"Prosecutor-judge relationship warrants one-year suspension, Bar report says," is the South Florida Sun-Sentinel report written by Tonya Alanez.
A text-message entanglement with an ex-judge has taken the reputation of former homicide prosecutor Howard Scheinberg from sterling to sullied. The next blow may be a one-year suspension of his law license.
While trying a death-penalty case before Judge Ana Gardiner in 2007, Scheinberg exchanged 949 phone calls and 471 text messages with the judge. For failing to disclose the communications, a referee for the Florida Bar has found Scheinberg guilty of professional misconduct and recommended the suspension.
"The communication should have been revealed to opposing counsel and failing to make such a disclosure was also prejudicial to the administration of justice," Florida Bar Referee Sheree Davis Cunningham wrote in her 10-page report. "His disregard, inadvertent or otherwise, for the sanctity of the legal process must be addressed."
Scheinberg has 60 days from the date of the April 11 report to appeal. The Florida Supreme Court makes the final decision on attorney discipline.
The recommended suspension is a major fall for a once highly respected homicide prosecutor. Nor does it portend well for Gardiner's professional fate. Her final hearing before the Florida Bar is slated for May 24 at the Palm Beach County Courthouse.
"I would like to think they would punish her more harshly," said Bob Jarvis, an attorney and professor of legal ethics at Nova Southeastern University. "You can certainly make the argument … that as a judge she had a much greater duty to make sure that this didn't happen."
When Gardiner resigned from the bench in 2010, she successfully sidestepped answering a misconduct complaint lodged by the state's judicial watchdog agency. She remains vulnerable, however, to disciplinary action by the Florida Bar, which governs attorneys' conduct in Florida.
If a secret judge-prosecutor relationship sounds familiar, you may be thinking of the Texas case of Charles Dean Hood; coverage of his case begins at the link.