1. Archive

Judge accused of demeaning antics

A judge violated ethical standards by belittling people in his courtroom, sometimes using a prop that emits the sound of a flushing toilet to show his displeasure, state investigators charge.

Broward Circuit Judge Sheldon M. Schapiro "continuously engaged in a pattern of demeaning, abusive and intemperate behavior toward counsel and witnesses," Judicial Qualifications Commission investigators concluded.

Schapiro has two weeks to respond to the charges over courtroom incidents dating back to 1996. Schapiro did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday.

David Bogenschutz, an attorney for the judge, said Wednesday the complaint was "a little unusual."

"It really deals more with personalities than it does with the judge's competence to become and continue to be a judge," he said.

The commission can recommend sanctions to the state Supreme Court.

The toilet-flushing machine was used once as a defense attorney argued a rape case.

An area used for sidebars is known among attorneys who appear before Schapiro as the "woodshed" for the judge's verbal attacks, including profanity, the complaint said.

According to the complaint, the judge has asked attorneys, "Are you stupid?" and told one, "Why do I always have to treat you like a schoolchild?"

In another case, a prosecutor told the judge that the victim's mother wanted to speak at a bail hearing for a man charged with killing her son after running him over with a motorcycle.

The commission staff said the judge's reaction was: "What do I need to hear from the mother of a dead kid for? All she will tell me is to keep the guy in custody and never let him out."