Why Judicial Elections Matter, Part 2

Here’s a video of a Florida county judge berating and then throwing an alleged domestic violence victim in jail for not showing up to court to testify against the man she said abused her:

For the prosecution to prove a domestic violence case the victim has to show up and testify against their abuser (assuming there’s not another witness or video evidence). Many times victims want the case dropped after the police arrest their spouse or partner, but in Florida it’s not up to the victim to drop the case – it’s up to the prosecutor. Victims want the case dropped for many reasons, some good, some bad. Prosecutors put them under subpoena to come and testify in court if the case goes to trial. If the victim doesn’t show up, it’s up to the prosecutor to try and get them into court to testify. It’s not up to the judge.

Judicial elections matter. We, as citizens get to vote for our judges. Our judges are supposed to be fair, impartial, and uphold the law. Most importantly, judges are not supposed to pick sides.

This video shows a judge picking sides. The question “Why?” after the alleged victim says that she asked the prosecutor to drop the case shows this. The judge’s question is really an accusation: “How dare you not show up to convict a man I decided was guilty?” There’s the rub – the judge had prejudged the case. In her eyes the defendant was guilty, and the victim’s failure to show up put a crimp in that plan. It should come as no surprise, then, that the judge is a former prosecutor. Many judges are.

This is also a lesson in what happens when the law is applied inflexibly and without compassion or common sense. The judge was legally allowed to hold the woman in contempt for failing to obey a court order – the subpoena to testify – but in no sane world should this be applied to all witnesses in all cases. Especially not in domestic abuse cases. What’s the end result that this judge achieved? The victim of domestic abuse going to jail, while the person who abused her goes free. This is the judge’s version of justice.

Perhaps this judge wanted to set an example – that she will not stand for domestic abusers getting off when their victims don’t show up to testify against them. But this kind of thing sets the opposite example for the victims of domestic violence. Accuse your spouse or partner of domestic violence in Seminole county and you can be the one who ends up in jail. Better not get cold feet! Better not second guess the decision to call the police in a heated moment when no one is thinking clearly! Better not move out of town or change addresses! Think you’re victimized now? Just wait until the court system gets a hold of you.