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Broward Judge Cynthia Imperato to resign


Broward Circuit Judge Cynthia Imperato, who was facing disciplinary action from the state's Supreme Court over her conduct following a 2013 DUI arrest, will resign by the end of the month, Broward Chief Administrative Judge Peter Weinstein confirmed Tuesday.

"I spoke to her today and she indicated that in the next few days she's going to send a letter to the governor announcing her retirement from the 17th Judicial Circuit," Weinstein said. "Judge Imperato was an excellent judge and a dedicated public servant. I think I speak for many people here when I say we will be very sorry to see her go."

In October, the Judicial Qualifications Commission recommended a three-month unpaid suspension and a fine of $20,000 as punishment for Imperato's refusal to cooperate with police who had pulled her over on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol in Boca Raton. Imperato was later found guilty of DUI and sentenced to 20 days of house arrest, which she served last summer.

But in January, the Supreme Court appeared unsatisfied with that recommendation and ordered Imperato to give justices a reason she should be allowed to keep her job. She has until Monday to respond, but her resignation makes that unnecessary.

Imperato was a Tallahassee police officer who earned her law degree in 1989 from Florida State University. She went on to become an assistant statewide prosecutor from 1990 to 2003, when Gov. Jeb Bush tapped her to replace Circuit Judge Estella May Moriarty, who had resigned.


Broward judge Imperato ordered to explain why she should be allowed to keep her job

Broward Judge Imperato ordered to explain why she should be allowed to keep her job
Defendants who appeared before her included three teenagers who were convicted of clubbing a homeless man to death and beating two others in 2006, and Randy W. Tundidor, who was sentenced to death for the June 2010 murder of his landlord, Nova Southeastern University professor Joseph Morrissey.

Stern, consistently punctual and insistent on details, Imperato served on the criminal court bench from her appointment until her arrest on Nov. 5, 2013.

"Although we had our differences of legal opinions, she always allowed me to articulate my clients' claims and present case law," said defense lawyer Richard Rosenbaum, who represented Tundidor during the penalty phase of his trial. "She issued well thought-out rulings. She was a stickler for professionalism and ethics in her courtroom. It was a pleasure to try cases in front of her."

But her arrest brought her time in criminal court to an abrupt halt. Boca Raton police responding to a 911call of an erratic driver found Imperato behind the wheel of her white Mercedes-Benz. When one officer asked her for ID, she showed him her judge's badge. She refused to take a breath test and had her license temporarily suspended as a result.

Weinstein transferred Imperato to the civil court, where she handled foreclosure cases. She returned to the criminal court to finish handling the Tundidor case. A jury recommended the death sentence for Tundidor just two weeks before Imperato's arrest, but the final decision was hers.

She made that decision on Nov. 7, 2014, carefully reading from a 28-page order outlining her reasons for imposing the ultimate punishment.

After her conviction, Imperato tried to work out a deal with the JQC to keep her job. The commission noted that Imperato had another DUI conviction in 1988, but recommended a 20-day suspension and fine. The Supreme Court, which has final say on judicial discipline, rejected the deal, forcing Imperato to defend herself at a JQC panel hearing in West Palm Beach last September.

During that hearing, Imperato apologized to the officers who questioned and arrested her but denied trying to get a break by showing her judge's badge. The recommendation for a three-month suspension came a month later. Again, the Supreme Court balked, asking Imperato to defend her right to stay on the job.

Imperato could not be reached for comment Tuesday despite messages left at her office and on her cell phone.

Last month, a lawyer for a woman in a drunk driving case criticized Imperato for sitting on a three-judge panel that decided whether the woman's license should be suspended. Imperato recused herself from the woman's case Tuesday.

Imperato was last elected unopposed in 2010 and was scheduled to face voters again this year. As of Tuesday, neither she nor anyone else had filed to run for her position.

"I didn't always agree with her decisions, but I felt she had integrity," said defense lawyer Michael Gottlieb. "I think it's unfair and unjust for her to be forced out of her role as a judge with an election pending. Let the public decide."

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Broward Judge Cynthia Imperato to resign


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Broward Judge Cynthia Imperato to resign

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