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Judge who gave jail to missing juror facing backlash

Posted at 11:13 AM, Oct 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-13 11:13:38-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Some community leaders say a Florida judge should be disciplined after sentencing a man who overslept and skipped jury service to 10 days in jail.

Palm Beach County Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes also sentenced 21-year-old Deandre Somerville to one year probation and 150 hours of community service after the Aug. 21 incident. The judge rescinded his ruling earlier this week amid backlash that the sentence was too harsh. Somerville has no previous criminal record.

State Sen. Bobby Powell Jr. filed a complaint against Kastrenakes with the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission for alleged misconduct. Somverville's attorney wants Kastrenakes to be reassigned.

But Chief Judge Krista Marx said in a statement Saturday that she does "not have the authority to review the legality of the rulings made by each individual judge."

She said that's the job of the appellate court.

Here is Chief Judge Krista Marx's full statement:

From the Honorable Krista Marx, Chief Judge

To the Citizens of Palm Beach County:

I have been asked by several news organizations to address the sentence imposed by one of our judges against a juror. I am responding, now, not in response to the media inquiries but because I would like to provide the citizens of Palm Beach County information that I hope will allow our citizens to better understand my authority and the limits of expression that govern the judiciary.

As Chief Judge of the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit, I am the administrative officer of the Courts within the Circuit. I am charged with the administrative supervision over all judges and court personnel within the Circuit. In this capacity, I am occasionally asked to intervene when an individual is dissatisfied with a sentence or judgment entered by one of our judges. However, as Chief Judge, I do not have the authority to review the legality of the rulings made by each individual judge. Instead, that authority lies with the appellate courts. Moreover, under the Judicial Code of Conduct, I am prohibited from discussing any ongoing case nor can I discuss a judge's rulings.

It is also important to know that my Chief Judge authority does not extend to investigating or disciplining my fellow judicial officers for allegations of judicial misconduct. Instead, the Constitution of the State of Florida assigns that function to the Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC). I was elected by the judges of the State of Florida to serve on that Commission and I currently act as the Chair of the Commission. In the event that a complaint is filed against a judge of the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit with the JQC, I will recuse myself from any matter involving that judge. It would be inappropriate for me, in my Chief Judge capacity, to use my Chief Judge administrative authority as a disciplinary tool to respond to a complaint filed with the JQC against a judge of the Circuit. The investigation of any complaint and any resulting disciplinary decision lies solely within the sound discretion of the JQC. When the appropriate constitutional bodies complete their process in the matter at hand, the Court will respond accordingly.

Thank you.