Jon Burstein, Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale), June 28
The Public Defender’s Office on Monday called for a state investigation into a Broward County judge’s courtroom comments that they say demean minorities and poor people.
But County Judge Leonard Feiner said his statements are being blown out of proportion and there is nothing racist or elitist about what he said Thursday morning to a courthouse cleaning supervisor.
Feiner demanded that custodial supervisor Nadine Coke appear in his courtroom after discovering someone had left his bench in disarray, pushing aside desk supplies, his phone and coffee mugs. When Feiner began questioning Coke whether the custodial staff was responsible for the mess, the courtroom recording system was turned off. But midway through the conversation, the recording system came back on, a court transcript shows.
“They may live in — in hovels where they — where they live, but they don’t have to leave places they work looking like a dump,” Feiner said.
Coke asked: “They live where?”
Feiner answered: “I said people that — that they hire may live in hovels, but they don’t have to leave courtrooms and the places they work looking like a slum.”
Chief Assistant Public Defender Catherine Keuthan said it’s common knowledge that the courthouse’s custodial staff at night is primarily Haitian Americans.
“We found these comments to be outrageous and discriminatory and they should be the subject of discipline,” Keuthan said.
Feiner said Monday he has no idea what the racial makeup is of the courthouse’s nighttime custodial staff.