“Unruly Judge” premiers on YouTube in heated Martz-Downey judicial raceby Jane Musgrave | July 27th, 2012
When Palm Beach County Circuit Judge James Martz laced into attorney Margherita Downey last year he didn’t expect to become an Internet sensation.
But a heavily-edited version of his verbal smack down was posted on YouTube yesterday as part of efforts to help Downey unseat Martz in the Aug. 14 nonpartisan election.
Titled “Unruly Judge,” the 1:08-minute video shows Martz telling Downey: “Stop talking when I’m talking. You don’t get to do that. I do. I’m the only guy who gets to interrupt in this room.”
He goes on to tell her that if she doesn’t like it, “You can go out there and sign up on the ballot and run to be a judge.”
Unfortunately for Martz, Downey took his advice.
A voice over on the video questions whether Martz violated the code of judicial conduct which requires judges to be “patient, dignified and courteous” to those who appear before them. It also suggests that he robbed Downey of her constitutional right to remain silent.
For those who might not be YouTube regulars, a link to the video is showing up in the email-boxes of government officials. Palm Beach County Commissioner Paulette Burdick was sent a link to it by her aide Peyton McArthur, a longtime Democratic activist.
“It’s not a flattering piece,” Martz acknowledges. But, he said, it is also “incredibly misleading.”
He was angry at Downey for refusing his order to talk to the attorney who was representing the other spouse in a divorce. Attorneys are required to talk to each other to exchange information. It’s a simple rule and attorneys know to follow it, he said.
There was no attempt to get Downey to compromise her or her client’s 5th Amendment right to remain silent, he added. It was an effort to get the attorneys to talk about contested issues so the divorce and others in the pipeline could move forward.
Martz said he questions whether Downey violated the lawyer’s code of ethics which requires them to be civil, cooperate with each other and follow judicial orders.
Attorney Joel Weissman, who was in the courtroom when the exchange took place, called Downey’s behavior “reprehensible.” By refusing to follow Martz’s order, she was thumbing her nose not just at Martz but the entire judicial system, he said.
Downey wasn’t immediately available for comment. Martz suggested she may have violated campaign laws because there is no disclaimer on the video saying who paid for the video which includes the message: “Vote for Downey.”
Unlike other campaign ads, videos posted on YouTube are exempt from disclosure laws, said Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher. For those who want to read the entire exchange between Martz and Downey, here’s a transcript of the proceedings.