BY BUDDY NEVINS
Broward County Judge Nina Di Pietro’s contentious 2016 campaign continues to give her problems.
Although she won her close race in November, the debris from the acrimonious campaign just triggered an ethics complaint against her, Browardbeat.com learned.
Nina Di Pietro
The complaint claims that Judge Di Pietro lied about the reasons for recusing herself from a case involving a political figure who dogged her 2016 campaign – consultant and civic activist Dan Lewis.
It involves the election. Here is the background as outlined in the complaint:
- American Builders and Contractors Supply Company versus Daniel and Cheryl Lewis, a civil foreclosure case, landed in Di Pietro’s court on March 6.
- Samuel Lopez, a lawyer for Lewis, immediately asked Judge Di Pietro to recuse herself from the case because of Lewis’ “public support of Judge Di Pietro’s opponents in the acrimonious 2016 primary and runoff judicial races.”
- Lewis wasn’t just an ordinary campaign opponent, the complaint alleges.
Starting at the time that Judge Di Pietro was appointed to the bench by Gov. Rick Scott in 2015, Lewis repeatedy attacked her. In a blog and speeches, Lewis labeled her appointment as political payoff for her husband David Di Pietro, a GOP stalwart who supported Scott’s campaigns. Lewis contended Ms. Di Pietro was not qualified to be a judge.
Lewis said and wrote during the campaign that Judge Di Pietro’s appointment solely for political reasons negated any work she may be doing on the bench, according to the ethics complaint.
“In a speech before the Sunrise Democratic Club in August 2016, when asked to comment about Judge D Pietro’s conduct after being appointed, Mr. Lewis said that, ‘it didn’t matter – you don’t forgive a car thief because they might be a good driver. The ‘ends’ can’t justify the ‘means’ in our society,’” states the complaint.
- When Di Pietro did not immediately recuse herself from the case, Lopez went to her office on March 7 and spoke to her judicial assistant. Lopez asked the assistant if the judge was going to recuse herself.
- Two days later, Lopez received a notice that Di Pietro was recusing herself. However, she recused herself using the excuse that Lopez’s conversation with the judge’s assistant was forbidden ex-parte communication concerning the case, .i.e, an exchange that excluded an attorney from the other side of the case.
The ethics complaint alleges that Di Pietro violated the cannons of judicial conduct by using an “improper” and “intentionally misleading” reason for recusing herself.
The reason should have been Lewis’ public opposition to Di Pietro’s election. Instead she improperly used the ex-parte rule, according to the complaint.
It is highly legalize and, of course, unknown at this point whether the complaint will be accepted. But Judge Di Pietro should be warned:
Lewis has a long history of using the courts to correct what he believes is wrong. He has the resources to exercise what are his legal rights.
At the very least, this one could tie the judge up in paperwork for quite some time. After all, American Builders and Contractors Supply Company versus Daniel and Cheryl Lewis has been dragging on for 11 years.