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Pot-Smoking Judge Retires From Broward Bench


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Broward Circuit Judge Lawrence Korda announced his retirement this week, three months after he was caught smoking pot in a Hollywood park.

Korda, a family court judge, informed Florida Gov. Charlie Crist of his decision in a letter dated Monday. His retirement is effective July 2. The letter was made public Thursday.

''It has been my honor to serve the court and the state for over 30 years,'' Korda told the governor. He did not respond to telephone messages left at his office and home.

His decision comes amid a hectic year for Broward's judiciary, during which various judges have been accused of racism, gone to sensitivity training, cried on national television over Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith's death and suggested that the participants in a particular criminal case were subhuman.

Chris Stotz, a spokesman for the courts, said Chief Judge Dale Ross would not comment on Korda's decision.

Ross decided last month to resign as chief. Judges will elect his successor on July 3.

Korda, who turns 60 on June 27, took a voluntary leave of absence in early April. Hollywood police gave Korda a citation March 18 as he sat smoking a joint under a tree in Stanley Goldman Park.

Korda, who has since completed a drug and alcohol course, apologized in court last month.

''I'll make no excuse for my actions,'' he said.

By law, the judge could face a $500 fine or up to a year in jail. But Miami-Dade prosecutors, who were assigned to handle the case by the governor, have agreed to drop the misdemeanor possession charge in November if Korda remains clean.

Korda copied his retirement letter to top officials of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, the body that investigates misconduct by judges. His resignation was expected to bring an end to the JQC's investigation.

Crist, a Republican, has the constitutional duty to choose Korda's replacement. He will choose from a list of applicants submitted to him by Broward's Judicial Nominating Commission.

Broward JNC chairman William Scherer, a Republican lawyer, said the search for nominees will begin soon.

''We've got to get going,'' said Scherer. ``Summertime's not a good time to do this. My experience is we don't have the number of applicants we'd like in the summertime.''

Over the years, Korda kept largely out of the spotlight and his reputation at the courthouse was good. He was known for his special attention to children's issues, and served on the county's Children's Services Council.

Last year, however, minority lawyers' groups blasted Korda for requiring a battered wife seeking a restraining order to speak English instead of Spanish, her native tongue. Korda later apologized, but his remarks triggered a controversy that led to mandatorysensitivity training for all Broward judges.

In February, Korda gained brief national attention when he heard arguments in a case related to the death of Playboy centerfold Anna Nicole Smith at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino near Hollywood.

News of Korda's departure Thursday stoked rumors that Broward's other ''Anna Nicole judge,'' Larry Seidlin, was also leaving the bench. The stories were fueled by word that Seidlin's judicial assistant had taken a job with another judge. But court spokesman Stotz said Seidlin assured the court administrator's office that he had hired a replacement.

Korda's resignation comes amid a shake-up in the leadership of Broward's courts.

Chief Judge Dale Ross announced May 22 that he is giving up that post -- though he'll remain a judge. Two other judges resigned soon after: County Court Administrative Judge Jay Spechler and County Court Criminal Chair Gary Cowart.

The moves come after various gaffes by judges over the past several months, including Korda's arrest.

Among the others: remarks Ross made from the bench about Hispanics and rap music; Judge Larry Seidlin weeping on TV during the Anna Nicole Smith case; Judge Charles Greene asking to be reassigned after describing a case as ''NHI'' (no humans involved.)

Also, a number of complaints have been filed to the state Judicial Qualifications Commission about the behavior of Broward's judges, on and off the bench.

News Mod: CoZmO - 420Magazine.com
Source: The Miami Herald (FL)
Contact: dchristensen@MiamiHerald.com
Copyright: 2007 Miami Herald Media Co.
Website: MiamiHerald.com
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