08:27, May 23 46 0 abajournal.com

2018-05-23 08:27:05
Judge’s racially demeaning language merits suspension, investigative panel says

An investigative panel is recommending that a Florida judge be suspended for 30 days for making “inappropriate racially disparaging remarks.”

The panel recommended the suspension Monday, along with a $5,000 fine and a public reprimand, for Judge Stephen Millan of Miami-Dade Circuit Court, the Miami Herald, Law360 and Daily Business Review report.

An investigative panel of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission said Millan used the epithet “moolie” to describe a black defendant in a conversation with the man’s lawyer in October 2016. Millan told the commission he didn’t recall the conversation but he doesn’t deny the allegation because he had used the term while growing up in New York.

Millan said he is of Puerto Rican and Italian descent, and when he was young he and his friends occasionally used slurs to refer to others and themselves. He acknowledged that any slur is appropriate.

“Moolie” is a shortened form of “mulignan,” which literally means eggplant but is used as a Sicilian slur for people with dark complexions, according to the notice of formal charges.

Another incident allegedly occurred about a year later when Millan was in chambers with lawyers. He was accused of telling his bailiff to retrieve his wallet from the courtroom because “I don’t trust it in there with those thugs.” A defense lawyer, who also heard the prior racial slur, believed Millan was referring to the family and friends of his client.

Millan said he believed his comment was directed at others in nearby courtrooms.

The panel also said Millan contacted the defense lawyer several days after the “thugs” comment and offered to “help him out” by setting his cases for a plea hearing. The lawyer told Millan he was uncomfortable speaking with him without the presence of prosecutors, but Millan allegedly said he felt it was permissible to discuss scheduling.

Millan later granted motions to remove himself from the cases. He has acknowledged his conduct was wrong, according the investigative panel’s findings and recommendation.

Millan was elected in 2014. He is now hearing cases in the juvenile division rather than in criminal court.

The Judicial Qualifications Commission said Millan has “taken significant steps to address his misconduct” by reading articles about racial bias and taking classes on racial equality in the court system.