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High court removes jurist who wrongly jailed 11

A judge who jailed 11 people because they were late for traffic court after being directed to the wrong courtroom lost his job Thursday.

The Florida Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Seminole County Judge John Sloop, 57, of Sanford was unfit to remain on the bench.

The justices said the jailing and strip-searching of the 11 misdirected motorists capped a series of complaints about intemperate conduct by Sloop.

"Judge Sloop's indifference to the anxiety, humiliation and hardship imposed upon these 11 citizens reflects a callous disregard for others that is among the most egregious examples we have seen of judicial authority and lack of proper judicial temperament," the court wrote in an unsigned opinion.

The defendants had come to court on traffic citations such as driving with a suspended license or having an illegal tag. Sloop jailed them although two other judges and a bailiff had told him they were not to blame.

Another judge began paperwork to release them while Sloop was out running a personal errand, but, meanwhile, they were strip-searched and spent nine hours behind bars, the high court noted.

Sloop "just did not care," the justices wrote, saying his "callous disregard for these individuals was the antithesis of his judicial obligations."

Sloop also was accused of ignoring court rules by refusing to release one defendant on a minor charge and acting more like a prosecutor than a judge through rude and abusive treatment of another.

Sloop admitted he violated judicial canons in all three cases. At a Judicial Qualifications Commission hearing, he blamed his behavior on undiagnosed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and said he was receiving treatment.

Sloop said Thursday he joined the justices in hoping his removal will help restore confidence in the judicial system.

"I spent my life helping people understand they are responsible for their actions," Sloop said. "I am responsible for the grievous things that I did."

The commission's investigative panel had advocated Sloop's removal. A hearing panel later recommended less serious sanctions: a 90-day unpaid suspension, retirement after his term ends in 2011 and no postretirement service as a senior judge.

The justices found the hearing panel's recommendations contradictory. "A determination that Judge Sloop is fit to remain in office for four years but unfit after that point would convey greater concern for the welfare of the judge than the welfare of the public," they wrote.