State Lawmaker Wants Judge in Absent Juror Case to be Investigated

A state lawmaker from our area is asking the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission to investigate a Palm Beach County judge who recently sentenced a man to 10 days in jail for not showing up for jury duty.

Democratic State Senator Bobby Powell, Jr. of West Palm Beach filed a complaint regarding Judge John S. Kastrenakes.

The judge sentenced DeAndre Somerville to 10 days in jail, gave him him one year probation, and ordered him to complete 150 hours of community service and write an apology letter after he failed to appear for the first day of testimony in a civil trial last August. Kastrenakes says Somerville showed up in court more than a week later, after he was summoned and had already been sworn in to serve.

When Somerville read an apology in court, the judge reduced the probation from one year to three months, with conditions.

Last weekend, Kastrenakes announced that he had vacated his finding of contempt and rescinded further punishment of Powell.

Senator Powell says in a statement, “The judge later rescinded his original punishment after succumbing to public scrutiny. According to Florida’s Code of Judicial Conduct, a judge shall perform judicial duties without bias or prejudice and shall not be swayed by partisan interests, public clamor, or fear of criticism. Judge Kastrenakes has evidently violated the Code of the Judicial Conduct and has engaged in misfeasance in his official duties as the 15th Judicial Circuit Court Judge.” He adds, “Judge Kastrenakes acted in an unprecedented manner to unfairly punish one individual for a minor transgression, singling him out as an example solely because of his race.”

Powell is requesting that the Judicial Qualifications Commission investigate the judge and discipline or remove him from the bench.

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