Appeals Court: Judge Steve Feren Violated the Rights of a Child




Two years after Circuit Judge Steve Feren was elected in 2008, he threatened to impose a stricter sentence on a child for insisting on a trial rather than plead guilty.

An Appeals Court denounced Feren for his action, which essentially was depriving a child of his rights.



Steve Feren campaigning in Davie last month


Feren is now seeking reelection and the Appeals Court ruling is coming back to haunt him.

The September 8, 2010 ruling is being passed around the courthouse and whispered about as a reason why Feren should not be re-elected. Two copies were forwarded to by lawyers in the past month.

The case begin in April, 2010 with Feren on the bench in Juvenile Court. The judge was discussing a defendant who had 11 cases pending against him. He indicated that someone charged with 11 cases was more likely to be guilty than someone charged with less cases.

The Appeals Court recounted the scene that day:

“The judge said, ‘Okay. This is what they meant when they taught us about the weight of the evidence? . . . Eleven files on one side. Getting pretty weighty.’ (Emphasis added)…. the court ‘gestured as if it were holding the scales of justice and lowered the scale when it said ‘getting pretty weighty.’”

The juvenile charged in 11 cases had not been found guilty in any cases.


Misunderstanding Basic Rights

Another defendant awaiting a hearing heard Feren’s comments – A profound misunderstanding of the rights of defendants, who are innocent until proven guilty! — was worried. He filed a motion to remove Feren from his case, believing he was prejudiced against children accused of crimes.

He “was concerned that Judge Feren believes a child who is charged in more than one case is more likely to be guilty, based on the multiple cases pending, and that having multiple cases constitutes evidence against the child. The child feared he would not get a fair trial, as the court’s statements and gestures suggested it was not the evidence introduced at trial or at a violation of probation hearing, but the number of pending files that would determine whether the child was guilty,” according to the Appeals Court.

“That, however, is just the point; the number of cases an accused has cannot be considered in weighing the evidence in any single case; that would be like relying on the number of cases to show the child’s propensity to commit offenses….Other comments at that hearing suggested the judge would punish a child for maintaining his or her innocence by adjudicating the child if found guilty after trial, and imposing any sentence consecutive to that imposed following a plea.”

“Adjudicating the child” means the defendant would have a record which would follow him for years, rather than not adjudication, where the record is removed. It is a significant penalty.

The Appeals Court unanimously removed Feren from the case.

Shortly afterwards, Feren was transferred out of juvenile court.


10 Responses to “Appeals Court: Judge Steve Feren Violated the Rights of a Child”

  1. Volunteer says:

    Research shows when a child or tenager is found guilty of a crime, the chances of that child ever being able to hold a meaningful job is very slim. So we have a judge who is working with juveniles who believes the number of charges is a reason to assume guilt. Many school districts across the country including Broward are working on ways to keep a child from getting the first arrest and keeping their future intact. If a judge who is working with juveniles looks at charges and then decides the child is guilty then that judge does not need to be elected.

  2. Retired NYPD says:

    I think Sheriff Scott Israel is on the right track with his civil citation program. Get to the kids early and try setting them straight for minor infractions.

    As for Judge Steve Feren, I normally would frown upon an incumbent judge being opposed if they were doing a good job. Could this be one of the reasons that Fort Lauderdale attorney John Contini is running?

  3. Sad reality says:

    They choice between these two candidates is who sucks least.

    Feren’s reputations around the courthouse is known. He is known as a lazy Judge who works as little as possible and is seen to be in it for little more than a paycheck.

    Contini is a very nice man and an accomplished attorney. On the other side I cannot respect an attorney who was apparently decided to run against Feren because his campaign supporter was mad at Judge Feren for properly ruling against him.

    Sadly, gotta give the lean to Feren. If Contini is so swayed by his campaign people to run against a judge because he did the right thing under the law, it leaves too many questions about how Contini could be influenced in other matters.

  4. Aces says:

    Lazy Steve just didn’t want to spend extra time for a trial. There must have been a poker game waiting for him.

  5. Benjamin H. Bennett says:

    Let’s take a close look at Judge Feren’s attendance record on top of this revelation from the Fourth District Court of Appeals for Judicial Misconduct in dealing with Youthful Offenders. I did notice that the Poker playing Judge failed to make an appearance at this afternoon’s Wynmoore Democratic Club as well. Mr. Contini was there!!

  6. @sad reality says:

    Feren’s reason for becoming a judge was a crass as Contini’s reason because it involved money. He ran band thus became a judge because he wanted bigger pension. The rumor about Contini running at to please a defendant upset with a ruling originated with Feren himself. It is a lie.

  7. This isn't lazy town ! says:

    Campaigning that’s wonderful news. I’m glad to see that he wasn’t too ill to campaign.
    How many sick hours do judges get?

    How many hours has Feren actually worked does anyone know is anyone asking ?

    I will be polite and not call him lazy maybe he was just sick all the time ?
    Go to work Feren ! The courtroom is no place for you to be a bum if you wanted that life you should have stayed in sunrise.

  8. Dumb says:

    Considering that in order to be a successful poker player one needs focus and concentration and would not be good at it drunk or ambien. If feren is legally playing cards on his free time at least he is safe o our roads.

  9. Shades of old BSO says:

    An old BSO tactic was to drive juveniles around and get the kids to take guilt for house burglaries with ice cream as the reward. Cleared lots of cases that way. Feren would have found them all guilty because of the number of clearances?

  10. Ana Gomez-Mallada says:

    A child’s life and/or future is NOT a poker game. Isn’t it time we all took this seriously?