Florida disbars ex-judge who called and texted prosecutor 1,400 times during death penalty trial
A former Florida Circuit court judge, who resigned after admitting to over 1400 text and ex parte phone communications with a prosecutor while he tried a murder case before her, has been disbarred by the Florida Supreme court.
According to the Sun-Sentinel, Florida’s highest court agreed unanimously to ban former Circuit Court Judge Ana Gardiner from practicing law.
Gardiner resigned her judgeship in 2010, after serving on the bench for 11 years, during an investigation into her relationship with prosecutor, Howard Scheinberg, during the trial of Omar Loureiro who was accused of fatally stabbing James Lentry in 2007.
During the course of the five month trial, the two exchanged 949 private cell phone calls and 471 text messages discussing the case and their emotional relationship. According to witnesses, Gardiner and Scheinberg were also seen outside of court interacting socially, laughing and discussing the case.
Gardiner sentenced Loureiro to death in 2007. After news of her relationship with Scheinberg became public, Loureiro was granted a new trial in 2010 where he was once again convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
Following her resignation from the bench, Gardiner joined a law firm headed up by former U. S. Attorney Tom Scott.
After accusations surfaced, Gardiner appeared before the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission in November 2008 to answer questions about her relationship with Scheinberg, however a referee from the Florida Bar concluded that she had not been entirely forthcoming in her answers.
Gardiner appeared before a state bar committee in 2012, where she stated that she and Scheinberg only spoke about personal issues and not about the Loureiro case. A Florida Bar referee then recommended a one year suspension, however the bar increased their recommendation to a two year disbarment.
The Supreme Court instead handed Gardiner a lifetime disbarment, stating, ” Considering Gardiner’s dishonest conduct and the harm that her actions have caused to the administration of justice in a capital first-degree murder case, we conclude that disbarment is the appropriate sanction.”
Gardiner has thirty days to close her law practice.
Scheinberg, who was suspended from practicing law until 2015, has been working as a paralegal.
Watch the video below from the Sun-Sentinel: