FORT LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – The judge hearing the lawsuit over the mold mess at the Broward County Courthouse announced on Thursday that he is stepping down from the case.
“The litigants have an absolute right to the cold neutrality and impartiality of the judge,” Judge Richard Eade said during an afternoon court hearing.
Eade told the attorneys that he would request a judge from outside the Broward circuit — possibly from Miami-Dade or Palm Beach County — hear the case, since a judge from one of those circuits would have no connection to the Broward County Courthouse.Eade also denied a request by Broward County to change the venue of the case, although county attorneys can ask again in the future.
The county argued it will not be able to receive a fair trial in Broward because of all the publicity surrounding the matter.
There did seem to be agreement that the case would be heard at a satellite courthouse in Broward.
Attorney Skip Cambell, of Krupnick-Campbell, is one of the lawyers representing the courthouse employees who are suing over the mold. He said his firm has test results showing the mold at alarming levels in areas of the courthouse. He said there are serious health concerns.
“Eleven percent of our sitting judges have cancer,” Campbell said. “That’s a significant number of cancer cases from an epidemiological and statistical standpoint. Something’s wrong with the building.”
Campbell said the fear over the mold is so great that they will ask to have the courthouse shut down.
Assistant County Manager Pete Corwin disputes the claim.
“We’ve seen no evidence that would lead one to conclude” that the courthouse needs to be shut down.
Besides, Corwin said, there is no other courthouse to put the 1,000 courthouse employees and all the files and materials.
“I can’t see how that would be feasible,” Corwin said.
But plaintiff attorney Ivan Cabrera says that closing the courthouse is a health issue.
“The concern isn’t just for our clients; it’s for anybody who’s got to come to the courthouse,” he told CBS4’s Carey Codd. “If it’s a sick building, it’s making anybody who comes in here sick.”
Corwin said the county is constantly doing repair work to clean up any mold in the building and they are hiring an environmental firm to do testing.