By Noreen Marcus, FloridaBulldog.org
The Florida Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to suspend, publicly reprimand and slap Palm Beach County Court Judge Marni Bryson with a $37,500 fine for inappropriately “failing to devote full time to her judicial duties.”
Bryson’s suspension without pay is for 10 days, and will begin within 30 days as determined by Palm Beach Chief Judge Glenn Kelley. She must appear before the Supreme Court to receive her public reprimand.
The high court’s 6-0 decision, with Justice John Couriel recusing, was essentially a plea deal after Bryson conceded her conduct had been improper. The deal was worked out between Bryson and the Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC), the disciplinary body for state court judges.
Bryson, a judge since 2010, is up for reelection next year. Until now, she had a clean disciplinary record.
JQC investigators found, and the court stipulated, that between 2016 and 2019, Judge Bryson was absent more than the authorized number of days for judicial leave and mostly failed to notify management or arrange for another judge to cover for her. On some days, she left before completing a full workday, the opinion says.
“For example,” the order says, “the Commission received evidence of several instances, two specific occasions of particular note, where long wait times because of Judge Bryson’s arrival after the scheduled time for the proceedings inconvenienced litigants, lawyers, and citizens. Judge Bryson’s failure to notify and make arrangements with court management led to fellow judges having to preside over Judge Bryson’s docket until her late arrival.”
BRYSON VIOLATED JUDICIAL CANONS
Based on those events, the JQC concluded that Judge Bryson violated two sections of the Florida Code of Judicial Canons.
The JQC noted that some of Judge Bryson’s absences “would have been approved had appropriate court management been informed.” Bryson voluntarily handled felony cases for circuit court judges and stepped forward for extra night and weekend duty. She also served as the administrative judge for her court, the high court noted.
Bryson has been in the news for her ongoing, high-profile lawsuit against Fort Lauderdale lawyer William Scherer, which is being handled by a St. Lucie County judge to avoid any conflict with her Palm Beach County colleagues.
Bryson has said that nude photos from what she calls her pregnancy “chronicle” somehow landed in the wrong hands and that Scherer tried to weaponize them and other harmful information to intimidate her. (Disclosure: Scherer is a financial supporter of Florida Bulldog.)
She alleges Scherer arranged for Jack Scarola, a prominent Palm Beach County lawyer, to threaten her in connection with her actions in a child custody dispute, causing her emotional distress. Bryson and Scherer are litigating the question of whether she should be allowed to ask a jury to award her significant punitive damages if she prevails in that case. It has not yet been set for trial.
Bryson’s attorney in the disciplinary proceeding, Robert J. Watson of Stuart, did not respond to a Florida Bulldog emailed request for comment.