Update: Finkelstein Wants Seidman Off Bench Now


Public Defender Howard Finkelstein asked Wednesday that County Court Judge Lee Seidman be immediately removed because he is abusing defendants since he lost the August judicial election.

“He has become increasingly bitter since the election, Finkelstein said. “He has put people in jail for ridiculous reasons.   I can’t wait until Jan. 1 for him to be gone.

Because he lost the election, Seidman’s term is over at the end of the year.

Finkelstein requests Seidman’s removal in a six-page letter to Chief Judge Victor Tobin.  He cites eight cases where he believes that Seidman violated defendant’s rights. 

Seidman has been jailing defendants for coming late to court, among other things.  

He has also been delaying cases to a date after January 1, when he leaves office.  That move increases the caseload for other judges.

“He’s been wrongly dumping on other judges, Finkelstein said.

Finkelstein’s letter to Tobin states:

“It is no secret that since his defeat in last August’s election, Judge Seidman has become increasingly bitter, mean-spirited, short-tempered and retaliatory in his words and actions.  His behavior is nothing short of unprofessional, wholly unbecoming of a Seventeenth Circuit jurist.

Additionally, Judge Seidman has not been handling his own cases in a timely manner, and the caseloads in his division have risen dramatically. We have been approached on a regular basis by other County Court judges who have voiced concerns not only with the caseloads, but with the manner Judge Seidman has been treating the litigants he deals with.  In fact, there was recently a meeting of the County Criinal judges, discussing how to handle the backlog and speedy trial issues presented by Judge Seidman’s refusal to expeditiously handle his own cases’

The letter cites the following cases as examples of Seidman’s wrongdoing:

  • Michael Utley was facing a violation of probation hearing on September 15.  “Judge Seidman never advised Mr. Utley of what he was facing or whether or not he wanted an attorney.  Judge Seidman did tell Mr. Utley that he was going to jail, without hearing any evidence.  He then gave the public defender only five hours to prepare for a hearing.
  • Brandon Moss appeared before Seidman on October 13,  charged with reckless driving and operating without a valid license.  Moss has “mental health issues, according to Finkelstein.  Seidman appointed Dr. Michael Brannon to evaluate Moss although Brannon is suing Finkelstein in federal court and Brannon’s attorney, Bill Amlong, was Seidman’s treasurer in the campaign. The letter also says that “Judge Seidman’s former girlfriend, Sherri Bourg-Carter, is the office manager and one time business partner of Michael BrannonNone of these facts were disclosed by Judge Seidman.
  • Steven Lytle was in front of Seidman on October 6, charged with driving with a suspended license. He was in the rest room when his case was called and ended up in jail for five days.
  • Calvin Johnson appeared before Seidman on October 11, charged with possession of marijuana.  The prosecutor had offered a deal to withhold adjudication.  Seidman then asked Johnson whether he had smoked marijuana recently.  Johnson said he had, and Seidman ordered him not to drive until he tested negative for marijuana use. The public defender protested that there was no evidence in the police report that Johnson had ever driven stoned and that such a restriction was unreasonable, but Seidman ignored them.
  • Andre Pitts was charged with probation violation and ended up before Seidman.  He had been released in August by another judge on $1,000 because Seidman took the entire month of August off.  When Pitts came back to court on October 7, Seidman “immediately took Mr. Pitts into custody, indicating that he never would have personally set a bond on the matter.  Seidman “did not care that Mr. Pitts appeared on time, that he had a negligible criminal history or that the state was not seeking incarceration.  The judge set a rehearing for November 3 because he said he would be on vacation the week of October 18th through October 29th.
  • Edlyn LaFrance appeared before Seidman on September 29 with a letter from the South Satellite courthouse clerk that she inadvertently went to the wrong courthouse.  She presented the letter to Seidman, who “was un-swayed by the letter and put her in jail.
  • Sheena Hunter was charged with petty theft and appeared before Seidman without a lawyer on October 13.  She told Seidman she wanted to plea no contest, but after talking with him in court, decided she wanted a public defender.   When a public defender appeared and asked that her plea be changed to not guilty, Seidman refused to withdraw the earlier plea and continues so to this day.
  • Dwayne Mitchell was charged with resisting arrest without violence.  He had an outburst in court and was sentenced to 179 days in jail by Seidman.  However, a psychologist found that Mitchell was incompetent. Mitchell already had cases before the mental health court, but Seidman refused to honor another judge’s transfer order of this case to the mental health court.      

Finkelstein also filed a 76-page motion to disqualify Seidman from the Moss case based on his actions involving Brannon.

Lawyers say they have been complaining about Seidman for similar transgressions for weeks.  They contend the judge has been sloughing off work and treating defendants with distain since losing his bid to move from county to the circuit bench in the August primary. 

Browardbeat.com wrote about it here.

“He’s had a bigger than normal chip on his shoulder since losing and defendants are suffering,” said one courthouse regular.

 Seidman is ruining whatever reputation he had and is courting a Judicial Qualification Commission investigation and a Bar complaint.  His actions also killed whatever chance he had of being appointed a senior judge to hear cases after he leaves the bench.

5 Responses to “Update: Finkelstein Wants Seidman Off Bench Now”

  1. Sad thing is says:

    This is what Seidman wants, he gets all his cases yanked from him and he gets a paycheck for 2 more months for doing nothing.

  2. Do Something says:

    The Bar needs to address this. It is wrong for Seidman to collect money and not work and it is wrong for him to issue some of his dangerous rulings. The JQC won’t do anything since Seidman is almost out of office. The Bar needs to do something now. He is disgracing the robe and the profession.

  3. Las Olas Lawyer says:

    As much as I hate the grandstanding Howard Finkelstein, I’ve got to admit he is right on this one. Everyone tells me that Seidman is a disgrace who should be banished forever from the Broward Bar.

  4. Dan says:

    I had the truly unfair experience of appearing before Seidman in a domestic dispute case. I was put on probation for a year, attended classes-graduated and at the absolute end-got a citation for animal cruelty in a completly wrong case. Arrested on a probation violation,I languished in Broward County Jail for three weeks, I finally went before “Judge” Seidman where the probation officer reccomended dismissal and time served-the prosecutor recommended same as I was a 53 year old male without any prior record-this includes misdemeanors.”Judge” Seidman took it upon himself to become the judge and jury in another case where he knew not the facts, railed about “what kind of man leaves his toy poodles in a car” and sent me back to jail for another three weeks. When told again, that Mr. … has no record., “Judge” Seidman proudly said “no he does” and so I do have this record. The horror stories I heard about Judge Seidman in jail are beyond belief. This man was/is a disgrace to his profession and Broward County should have moved much sooner to censure what was obviously a disturbed man “acting” as a judge.

  5. Dan says:

    correction “no he does” in the prior excerpt should have read “now he does have a record”