Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein wants a Broward Judge transferred from the bright spotlight of bond court. In a letter to Chief Judge Peter Weinstein, Finkelstein requests “the immediate transfer of Judge John ‘Jay’ Hurley from magistrate court.” Finkelstein claims Hurley “repeatedly and consistently has communications in court outside the earshot of arrestees in the jail making a complete sham of the right to be present and heard at a critical stage of a criminal proceeding.”
Finkelstein, best known as WSVN Channel 7 legal expert “Help Me Howard,” states he has sent numerous video copies of Hurley’s behavior to the Chief Judge. He says, “almost all of them contain video of Judge Hurley excluding defendants from discussion about their own cases.” Finkelstein writes the sidebars happen with audio muted, “preventing defendants…from hearing what is said.”
Finkelstein writes, “not only does Judge Hurley discuss legal and factual issues in a defendant’s case, he often ridicules and mocks the defendants.” He says Hurley, “makes these inappropriate statements from the bench….[Hurley] seems to think that if he hits the mute button, he can say whatever he wants from the bench.” Finkelstein goes on to ask for a change in the way defendants are forced to appear via video from the jail.
This is not the first time Howard Finkelstein has challenged the actions of Judge Hurley. In January, REDBROWARD reported Hurley refused to speak with the local media even though he uses them to promote his website. WSVN Channel 7 reported Hurley “ignored” their questions about bias complaints filed against him by the Broward Public Defender’s Office. WSVN interviewed Finkelstein in front of the Broward County courthouse. Hurley was standing a few feet away. REDBROWARD spotted the media circus while attending a judicial robing ceremony.
Hurley was accused of bias against homeless defendants appearing before him in bond court. Finkelstein “singled out Broward County Circuit Judge John Hurley in particular, saying he tossed out a public defender after going back and forth with her on several occasions. The defender has filed two complaints with Broward Chief Judge Peter Weinstein.”
Hurley has a become a household name thanks to his over-the-top antics in Broward bond court. Hurley reads the charges for maximum dramatic effect which usually gets airtime on the local news.
The bond court drama plays out over a courthouse feed viewed by law enforcement, bail bondsmen and the media. On Hurley’s website, the bond court feed from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel is prominently displayed. The spartan site contains little else. Oddly enough, if you click the “sample video” link on his website, you will find a Twitter post where Hurley is refererred to as an “asshole.”
Hurley, a fraternity brother of former Governor Charlie Crist, faces re-election in 2016. Hurley has not filed any campaign paperwork. Finkelstein and other courthouse observers wondered why Judge Hurley has a website. The website is operated by local Democrat operative Ron Mills of RainbowUsa hosting.
When contacted by REDBROWARD, Mills said Hurley is “fully aware of the website.” He said he is operating the website as a volunteer. Mills said Hurley is “definitely aware of the site….it gets lots of hits.”
Earlier this month, REDBROWARD revealed Hurley holds weekly breakfast meetings with a wide array of political consultants, operatives and vendors at a Fort Lauderdale restaurant. Last year, REDBROWARD observed Hurley meeting with his 2010 political consultant Norm Leonard. Now, pictures posted on Facebook show Hurley meeting with several more operatives. Judge Hurley has not filed campaign paperwork for the 2016 election.
Photographs from Saturday’s meeting at the Jetway Cafe show Judge Hurley having breakfast with Democrat political consultants David Brown, Barry Harris and Dan Lewis. Even though Hurley, a college fraternity brother of former Governor Charlie Crist, often portrays himself as a “tea party” Republican, insiders say Hurley has dealt with Democrat operatives such a Jack Shifrel and Judy Stern.
Courthouse insiders question why Judge Hurley maintains such a high political profile. Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein told REDBROWARD he had no idea why a sitting judge would act this way.