Bailiff in Hot Water Amid Allegations of Misconduct

July 19, 2012

Last week, a veteran bailiff of the Miami-Dade County Circuit Court was arrested for her alleged involvement in accepting cash payments from defendants and passing the proceeds on to a local criminal lawyer who represented the same defendants. The bailiff is one of the best known and well-liked of the court staff that supports the Metro-Justice Building. According to investigators, they were able to obtain audio and video surveillance of the bailiff accepting cash payments from a defendant charged with several traffic infractions. According to court documents including the arrest affidavit and warrant, the cash was then passed onto a local criminal attorney.

The bailiff, a county employee, has been charged with three felonies including uttering a forged instrument, official misconduct, and receiving illegal compensation. She is also charged with a misdemeanor, more specifically, for violating the county's ethics code. The code does not permit county employees from recommending the services of any particular lawyer. The criminal attorney involved in the allegations has not been charged in the matter. Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle was quoted as saying, "For the courts, and all of us that work in the judicial system, it's very sad. The system depends on the confidence in the employees, and when you see a video like that, it certainly undermines that confidence."

The bailiff, although charged, remains innocent until proven guilty at trial or voluntarily enters a plea. Another option for her may be the pre-trial intervention program. The program is run by the state attorney's office. If a defendant stays out of trouble for six months, including no new arrests or other violations, and completes the conditions set forth by the prosecutor, the case will be dismissed. While the bailiff is certainly eligible for such a program, the current political situation and upcoming election may make that option unlikely, as the current state attorneys has been accused by her counter-part of not being tough enough on public corruption.

The veteran bailiff is represented by a private lawyer will defend the case on behalf of his client. She posted a $7,000 bond, but had no other conditions set by the bond hearing judge. The case was referred to the state attorney's office by another criminal lawyer who met one of the defendants after deciding not to continue doing business with the bailiff. Once the state attorney's office received this information, an undercover officer was sent in to deal with the bailiff as a defendant. During the dealings, the undercover official took video and audio surveillance of the transactions. While the penalties after trial or a plea are unknown at this point, it is almost certain that the bailiff will lose her government job and any retirement benefits that may have accompanied it.

Miami-Dade Bailiff Arrested on Allegation of Misconduct, Miami Herald.com, July 19, 2012.