TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Saying the case is about “greed,” a hearing panel of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission has recommended the removal of a Broward County circuit judge because of allegations of improper conduct before she was elected to the bench.
The recommendation involving Circuit Judge Laura Watson, who was elected in November 2012, was issued Tuesday and will be considered by the Florida Supreme Court.
The hearing panel focused on Watson’s handling of a case, while she was a private attorney, that dealt with personal-injury protection insurance claims and allegations of “bad faith” by Progressive Insurance Co. The investigation centered on a settlement agreement and legal fees that the panel said stood to benefit Watson, who represented health-care providers.
“At its core, this case is about greed. Temptation overrode Judge Watson’s ethics, despite advance warning,” the panel’s recommendation said. “She sold out her clients, her co-counsel, and ultimately herself. This conduct is ‘fundamentally inconsistent with the responsibilities of judicial office,’ and mandates removal.”
Watson has disputed that she did anything wrong, according to the hearing panel. Also, she offered what the panel described as “unimpeachable” character witnesses, including Fort Lauderdale Mayor John Seiler and former state Rep. Jack Seiler, who has known the judge since high school.
The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.