Broward County Circuit Court Judge Matthew Destry was dumbfounded when his opponent attacked his judicial record at a recent candidate forum at the African-American Research Library in Fort Lauderdale. The predominantly African-American audience cheered when attorney Barbara Duffy took Destry to task over his courtroom behavior and judicial decisions. Destry has been under fire for years for his courtroom antics and wildly inconsistent judicial reasoning.
Duffy told the crowd, “I come from a working class family. I know what it means to work hard. Bottom line, I’m running against Mr. Destry because I truly believe that everybody in this county, everybody in this room should be treated with respect.” The audience cheered when Duffy said, “If a judge requires you to show up in the courtroom at 8:30 in the morning, the judge should be there at 8:30 in the morning not 9:30 or 10 o’clock.” Courthouse insiders have complained Destry is chronically late to court. Destry claims he wants to give the lawyers time to settle in and talk among themselves.
Duffy continued, “Mr. Destry has been reversed thirteen times. That costs you money, it costs me money, and it’s a severe impact on justice being accomplished.”
One audience member said “wow” after Duffy finished her speech.
Judge Destry should not have been shocked by the audience response to his record. Thousands called for his removal from the bench over his harsh sentencing of Herbert Smith. Destry sentenced Smith to 60 years in prison even though the State Attorney only asked for 12 years. Judge Destry later reversed himself.
A shocked Destry told the crowd, “I’ve live and worked in this county for twenty years….I’ve been to the streets. You can’t sit on the criminal bench like I do…and not come under criticism. So, that’s the way it is.”