Miami judge who skipped work, used staff for personal errands resigns from the bench

·3 min read

The Miami-Dade judge who faced discipline for skipping work and making his staff run personal errands has stepped down from the bench.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Martin Zilber on Friday submitted his letter of resignation, a little more than a month after he publicly accepted responsibility for his misconduct.

The Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission, at the time, recommended that Zilber be suspended for 60 days and fined $30,000. Weeks later, however, the Florida Supreme Court rejected the proposed discipline, sending his case back to the commission for a full hearing and paving the way for a possible formal removal.

Instead, Zilber resigned effective Friday evening. In his brief letter to Chief Judge Bertila Soto, Zilber made no reference to his troubles. “It has been my honor and privilege to serve the people of Miami-Dade County,” he wrote.

He was the second Miami-Dade judge to resign in the past month. County Judge Miguel Mirabal, resigned on April 30, just three months after assuming the bench following his fall election. The Daily Business Review reported that Mirabal resigned “amid allegations of misconduct. stemming from the time before he became a judge.

Zilber did not answer a call to his cell phone on Monday. According to the commission, he routinely engaged in “inappropriate” treatment of his staff, including berating his judicial assistant and commenting on the “inconvenient timing of her pregnancy.”

He also required the assistant, Dixidela Dent, to work on a scrapbook chronicling his achievements. Once, according to the commission, he asked his pregnant assistant to wheel his chair up “several floors to the courtroom and then lift it onto the dais prior to hearings.”

Dent’s lawyer, Bruce Jacobs, had called the proposed discipline a “slap on the wrist” and asked the Supreme Court to mete out harsher discipline.

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The judicial commission also said that Dent and his bailiff were required to drive Zilber to various events. His bailiff was also asked to register the judge’s car with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, and pick up the Art Basel tickets, during work hours.

The probe also found that between January 2019 and March 2020, Zilber was absent from the courthouse 51 days, without notifying his superiors, and he often left work early. After the pandemic forced most hearings to go virtual, Zilber took a “week-long” vacation to Malibu, California. He later claimed “he was going to be working remotely anyway,” and he did do some work. But the probe found that he rescheduled his regular hearings that week — and four “special set” hearings were actually social or educational meetings, such as a Cuban American Bar Association luncheon.

On Monday, Jacobs praised his client for comming forward.

“Brave people like Dixie understand the importance of integrity and honesty in the judiciary. She believes the constitution is at stake,” Jacobs said. “She came forward, at great risk, to speak truth to power. She was blacklisted from the legal community and even her husband told her to move on. When Dixie’s husband saw Judge Zilber resigned, he told her how proud he was of her for standing up for her beliefs.”

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