A Florida judge facing discipline for allegedly missing work and having court staff drive him to events, do his online shopping and perform other personal errands has resigned from the bench, according to the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission.
The Commission opened an inquiry into Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Martin Zilber after getting a complaint last September about his behavior, according to the findings and recommendation of discipline posted on the Florida Supreme Court website.
The commission found “clear and convincing evidence” that Zilber engaged in the “intemperate treatment or misuse of court staff” and had excessive absences.
Zilber did not contest the inquiry’s findings and “took immediate responsibility for his conduct,” according to an April 8 stipulation document.
His attorney had no comment on Tuesday because the case is still pending.
Zilber took ‘immediate responsibility’
Zilber accepted the discipline, including a public reprimand, a 60-day suspension without pay and a $30,000 fine, as well as additional training and letters of apology to his current and former judicial assistant and bailiff.
But, the Florida Supreme Court rejected the proposed sanctions and called for a full hearing, so it could decide on the appropriate punishment.
His former judicial assistant, Dixidela Dent, filed a motion on April 16, outlining her allegations of mistreatment by Zilber, and called for the case to be referred to the Florida Bar for a grievance hearing.
The commission said Zilber asked court staff to perform a number of tasks for him that were outside of their job descriptions — including personal online shopping, registering his car at the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and traveling to Miami Beach during work hours to pick up tickets for an art event.
It said that Zilber asked his judicial assistant to assemble a scrapbook of his personal and professional achievements and asked her and his bailiff to drive him to appointments.
The inquiry also found that Zilber sometimes required his judicial assistant, who was pregnant, to wheel his chair up several floors and then lift it onto the dais in his courtroom before hearings. He made other arrangements when her concerns were brought to his attention.
Court staff aren’t personal assistants
Zilber said he only asked his staff to do these things and did not require it, but recognized that the requests could be seen as orders because of his authority over his staff, the commission said.
It wrote that judicial assistants and other court staff are “vital to the efficient and orderly operation of the judicial system.”
“They are not personal assistants funded by the taxpayers to take on chores for their judges. Adding personal errands and favors to the workloads of these already burdened employees is not only improper, it can create further delays or interruptions in the efficient administration of the courts,” the findings said.
The commission also found that Zilber was absent from the courthouse on 51 workdays between January 21, 2019, and March 13, 2020, without notifying the court administration. This is on top of 16 court holidays and 25 days of approved leave.
Zilber testified that he did attend to work-related matters and said he was working remotely on some of those days in 2019, according to the commission.
It said Zilber also took a weeklong vacation in Malibu, California, in August without making a leave request because he was working remotely during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The commission said that he had his judicial assistant reschedule hearings and dockets for that week to another time.
The Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission moved to dismiss the charges against Zilber following his resignation, which it said took effect on Friday.