade County

Miami judge facing window-bashing allegation should step aside, defendants say

Judge Victoria Brennan presiding over a DUI manslaughter case in July 2015.
Judge Victoria Brennan presiding over a DUI manslaughter case in July 2015. Miami Herald

One week after news broke that a Miami judge was accused of bashing in a young man’s windshield in the Florida Keys, defendants in her courtroom want her off of their cases.

More than a dozen defendants on Monday asked that Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Victoria Brennan — who still has an arrest warrant for criminal mischief looming over her — disqualify herself because of fears that they “will not receive a fair trial or hearing.”

The requests were filed Tuesday by clients of the Miami-Dade Public Defender’s Office, which said it did not know about Brennan’s criminal-mischief case until the Miami Herald this month published a story detailing the allegations against the judge.

Requests from dozens of other clients are expected to be filed in the coming days. The Public Defender’s Office has some 200 cases in her division.

Brennan is on vacation and will not return to the bench until next week. A court spokeswoman declined to comment; it is unknown whether Brennan will remain in the criminal division when she returns.

Her legal troubles had remained out of the limelight for most of the summer.

Back in late June, Brennan was accused of using a metal pipe to shatter the windshield of a truck driven by an inebriated young man who had been partying with her teenage son at one of their homes in Key Largo. Brennan had rushed to Key Largo after her 17-year-old son was involved in a traffic accident and was arrested on allegations that he spit on an officer.

A few days later, a Key West judge signed an arrest warrant for Brennan for misdemeanor criminal mischief. A few weeks later, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office asked the judge to recall the warrant after Brennan paid restitution to the truck’s owner, Victor Garcia, and he agreed to not press charges.

But the warrant remains stayed and in limbo after Monroe County State Attorney Catherine Vogel — a former co-worker of Brennan’s at the prosecutor’s office in Miami — recused her office from the case.

Prosecutors in Lee County were assigned the case and are now reviewing the investigation.

Brennan’s lawyer, Daniel Lurvey, could not be reached for comment. The judge was on vacation for most of July and only worked five days in August. Brennan, however, did not disclose the issue to lawyers working cases in her courtroom.

One of the defendants in her court is Johnny Inman, who wants another judge to preside over his three pending burglary cases.

“Judges must not merely be impartial, the judge must leave the impression of impartiality on all those who attend court,” his lawyer, assistant public defender Steven Bustamante, wrote in his request to the court.