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Charges call judge smoky, tardy, biased

ORLANDO — A Marion County judge is in trouble for puffing too much on the job.

Circuit Judge William "Jack" Singbush is also accused of being habitually late to court, demonstrating religious and personal bias during court proceedings and other judicial improprieties that could result in his removal, records released Wednesday show.

The Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission, an agency that investigates allegations of judicial misconduct, voted to file charges against Singbush after a confidential complaint was brought against him.

Singbush, who makes $142,178 annually, repeatedly fails to appear in court on time and often resorts to scheduling hearings at "inconvenient dates and times, such as Friday afternoon at 5 p.m. or Saturday morning," the agency said in documents released Wednesday.

He is also charged with taking an excessive number of prolonged smoking breaks, which "compromises the parties' ability to have their cases heard promptly," the agency said.

Singbush takes long lunch breaks and has finished as late as 8 p.m., documents said.

Perhaps the most serious allegations lodged against Singbush were charges he obtained a criminal background check on a witness for a case he was presiding over.

The attorneys in the case moved for a mistrial, but the judge denied making any mistakes.

He allegedly made a series of biased comments deemed improper when he stated he "believed in God" and that "Christ is the intercessor" during the motion hearing.

Singbush delayed judgment on that case for more than a year after the trial had ended, the charging documents stated.

The judge is accused of violating six canons of Judicial Code of Conduct. The 20-year veteran, who was elected to the bench in 1991, presides over Marion County civil cases in the 5th Judicial Circuit, which also includes Sumter, Lake, Hernando and Citrus counties.

"Judge Singbush is disappointed by the JQC's choice to file formal charges," said Singbush's attorney, William "Dude" Phelan. Phelan noted, however, that the judge only faces allegations. "Nobody has proven anything."

The JQC will convene a panel and set a hearing to make recommendations on how to proceed. The panel can dismiss the charges or recommend Singbush be fined, reprimanded, suspended or removed from office, said the JQC general counsel, Michael Schneider.

Ultimately, however, final authority rests with the Florida Supreme Court to carry out discipline.

"We are confident the process will ultimately confirm him (Singbush) to be a fair and dedicated judge who does his best to discharge his judicial duties in scrupulous compliance with the Code of Judicial Conduct," Phelan said.

Charges call judge smoky, tardy, biased 05/11/11 [Last modified: Thursday, May 12, 2011 12:32am]

    

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