Judge accused of DUI isn't only jurist to draw the spotlight in recent S. Fla. memory

Just a few years ago, South Florida judges were appearing regularly in the news for varying degrees of insensitivity and scandal.

Then, the halls of justice grew relatively quiet — until Tuesday night when a Broward judge was arrested in Boca Raton on a charge of DUI.

Circuit Judge Cynthia Imperato's arrest reminds us of past cases of judges who came into the spotlight. If there were a "Judges Gone Wild" reality show, some may have nabbed starring roles.

"These things used to occur with alarming regularity," said defense attorney Bill Gelin, whose Jaablog chronicles judicial behavior and courthouse goings on. "[Imperato's arrest] is a throwback to the reckless behaviors of the past.

"It was kind of like, here we go again ... dysfunction junction."

Among the judges' missteps: making disparaging remarks in court, making sophomoric jokes about a sex-crime victim, and having a secret exchange of messages with a prosecutor while a trial was going on. As a result, some resigned amid the scrutiny, some were reassigned and some quietly carried on after the dust had settled.

Here are the judges.

Arrested on DUI charge

After attending a social legal function in Boca Raton, Broward Circuit Judge Cynthia Imperato was pulled over late Tuesday after an officer saw her driving erratically and a driver called 911 to report that she nearly sideswiped him, police say.

Imperato, 56, spent the night in jail. She was given a Dec. 2 court date.

Imperato has asked that she be transferred out of the felony criminal division while her misdemeanor case is pending.

When she returns to work this coming week, she likely will begin handling foreclosure cases in the civil division.

Controversial remarks

Broward Circuit Judge Leonard Feiner sparked controversy in July 2005 when he disparaged the court's primarily Haitian-American custodial staff for leaving his bench in disarray, saying "They may live in hovels … but they don't have to leave courtrooms and places they work looking like a slum."

Part of Feiner's comments were captured on a courtroom recording system, a court transcript showed. He said he didn't mean for his comments to be misconstrued as racially insensitive. He apologized to a custodial supervisor. Later, he requested a new assignment to eliminate unwanted focus on circuit/criminal divisions.

Feiner retired in 2012. He receives a monthly pension of $6,568.

'Held to higher standard'

In October 2007, Broward Circuit Judge Jeffrey Levenson and an attorney joked while working out jury instruction in a case. A man had been charged with unlawful sexual activity for having consensual sex with a 16-year-old football player, they wisecracked about what position the boy played — tight end or wide receiver.

Levenson immediately apologized in the courtroom, at a judge's meeting and in an interview with the Sun Sentinel, acknowledging that judges are "held to a higher standard" and that he had crossed the line and "exhibitied insensitivity."

Levenson continues to preside in criminal court.