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Florida Supreme Court Suspends Miami-Dade Judge

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MIAMI (CBSMiami/NSF) - The Florida Supreme Court suspended a Miami-Dade County judge after two incidents last month in which she appeared impaired -- including an incident in which she had to be removed from the bench and driven home by a bailiff.

On Tuesday, an order handed down suspended Judge Jacqueline Schwartz with pay, according to the Supreme Court's website.

An investigative panel had recommended the suspension to the Florida Supreme Court.

The allegations against Schwartz came four months after she was disciplined by the Supreme Court for a 2014 incident in which she was accused of using profanity and threatening to sue a convenience-store owner who had declined to allow her to display a campaign sign at the store.

In the new case, an investigative panel of the state Judicial Qualifications Commission said Schwartz was observed "acting in an irrational and disorderly manner" on March 18th at a Coconut Grove restaurant. One of the documents said Schwartz "was observed to be impaired, spilling a glass of wine on herself, and pouring water on the floor of the restaurant while attempting to refill a water glass. Patrons, and staff also observed Schwartz to be unsteady on her feet, swaying, stumbling, slurring her words, and (having) twitching eyes.

When the restaurant staff decided that they should no longer provide wine to Schwartz, she became upset, and began yelling and swearing at the wait-staff in full view of the restaurant guests."

When police arrived, the judge allegedly called them "pigs" who couldn't do anything to her because she was a judge.

Schwartz reported the incident to the Judicial Qualifications Commission on March 21st. A week later, the investigative panel said, Schwartz appeared impaired while presiding over a criminal traffic docket. The chief judge became involved and sent her home, with the assistance of a bailiff who drove Schwartz's car.

During a hearing, Schwartz attributed her conduct to a prescription medication she had started taking, according to the documents.

The Supreme Court has the ultimate authority to discipline judges. In December, Schwartz received a public reprimand from the Supreme Court, which also imposed a $10,000 fine on the judge and suspended her from the bench for 30 days.

"This is misconduct we cannot and will not tolerate," said Chief Justice Jorge Labarga during the December hearing.

Along with allegations about the 2014 convenience-store incident, Schwartz also was accused of improperly handling papers in a court file.

The News Service of Florida last year found that the number of judges facing sanctions had jumped and that the high court was more often seeking harsher penalties than those originally proposed by the Judicial Qualifications Commission.

Judge Schwartz will face the equivalent of a public trial before the Judicial Qualifications Commission in Miami-Dade County.  The commission will then recommend a punishment to the Florida Supreme Court.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.

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