One South Florida Judge Suspended While Another Arrested for DUI

Finebloom, Haenel & Higgins

The Florida Supreme Court suspended Judge Gisele Pollack, a Broward County judge who sat on the bench for misdemeanor drug crimes, last week in connection to an DUI related accident that she was involved in at the beginning of May.  Just days later, another South Florida judge, Judge Lynn Rosenthal, was arrested, also for a DUI, after being involved in an accident in a courthouse parking lot with a car from the Broward County Sherriff’s Office. 

On the evening of May 2, 2014, Giselle Pollack was arrested after striking a car that was stopped at a stop light in Plantation, injuring the driver.  The arresting officers noticed the smell of alcohol in Pollack’s car and there were other indicators that she had been drinking.  As a result, she was charged with a DUI.  The state Supreme Court suspended her without pay, finding that she had possibly violated the rules of judicial conduct when she broke the law by driving drunk.  The suspension will last until the court makes a final determination in to her alleged violations of the rules of judicial conduct.

On May 27, 2014, just a few days after Pollack was suspended, Judge Lynn Rosenthal, also a judge in Broward County, was arrested in the parking lot of a Fort Lauderdale Courthouse.  Rosenthal was allegedly drunk when she hit a car owned by the Broward County Sherriff’s Department at around 8:00 am.  She was booked in to the main jail, but few other details are known about the accident.

Two drunk driving incidents involving Judges from the same county are unusual under just about any circumstances.  However, it should be kept in mind that lawyers and judges do have a much higher instance of drug and alcohol abuse than the public at large.  About twice the number of lawyers have a substance abuse problem compared to the average population.  While there are a number of different explanations surrounding why this may be the case, it has led many states to come up with programs to deal with the problem, rather than to punish it.  The idea is that, if a lawyer or judge gets help for their substance abuse problem early, they may be able to avoid having problems that affect their professional life.

Florida is no exception to this.  The Florida Bar, like the state bars of just about every other state, has a Lawyers Assistance Program, meant to assist substance abuse issues along with other problems like psychological problems that previously weren’t spoken of in the legal community because of the social stigma attached to them.  The lawyers assistance program help lawyers and judges by providing advice and support when they are having a substance abuse issue affecting their lives so that they can get the treatment they need, without worrying about if it will affect their practice or jobs.  Among other things, it provides separate hotlines for judges and attorneys so that they can help figure out what the next step should be.

The point behind providing a program like the lawyers assistance program is to help provide support and assistance before a problem arises, such as getting arrested for drinking and driving or some other issue related to substance abuse.  The hope is to help bring the problem under control before the law is broken or a client suffers as a result.