In re Robert SchwartzAnnotate this Case
The willful judicial misconduct at issue in this case arose by Judge Robert Schwartz's untimely recusal after initiating a romantic relationship with an assistant public defender that had cases pending before him and making dishonest statements from the bench concerning his reasons for recusing. In the spring of 2009, a female assistant public defender regularly appeared in his courtroom. Although Judge Schwartz doubted that a romantic relationship would develop given the difference in their ages, he was open to the possibility. At some point during a lunch with the assistant public defender, Judge Schwartz gave the assistant public defender a gift of a pair of purple latex gloves and a book written by an author with the same name as Judge Schwartz entitled "The One Hour Orgasm." The gift was intended by Judge Schwartz and understood by the assistant public defender to be a self-deprecating joke because the author and Judge Schwartz shared the same name. Before he became a judge, Judge Schwartz had given this book to others, whose common reaction was to burst out laughing. When the assistant public defender returned to work, she showed her supervisor the joke gift. After Judge Schwartz announced that he would recuse in two of the assistant public defender's cases, he provided dishonest reasons for his recusal and entered rulings in those cases. There was no evidence of any adverse impact on these cases from the recusals. Both cases were resolved in a timely manner. The relationship with the assistant public defender ended, and following a trial in August 2009, Judge Schwartz took voluntary medical leave while the Ethics Commission obtained an independent medical examination of his condition. The Commission found that although his reasons for recusal were not credible, Judge Schwartz had been forthcoming and candid with the Commission, apologized for his conduct, and expressed a desire and willingness to learn from his mistakes. Based on these facts, the Commission concluded that Judge Schwartz violated ethics rules. The Judge challenged the Commission's findings to the Supreme Court. The Court adopted the Commission's recommendation that Judge Schwartz receive a formal reprimand. The Court also adopted the recommendations that he take appropriate leave during any future transitions in medical treatment, and that he receive training on the nature of sexual harassment. The Court rejected the Commission's recommendations that Judge Schwartz be suspended without pay and, instead, ordered him to pay a $6,000 fine.