Christie: Post readers question whether Judge Santino should remain on bench

Palm Beach County Judge Dana Santino, seen here celebrating her win last fall, could be removed from the bench for allegedly violating judicial canons on her way to victory. (Yuting Jiang / The Palm Beach Post)

New Palm Beach County Judge Dana Santino, who ran for office by accusing her defense-attorney opponent of defending — gasp! — accused criminals, faces a Wednesday hearing before Fifth Circuit Court Judge Michelle Morley regarding charges that she violated four judicial canons on her way to victory last fall.

And our readers are weighing in on whether she should resign from the bench.

This morning, Lee Ann Grieser of Lantana, suggested just that:

Dana Santino wants a double standard that allows her to forget about ethics and break the rules while she sits in judgment of other rule breakers (“Santino says she broke rules in election but still fit to be judge,” Friday). There’s enough hypocrisy in public life without this.

Gregg Lerman was absolutely correct when he said her letter of apology several months after the election was “too little, too late.” It reeks of crocodile tears from Santino. If Santino is “deeply remorseful” for violating judicial canons mandating professional competence, dignity, and integrity of the judiciary, she will make a public apology and resign immediately.

She could then spend some time reading the U.S. Constitution where the Sixth Amendment guarantees criminal defendants the right to an attorney.

Santino and Lerman, a longtime criminal defense attorney, waged a pitched battle for the county judge seat, which went to a runoff where Santino beat Lerman by about 2 percent. She is now serving as a county judge.

But among her campaign tactics was a Facebook page called “The Truth About Gregg Lerman,” which listed the victims of criminal clients Lerman had represented. The page was taken down after complaints from other defense attorneys.

“If you look at the Facebook page made on her behalf, it made me look like I was a murderer and a rapist and child molester,” Lerman said.

Lerman, who received a letter of apology from Santino on Friday, told the Post that he wasn’t surprised by her admissions or swayed by her apology, which he described as too little, too late.

“She is trying to protect herself from the Facebook page, which was the most egregious,” said Lerman, who filed a complaint that led to charges by the commission. But, he said, Santino’s task will be difficult. “The email and the Facebook page say the same things,” he said

Earlier this month, the investigative panel of the state Judicial Qualifications Commission filed charges with the Florida Supreme Court against Santino, alleging she violated a judicial canon that declares a candidate for judge must maintain the “dignity appropriate to the judicial office.”

Morley, chair of a panel that will make recommendations to the Florida Supreme Court. Punishment for violation of judicial canons can range from a reprimand to removal from office.

Take our poll here on what you think should happen: