The incumbent and his supporters in the Good Old Boy Club and Bar Association had spent the day of the election blowing up balloons for his victory party, while we spent the day shaking hands at the polling places until they closed. The Good Old Boys had never lost control of an election, and as the election results came in, witnesses overheard them vowing, “We’ll see to it McMillan never takes the bench.”
Over 1,300 citizens have signed the amicus briefs filed with the Florida Supreme Court demanding that they allow my husband to remain in office. The briefs condemn the corruption of the local judiciary and decry the illogical and unfair findings and tactics of the JQC prosecution, which has ignored the misconduct of other sitting judges, no matter how egregious. You won’t find mention of this unprecedented public outcry in the newspapers. Only editorials like: “McMillan should go,” “The High Court must restore dignity to the bench,” “Unfit to serve,” “Credibility crisis,” “Cancel the McMillan show,” and “Good-bye McMillan.”
On August 16, 2001, two days after the above story was written, the Florida Supreme Court, disregarding the evidence in this case, unabashedly affirmed the position and recommendations of the Judicial Qualifications Commission almost word for word. Judge McMillan was found unfit to serve, and the High Court ordered his removal from office so that he would “no longer tarnish the robes of justice.” He was given 10 days to file a Motion for a Rehearing, a formality that would simply postpone the inevitable.
The Author: Susan McMillan is the wife and campaign manager of Judge Mathew E. McMillan, the prosecuting attorney from Manatee County, Florida who unseated incumbent Judge George K. Brown Jr. in a public election 52 to 48% in 1998. Her commentary first appeared in the August 22 and September 14, 2001 issues of the J.A.I.L. News Journal and is reprinted here in somewhat modified form by permission of the author. In Florida, J.A.I.L. stands for Judicial Accountability Initiative Law, a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would provide for special citizen grand juries that would have the power to investigate complaints against judges and fine or remove them from the bench. (See www.jail4judges.org.)
- John Gibeaut, “BENCH BATTLE: Trial judges often keep their seats without facing election. So when a Florida lawyer challenged an incumbent, he rocked the de facto merit selection system,” ABA Journal, 86 A.B.A.J. 42, August, 2000.
- Howard M. Unger, “Counsel calls for McMillan’s ouster,” The Sarasota Herald Tribune, Nov. 3, 2000.
- Eric Alan Barton, “Power brokers or social club?” Manatee Herald-Tribune, June 23, 2001.
- Craig Pittman, “Supreme Court removes judge,” St. Petersburg Times, Aug. 18, 2001.
- Irina Slutsky, “Judge fighting removal from the bench,” Bradenton Herald – East Manatee Herald, Aug. 28, 2001.
- “Motion to Intervene as Amicus Curiae for Limited Purpose of Expressing That the Removal of Judge Matt McMillan From the Bench Would Erode the Public’s Confidence in the Judiciary and Disenfranchise the Voters of Manatee County,” Inquiry Concerning a Judge, Supreme Court of Florida, SC Case No. 95,866, 07-703; Matthew E. McMillan, Case No. 99-01, 00-17; filed February 16, 2001.
- “Addendum to Motion to Intervene as Amicus Curiae Regarding Findings, Conclusions, and Recommendations by the Hearing Panel of the Judicial Qualifications Commission Pertaining to the Honorable Judge McMillan,” Inquiry Concerning a Judge, Supreme Court of Florida, SC Case No. 95,866, 07-703; Matthew E. McMillan, Case No. 99-01, 00-17; filed subsequent to prior motion.
- “Motion for Rehearing Before an Impartial Jury of Citizens, Or In the Alternative, an Independent Review of the Record by an Impartial Panel of Citizens,” Inquiry Concerning a Judge, Supreme Court of Florida, SC Case No. 95,866, 07-703; Matthew E. McMillan, Case No. 99-01, 00-17; filed August, 26, 2001.
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