Florida Supreme Court Won't Let These Two Judges Off Easy

By George Khoury, Esq. on July 05, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

While it may seem like judges these days can do what they want, then wriggle their way out of trouble before the worst of it comes to light, that's not always the case. The Florida Supreme Court recently rejected stipulations of proposed discipline for two judges, seemingly because they wanted to know more.

The state's high court reviewed the stipulated agreements and proposed discipline of two judges accused of misconduct, and rejected both, ordering a full evidentiary hearing in the matters. Judges Stephen Millan and Maria Ortiz admitted to misconduct (in separate cases), and agreed to be disciplined, however, the state's Supreme Court wants to see a more developed factual record in both matters before approving the discipline.

Judge Millan

Miami-Dade County circuit judge Stephen Millan admitted to using racial slurs when referring to a black defendant, as well as calling another black defendant's friends and family "thugs."

He stipulated to these facts and agreed to the proposed discipline of a 30-day suspension and a $5,000 fine. Millan has apologized for making those statements, and has attended a seminar on racial bias. However, now, he will have to undergo an evidentiary hearing where potentially worse, or just more, misconduct can be brought to light.

Judge Ortiz

The case against Miami-Dade County judge Maria Ortiz may not be as controversial of a subject, but is still pretty grievous when it comes to the public's trust in the judiciary. It was alleged that she received free hotel stays in 2015 and 2016, and that she did not report those on the required financial disclosure form. She admitted to these facts, and agreed to receive a public reprimand and pay a $5,000 fine.

Interestingly, Judge Ortiz may have really been hoping for that to be the end of it. Currently, her husband, Mariano Fernandez, is facing felony charges for allegedly "receiving unlawful compensation" while serving as the county's director of the Building Department, partly due to free hotel stays.

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