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Post Script to Blog Piece on Judge Andrews This Week: The Oath

The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, that is the oath a witness is required to make in court before offering testimony. If a witness lies on the stand, the State Attorney can criminally charge that witness with perjury because we recognize as a society that lying is wrong.

We are supposed to tell the truth, especially in court under oath. Upon taking office Florida judges, who serve the people, swear to the following, “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support, protect, and defend the Constitution and Government of the United States and of the State of Florida.” Law enforcement officers, prior to being assigned their duties, are required to swear to the same. We have a social contract with governing authorities. We have a deal, we give you the right to govern us within the constitutional parameters we agreed to as citizens in exchange for the protection of our rights. When you breach that trust, you are harming us instead of fulfilling your part of the bargain, and are no different than Officer Brandon Bill.

“The 4th Amendment to the US Constitution states, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…”

This week the Tampa Bay Times (TBT) reported that Judge Michael Andrews granted a motion to suppress after finding that Officer Brandon Bill, from the St. Petersburg Police Department, was not credible. This made frontline news, Why? Because it is a rarity. Members of our community have weighed in and a commentator (“edpr’) in the comments section of TBT’s article stated, “The problem is that the action taken by the Judge is news.” Maybe it wouldn’t be news if such motions were granted routinely. Maybe more would be granted if there wasn’t the perceived potential risk of political backlash from law abiding voters. Some of these voters cannot make the logical link that the suppression of evidence in a drug dealer’s case translates into a victory, not just for the drug dealer, but for the constitution and the rights of every citizen. Florida’s Judicial Canons 3(b)(2) states, ” A judge shall not be swayed by partisan interests, public clamor, or fear of criticism.” TBT commentator “Le Chifre” reacted to TBT’s article by commenting, ” Just wait, the police and LEO unions will attack Judge Andrews when he’s up for retention. They’ll say he’s soft on crime.”

Early in my career I was assigned to Judge Andrews’ division as a young assistant public defender. Soft on crime he is not, I assure you, just ask any criminal defense attorney who has practiced in his courtroom. I will challenge anyone on that point. Caveat, you cannot use Officer Bill as an expert witness. In fact, a well respected criminal defense attorney, Debra Moss, was recruited to run against Judge Andrews by some attorneys unhappy with his demeanor. Pinellas County Public Defender Robert Dillinger, citing issues with his judicial temperament, was also a vocal opponent of Andrews in his 2010 re-election campaign. Now why would some members of the criminal defense bar seek to replace a judge who is “soft on crime.” I suspect that if a defendant were to choose between a bad temper and good deal, the choice is clear. Go ahead and verbally slap me just don’t send me to the graybar motel. I have never seen angelic wings flapping from behind Judge Andrews’ robe. However, I do recall as a young lawyer being called up to the bench at the end of the morning’s docket one day by Andrews who offered an apology for having come off as somewhat irritable. I’ve been practicing law now for over 14 years. In that time, there have been a few judges whose demeanor towards me has been less than ideal, and yet Andrews has been the only one to display that kind of humility. If you ask Ms. Moss’ opinion these days about Judge Andrews’ demeanor since she ran against him in 2010, she’ll have nothing but positive comments to offer.

To read the full article by Haydee Oropesa, click here.

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