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Supreme Court of Florida

November 14, 2019

INQUIRY CONCERNING A JUDGE NO. 19-101 & NO. 19-175 Re. ROBIN C. LEMONIDIS.

         NOT FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION AND, IF FILED, DETERMINED.

          Original Proceeding - Judicial Qualifications Commission

          Honorable Krista Marx, Chair, and Alexander J. Williams, General Counsel, Judicial Qualifications Commission, Tallahassee, Florida; for Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission, Petitioner

          Warren Lindsey of Lindsey & Ferry, P.A., Winter Park, Florida, for Judge Robin Lemonidis, Respondent

          PER CURIAM.

         In this case, we review the findings and recommendation of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) concerning misconduct by Judge Robin C. Lemonidis of the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit, as well as a stipulation entered into by Judge Lemonidis and the JQC. We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 12, Fla. Const. For the reasons explained below, we accept the stipulation and approve the JQC's findings and recommended sanctions.

         BACKGROUND

         This case stems from Judge Lemonidis's conduct in two incidents that occurred in proceedings related to two different matters: State v. Francis, 052016CF012745AXXXXX, and State v. Welch, 052000CF044961AXXXXX. The first incident occurred during the Francis trial. In response to defense counsel's violation of courtroom rules-specifically, his failure to "address[] all participants by their surname[s]"-Judge Lemonidis employed an "adversarial tone and demeanor when" speaking to "the defendant and his attorney." On at least five separate occasions, "Judge Lemonidis repeatedly and loudly struck her gavel" while admonishing defense counsel for using only the defendant's first name. Early in the proceedings, Judge Lemonidis was warned that a juror had been overheard "commenting about [her] treatment of the defense counsel." But she continued to reprimand defense counsel in full view of the jury, often using "facial expressions and a tone of voice" that indicated her frustration. Judge Lemonidis behaved similarly in her interactions with witnesses and others involved in the proceedings, "at times appearing openly annoyed . . . by the person she was addressing."

         The second incident occurred as "Judge Lemonidis presided over a retrial of the penalty phase" in Welch. The defendant had previously pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder, for which the State sought the death penalty. When the jury declined to recommend the death penalty, Judge Lemonidis held a sentencing hearing.

         During the hearing, Judge Lemonidis listened to impact statements from the victims' family members before "impos[ing] the legally required life sentences." Judge Lemonidis made the following remarks during the sentencing colloquy:

And uh sir, I cannot disagree with a single thing that [the victim's family member] said and I'm glad she said it.
[Other impact speakers] are far more gracious soul[s] than a person like you deserves. And that is something you're going to get to ponder for the rest of your miserable life. There is a Chinese proverb, do good, reap good, do evil, reap evil-which section will you sit in sir? There's no doubt in my mind. And I tend to agree that the outcome might have been different had this been three years ago. . . .
I hope you see the [victims'] faces on every single face you see. You have-The collateral damage that you have caused, sir, is immeasurable and your life is-is not worthy of what you have done to these people. I do hope you do fight for your life every minute of every day. And that would be the only reason that I would hope your life is any longer than six weeks.

         Resulting from her conduct in the Francis and Welch proceedings, the JQC served an Amended Notice of Investigation on Judge Lemonidis. The JQC held an investigative hearing on May 24, 2019, at which Judge Lemonidis appeared with counsel and testified under oath. On August 1, 2019, the JQC formally charged Judge Lemonidis with violating the Code of Judicial Conduct. In its Amended Findings and Recommendation of Discipline, the JQC determined that Judge Lemonidis violated Canons 1, 2A, 3B(4), and 3B(5), [1] and proposed that a public reprimand and continued participation in stress management counseling were the appropriate sanctions. The parties ...


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