Circuit Judge Jack Springstead on Friday removed himself from the criminal case against prolific litigator Mel Abele.
Despite protests by prosecutor Bruce Carney, the judge granted Abele's motion to disqualify himself, which was filed after an August hearing during which Springstead ordered Abele jailed without bail.
But before stepping down from the case, Springstead and two office workers testified that Abele had previously asked the judge to remove himself from other cases and then came back later saying he wanted Springstead presiding over his case again.
Why? Because other judges assigned those previous cases eventually did something that angered Abele.
"Mr. Abele has a long, somewhat colorful history in the Hernando County judicial system," Springstead said. "(It started) long before I took the bench.
. It is clear Mr. Abele has a pattern of disqualifying judges when they rule unfavorably."
On at least one occasion in the past two years, the judge testified, Abele encountered him in the courthouse and asked Springstead to take his case again, because he felt Springstead was "the only fair judge in Hernando County."
"I still believe I can be fair and impartial," the judge said. "(But) I see no reason to remain on the case."
Richard Tombrink, the supervising circuit judge, will probably assign Abele's case to a judge outside Hernando County, Springstead said.
Abele has asked all four circuit judges in Hernando to remove themselves from numerous cases, criminal and civil and lodged by him or against him. Abele is well-known for frequently filing suits against a variety of defendants, usually claiming that they conspire against him.
In the most recent criminal case, Abele has been accused of threatening three evicted tenants with a handgun when they returned to pick up their mail.
Abele was held without bail until Sept. 14, when County Judge Peyton Hyslop overturned Springstead's ruling, saying the circuit judge had ruled based on erroneous information. Abele has been free since.