Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Eyebrow-raisers at the courthouse, old and new

It sounded so much like the bad old days at the Hillsborough County courthouse.

This ex-judge, see, one who retired in the face of serious questions back when scandal was pretty much daily over there, came up with this, whaddaya call it, business model.

As the Times' Colleen Jenkins reported, people on probation pay former Judge Robert Bonanno's "Probation & Violation Center" 65 bucks for a four-hour course on how to get through it successfully. (The state offers the classes for free).

Afterward, some judges wipe away at least some community service hours the probationer owes. And everyone walks away happy, right?

Naturally, Bonanno introduced this business to old courthouse colleagues over a nice, say, ropa vieja at Valencia Garden, the place where the real politics and schmoozing used to get done around here. Vintage courthouse!

Except.

This week, a judicial advisory opinion said it is ethically okay for a judge to let a probationer take a class in exchange for waiving those hours. (Though the opinion did not deal with the fact that the class is offered by a former judge, much less what was going on when he left.)

And while it's much more delicious to think the three judges who have given credit for the course are in cahoots with Bonanno, hanging around a courtroom would lead you to believe otherwise.

Judges want probationers to finish probation. Judges do not want to see them again, ever. Judges had more than 12,000 probation violations in the last fiscal year. And maybe sometimes pushing for expedience can blind you to perception. Misguided? Maybe. The bad old days? Probably not.

And hey, give Bonanno the nod for that business model. Some cats will always land on their feet.

Still, shouldn't judges keep the past in mind? Even in a town with a stunning capacity to forgive, they should not forget Bonanno lurking in the office of a fellow judge or those lingering questions about a courthouse affair, the sealing of cases and … you get the idea.

This may not be the bad old days, but they're awfully hard to forget. Especially when you remind us.

In other news, some Hillsborough judges wanted state lawmakers to know of their concern about the potential for their pay and/or retirement to be cut. (Gosh, what's that like?) A letter to Tallahassee was constructed forthwith. One draft said lawmakers not taking their side "would be an evisceration of our tri-cameral system of government." (Ow! Evisceration would hurt!)

Though they did take a 2 percent nip last year, some judges did not rush to sign, perhaps thinking it still sounded a bit let-them-eat-cake. (Or maybe they were thinking of those without six-figure salaries, like court clerks dealing with dozens of their colleagues gone and unpaid furlough days to boot.)

That reluctance may have led to another version of the letter. This one had no printed names underneath the line on which the judge was to sign — maybe the blank, unsigned ones would have been too embarrassing. (Plus, if you write like a doctor, no one would know it was you!)

As of Thursday, the letter was dead, "though there is rumor of resurrection next year." (Further affiant sayeth naught.)

Eyebrow-raisers at the courthouse, old and new 04/22/10 [Last modified: Thursday, April 22, 2010 10:49pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Quiet college dropout turned bomber: Who was Salman Abedi?

    World

    LONDON — He was quiet and withdrawn, a college dropout who liked soccer — and, some say, showed alarming signs of being radicalized years before he walked into a pop concert at Britain's Manchester Arena and detonated a powerful bomb, killing himself and 22 others.

    Salman Abedi was identified by British authorities as the man behind Monday’s attack.
  2. Soldiers launch attacks in besieged Philippine city

    World

    MARAWI, Philippines — Backed by tanks and rocket-firing helicopters, Philippine troops launched "precision attacks" Thursday to clear extremists linked to the Islamic State group from a city that has been under siege since a raid that failed to capture one of Asia's most-wanted militants.

    Soldiers fire at enemy positions Thursday while trying to clear the city of Marawi, Philippines, of armed militants.
  3. Back to .500, Rays feel ready to roll (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Who wants to be mediocre? Middling? Average? Run-of-the-mill?

    Rays catcher Jesus Sucre tags out the Angels’ Mike Trout trying to score from second base after a perfect peg from rightfielder Steven Souza Jr. in the first inning.
  4. Seminole man accused of fracturing 8-month-old baby's leg

    Crime

    Deputies arrested a Seminole man Thursday after he fractured an 8-month-old baby's bones, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said.

    Gary G. Gibeault of Seminole was arrested on a charge of aggravated child abuse.
  5. St. Petersburg's ballooning sewage debt could threaten credit rating (but there's a Hail Mary plan to avoid that)

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The city needs a lot of money — $435 million over the next five years — most of it to fix its leaky sewer pipes and aging sewer plants.

    In September 2016, signs at St. Petersburg’s North Shore Park warned people to stay out of the water due to contamination from sewage released by the city’s overwhelmed sewer system. The City Council on Thursday learned that the very expensive fix for its sewage woes could hamper the city’s credit rating. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]