Martin Zilber did everything right to achieve the privilege of donning a black robe and being addressed as “judge.” He had been a traffic magistrate. He applied for the job through the exhaustive Judicial Nominating Commission process.
Then he blew it.
He’s not the first judge in Miami-Dade County to let the position go to his head and, unfortunately, he’s not likely to be the last. In this town, we’ve seen drunks on the bench, racists dispensing “justice” to Black defendants and sexists who abused the women who work for them and the female attorneys in their courtrooms. Those disgraces to the bench in no way represent their colleagues, who carry out their awesome responsibilities with integrity, day in and day out. We understand that judges, too, are human.
Zilber, a Miami-Dade circuit judge, resigned Friday after going MIA too many times, skipping out when he should have been at work. In addition, he ordered his staff to run personal errands for him and made life hell for his assistant, complaining that it was inconvenient for her to be pregnant, making her assemble a scrapbook of his achievements and telling her to lift his chair onto the dais before hearings.
Zilber copped to all of this. The Judicial Qualifications Commission recommended to the Florida Supreme Court that he be suspended for 60 days and pay a $30,000 fine. The Editorial Board thought that was awfully lenient.
The Supreme Court kicked it back to JQC for fuller consideration. Not a good sign for Zilber, but he clearly knew what it implied. He resigned. Good.
As a rule, we believe in second chances. But for a position as elevated as judge, we think late poet Maya Angelou was on point: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”