Miami judge who used staff for personal errands resigns

The judge publicly accepted responsibility for skipping work and making his staff run personal errands, report says

MIAMI (AP) — A Florida judge who publicly accepted responsibility for skipping work and making his staff run personal errands for him has resigned as he faced discipline on accusations of misconduct.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Martin Zilber submitted his resignation letter Friday, the Miami Herald reported.

The Florida Supreme Court wanted a more severe punishment than the 60-day suspension and $30,000 fine recommended by the state Judicial Qualifications Commission, according to WPLG-TV. The court sent the case back to the judicial disciplinary agency in April for a full hearing, which could have led to a formal removal from the bench.

According to the Herald, the commission found that Zilber’s routine mistreatment of his staff included berating his judicial assistant, Dixidela Dent.

Zilber commented on the "inconvenient timing of her pregnancy," the commission found, adding the judge once asked Dent while pregnant to wheel his chair up "several floors to the courtroom and then lift it onto the dais prior to hearings."

The investigation determined that she and the judge’s bailiff were required to drive Zilber to various events. Dent was also told to create a scrapbook of his achievements.

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Zilber sent his bailiff to register his car with the state highway safety department and motor vehicles, as well as to pick up tickets for an art fair.

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Between January 2019 and March 2020, according to the commission, Zilber was absent from the courthouse 51 days without notifying superiors. It said he often left work early.

Dent’s lawyer Bruce Jacobs told the newspaper that his client understands "the importance of integrity and honesty in the judiciary."

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"She came forward, at great risk, to speak truth to power," Jacobs said. "She was blacklisted from the legal community and even her husband told her to move on. When Dixie’s husband saw Judge Zilber resigned, he told her how proud he was of her for standing up for her beliefs."

Miami-Dade County Judge Miguel Mirabal also resigned recently, the Herald reported. He stepped down on April 30, three months after assuming the bench, following allegations of misconduct before he became a judge.