State Senator Bobby Powell, Jr. (D-West Palm) on Wednesday filed a complaint with the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission about Judge John S. Kastrenakes of the 15th Judicial Circuit of Florida for violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct in the case of Deandre Somerville oversleeping and missing jury duty.
“Judge Kastrenakes acted in an unprecedented manner to unfairly punish one individual for a minor transgression, singling him out as an example solely because of his race,” wrote Senator Powell in a letter to the Commission. “The judge later rescinded his original punishment after succumbing to public scrutiny. According to Florida’s Code of Judicial Conduct, a judge shall perform judicial duties without bias or prejudice and shall not be swayed by partisan interests, public clamor, or fear of criticism. Judge Kastrenakes has evidently violated the Code of the Judicial Conduct and has engaged in misfeasance in his official duties as the 15th Judicial Circuit Court Judge.”
On August 21, 21-year-old Deandre Somerville of West Palm Beach, FL was scheduled for jury duty, but accidently slept through the beginning of the trial. As a result, Judge Kastrenakes sent the police to serve Somerville with an order to appear in court. At the September 20 contempt hearing, Judge Kastrenakes found Mr. Somerville guilty of contempt and imposed an excessive penalty of 10 days in jail, a year of probation and 150 hours of community service, despite having no prior criminal history.
At the October 4 hearing appealing the contempt conviction, Judge Kastrenakes went on to further chastise Mr. Somerville for failing to appear for jury duty because of his race, stating that “He was the only African American on the jury, representing a cross-section of the community, and he decided on his own that it wasn’t worth his time.” At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Kastrenakes agreed to reduce Mr. Somerville’s sentence to three months of probation and 30 hours of community service.
After mounting public pressure, Judge Kastrenakes decided to rescind the remainder of Mr. Somerville’s punishment the next day and vacate his conviction for contempt.
“Judge Kastrenakes’s actions in this case were shameful, unjust and a moral stain on our community, which is why I am requesting that the Commission immediately investigate this matter and discipline Judge Kastrenakes accordingly,” said Senator Powell.
Senator Powell’s letter to the Judicial Qualifications Committee can be found HERE.