Broward Judges Playing Musical Chairs At Expense Of Plaintiff



An Opinion By Jan Bergemann 
President, Cyber Citizens For Justice, Inc. 

Revised August 8, 2007

Isn't it amazing that a simple trial -- starting out as a simple record request by a unit owner -- can take so long and see six different judges sitting on the bench with one recusal after the other.

Six judges, piles of legal fees, victory in appeals court, two summary judgments -- but still no relief for the plaintiff!

No wonder there are about 1,700 open cases on each of these judges' court dockets in Broward County !

It obviously doesn't make it easier if you sue a well-known lobbyist and political consultant -- Judith Stern – who is the president of a condo association in Broward County with the defendant being represented by Stuart Zoberg from the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff. Considering these facts, it seems no surprise that after two-and-a-half years the plaintiff still hasn't received a final favorable ruling. Each time the plaintiff seems to get the opportunity to proceed with the case before a fair, unbiased judge and to receive a favorable ruling, things immediately change -- when another judge recuses himself.

After we’ve read a lot about shenanigans of the Broward County court system in the Miami Herald recently, it seems that we have here another case of possible manipulation of the system.

Just take a look at the long list of judges who either removed themselves from the case -- or were "transferred" at an inopportune time:

  1. Judge Leroy Moe recused himself on request of plaintiff -- possible conflict of interest since he is well acquainted with defendant Judith Stern and the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff.
  2. Judge Robert Rosenberg was -- after only two months -- transferred by Chief Judge Dale Ross without ever hearing the case.
  3. Judge Alfred Horowitz – the next-door neighbor of Judge Moe with side-by-side balconies -- refused to recuse himself. After thoroughly reviewing the evidence presented, Horowitz eventually awarded two summary judgments to the plaintiff, definitely when he considered the overwhelming evidence that favored the plaintiff. But a few weeks after the favorable rulings Judge Horowitz was transferred from the case by Chief Judge Dale Ross.
  4. Judge Carol Lisa Phillips was transferred to the case by Chief Judge Dale Ross. Judge Phillips is the wife of Fort Lauderdale Mayor Naugle, who works with Judith Stern on several Fort Lauderdale boards. It is as well an open secret that Judith Stern contributed to Judge Phillips' and Mayor Naugle's numerous campaigns.  Result: Judge Carol Lisa Phillips recused herself.
  5. Judge Victor Tobin was the next judge transferred to this case by Judge Dale Ross. As soon as the new judge for the case was announced, Judith Stern hired attorney James Stark -- known to be a criminal attorney -- to represent her in addition to Stuart Zoberg of Becker & Poliakoff and Cooney Matson, insurance counsel. The plaintiff filed a summary judgment motion two months in advance of a hearing before Judge Tobin. Finally, at the day of the planned hearing, Judge Tobin recuses himself claiming to be a personal friend of Judith Stern and attorney James Stark.
  6. Now Judge Aleman is presiding over the case -- a criminal judge who was transferred to civil by Judge Dale Ross because of a pending investigation by the Judicial Qualification Committee. 

Shouldn't it be possible to receive justice in Broward County , even if Judith Stern is a well-known lobbyist? Shouldn't judges consider immediately whether or not they have a conflict of interest and recuse themselves without holding up the procedures for months? 

It surely seems that there are serious problems in Broward County 's Circuit Court. Maybe Judge Tobin had the right idea when he said, "I don’t know if this needs to be moved somewhere else or what needs to happen.” 

It surely doesn't help citizens seeking justice if judges play "Musical Chairs" on the bench and hold up the proceedings. If there isn't a fair, unbiased judge in Broward County Circuit Court -- shouldn't they say so  -- and change the trial to a different location? Or maybe an outside agency should look into this possible manipulation of the court system in Broward County ? Will somebody finally investigate the Broward County court system?


Six different judges presiding over one trial?  Surely that is unacceptable for citizens

and a shameful way to waste taxpayers’ dollars!