Judge Matt Destry Criticized For Using Courtroom, Lawyers In Campaign Ad





Defense attorneys and a defendant have protested after Broward Circuit Judge Matthew Destry insisted they be photographed for one of his campaign advertisements.

Destry conceded to Browardbeat.com that he did indeed have a campaign photographer in his courtroom on Thursday, but said, “I would never have public defenders or anybody who doesn’t want to appear be in ads of mine.”

In court, however, Destry brushed off the complaints of two assistant public defenders about a photographer taking their pictures for his re-election campaign, said Public Defender Howard Finkelstein.

A defendant being represented by the Public Defender’s Office also complained about being photographed for the ad, Finkelstein said.

“I would never, ever have a defendant in my ads,” Destry said.



Matthew Destry


But when the photographer was in the courtroom, Destry reportedly explained to the assistant public defenders that he needed some “live action shots” for his ads. The judge then chided the lawyers for complaining, saying they “needed to get used to” getting their picture taken in court because it was “part of the job.”

Pictures are routinely taken by the news media in court, who are generally confined to an area in the back or side of the courtroom. According to Finkelstein, this photographer was allowed to post herself next to the judge’s bench and even at one point instructed an assistant public defender “to smile.”

“He’s forcing my people, my clients and the public courtroom to part of his re-election campaign. That’s wrong,” Finkelstein said. “He said he needed ‘live action’ shots. Does that mean he is doing something different in court than he would normally do?”

The Code of Judicial Ethics, which governs judges and judicial candidates, has a catch-all phrase  — “A judge must avoid all impropriety and appearance of impropriety.” –that may prohibit using the courtroom and court personnel for a campaign ad, according to several attorneys. Even if Destry doesn’t use the photos, the court  personnel were instructed by the judge to allow photographs to be taken of them and may have felt coerced.

“He used the power of his office to extort those attorneys to be photographed for his personal gain,” said one long-time Broward attorney.

Destry has repeatedly clashed with lawyers in the courthouse, who charge his sentences are harsh and his courtroom demeanor is lacking. Finkelstein has frequently publicly denounced the judge.

Asked about Finkelstein’s broadsides against him, Destry said, “I don’t know why. I’ve never even had a conversation with the man. I would be glad to sit down with him.”

During almost nine years on the bench, Destry has been the target of criticism in  the media and some attorneys in addition to Finkelstein.

In one notorious case in 2014, Destry handed a Haitian-American with no past record a 10-year prison sentence for selling $50 worth of crack cocaine. The sentence was six times more than the prosectors asked.

Last year Destry sentenced a 23-year-old with a prison record to 60 years in prison for driving with a suspended license and having some ammo in his car. Prosecutors had recommended 13 years.

Then there is the infamous incident where Destry kept his court in session until 11 p.m., Friday, on Halloween because he believed cases needed to be heard.

“He appears indifferent to anybody’s needs except his own,” a noted lawyer told Browardbeat.com at the time. “His only concern is his own needs and he doesn’t care if you have pre-paid trips, if you planned Halloween with your kids, if you have appointments, or anything else going on.  The only plans that count are his.”

Destry also schedules court to start at 8:30 a.m., but regularly shows up more than an hour late. He argues his lateness gives lawyers time to settle their cases among themselves, something the lawyers deny.

One of Destry’s four opponents in the August 30 primary attacked the judge’s reputation for arriving late to court during an appearance at the Weston Bar Association on Thursday. “to have people waiting for the judge to show up is disrespectful,” judicial candidate Barbara Duffy said as Destry watched without comment from the audience.

In addition to Duffy, Destry has three other opponents – Haccord Curry Jr.,  Brian Greenwald and Abbe Rifkin.

Browardbeat.com’s previous post on Destry is linked here. 


7 Responses to “Judge Matt Destry Criticized For Using Courtroom, Lawyers In Campaign Ad”

  1. Julie hibbs says:

    This is such abuse of that seat! Justice and all common sense. Like he couldn’t have brought them in and ACTED? You know, like they all due ! What an abuse of power!

  2. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz says:

    He’s NO Marcia Beach!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Usually, Howard the Hippie is wrong. This time I’ve got to agree with him. In 30 years at the courthouse, I’ve never seen a judge who is more insensitive to anybody else in the courtroom.

  4. FSULAW Rules says:

    A JQC complaint should be filed against Destry for the photo.

  5. Knows For Sure says:

    Certainly one of Charlie Crist’s less notable acts was to appoint Judge Destry to the Circuit bench on 11/2/2010. Temperament, demeanor and fairness aside, Charlie should have appointed someone who can at least come to work on time.

    I honestly cannot recall any Broward jurist having so many pot-shots, complaints, removal attempts and criticisms leveled at them.

    Nor have I EVER heard of using TAXPAYER funded courtroom facilities, county/state employees and WORK TIME to self-promote and benefit one particular jurist’s political campaign. Talk about a complaint-worthy action.

    Think about this for a minute: Have you EVER seen a judicial campaign piece with “live, action courtroom” shots? Shots of prosecutors and defendants? No? Well there’s a reason for that but apparently, Judge Destry is so self-absorbed with himself that he is willing to bend the rules regarding the taking of images in the courtroom as well.

    THIS is why Judge Destry has FOUR opponents, not one or two, but FOUR.

    When’s the last \time you saw a sitting Broward judge in draw FOUR OPPONENTS?

    Can you say Karma?

  6. Scowl says:

    Judge Destry was appointed in late November 2007 by Governor Crist. The November 2010 date that “Knows for Sure” cites above is the date that Judge Destry POUNDED one of Howard the Midget’s employees by nearly 70%-30% at the ballot box. So now six years later, here we go again.

    Ironically, Governor Crist made two appointments the day he appointed Destry. The other was Carlos Rebollo, the well known lazy back-stabber who is butt buddies with Jeff Marano. Crist’s judicial appointments were all based on quid pro quo.

  7. Arnold Rothstein says:

    Hey Scowl,

    What was the quid pro quo on Destry’s appointment by Governor Crist?