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The Judge Who Did Not Conform

Sunday, June 25, 2006 - Citizens for Judicial Accountability


J udge Gregory Holder
Gregory Holder was elected county judge in 1994. In 1996 J udge Holder was elected Circuit J udge for
Thirteenth J udicial Circuit, Hillsborough County, Florida. His latest assignment was in the family law
division. J udge Holder has a reputation for speaking his mind and for being extremely open with the
press. He has the attitude that the entire justice system belongs to the people, that there should be
nothing to hide and that the public should know what is going on. J udge Holder refused to be drawn into
"inside politics" by dishonest Hillsborough judges. J udge Holder was bent on rooting out and ridding the
court system of corruption.
On J uly 26, 2000 J udge Holder left for Reserve Military Duty. J udge Holder claimed he publicized that
he will be gone. On J uly 27, 2000 at 5:20 P.M. J udge Robert Bonanno a Hillsborough Circuit Court
judge entered the office of J udge Gregory Holder and adjacent areas. It was alleged that the door to
the office was locked and the same key opened J udge Holders office as J udge Bonannos. J udge
Holders bailiff returned to the office to pick up some of her belongings when she discovered J udge
Bonanno in J udge Holders office. J udge Holder kept news clippings and e-mail and other
documentation on the activities in the courthouse in his office.
When J udge Holder returned he requested an investigation of this "break in". It was widely publicized by
the news media and exploded into a scandal. The matter was taken up by the Florida J udicial
Qualifications. A grand jury was also convened. Commencing on October 3, 2000 secret hearings were
conducted. However, at a later date the transcript of the grand jury hearing was made public. The
transcript contains interesting testimony, which offers some insight into what goes on in the courthouse,
that is what should not.
J udge Holder testified on October 11, 2000 that he was suspicious of the illicit affair that the married
J udge Bonanno had with the female deputy clerk in charge of the assignment of the cases in the clerks
office. He questioned the assignment of cases of certain attorneys to J udge Bonanno. J udge Holder
further stated that he was told by court personnel that that there were large sums of cash in a safe
deposit box co-owned by another judge in the courthouse with a deputy sheriff, but did not know the
source of that money. That he also heard that that judge was soliciting funds from lawyers for reelection
of the County Sheriff, which was in violation of the J udicial Canons. J udge Holder was concerned, that
because judges have tremendous authority and power over the lawyers that come before them, they
can easily say to them:
"Look I want you to give a maximum contribution of $500 to the Sheriffs re-election
campaign yeah any lawyer that practices in front of me would probably say, Yes, sir,
J udge I will do that. Well, that is absolutely contrary to our J udicial Code, but more
importantly, may constitute extortion or some other violation of Florida law..
And I am absolutely offended at some the behavior thats gone on in this courthouse for a
long time..We are paid to do a job. Were paid a god salary. And I look at it as a higher
calling. You know, some would say we have all this power. Its not about power, and it
shouldnt be. It ought to be about doing the right thing, about, you know, exercising that
discretion that has been given by the people. You know, we put our hand on a Bible when
were sworn in and we swear, not affirm, we dont affirm, we swear that we will uphold
the laws of the State of Florida, the Constitution of the State of Florida and that we will
serve the people that elect us or appoint us, people that pay our salaries. You know, and
thats what it ought to be about. And for some reason some of us in this courthouse have
lost sight of that goal, that aspiration goal, I think we should have.
You know, my life has been a case study for the ethics courses that I teach over at the
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University of Phoenix because I have spoken out, I have bucked the system, I have gone
public. And Ill be honest with you, but for the media involvement about a year ago, I dont
think the J QC case with J udge Ed Ward would nave gone anywhere. It would have died.
It would have been swept under the rug and he would still be a judge today. And hed still
be allowed to inflict the damage on the women that he inflicted for many years in this
courthouse using that robe and that office to absolutely destroy these women.
Chief J udge Dennis Alvarez also testified before the grand jury on October 25, 2000. J udge Alvarez
acknowledged, that among his duties as Chief J udge was to make sure that the judges are at work
doing their jobs, watching their calendars. That he would try to sit down with the judges if he comes in
late, and where a judge violated a law, a criminal violation, "my responsibility would go first to the State
Attorney and/or the Hillsborough County Sheriffs office." But, J udge Alvarez said he would meet with
the judge to find out what the problem is. He would contact the J QC who would also try to sit down on
a one and one basis with the judge. If it did not succeed then a Notice of Inquiry would be sent out by
the J QC. When, J udge Alvarez was asked what was the general reputation of J udge Holder amongst
the judiciary he made clear that he was not popular because
"Hes been perceived as a leak to the media. He likes the limelight. Thats anytime
J udge Holders seen talking to a reporter from the news media, a day or two later there
will be a story in the newspaper. He would be quoted in matters that dont have to do with
his division or outside of his area as to which hes assigned. But hes considered the
leak of the courthouse."
As part of his testimony one the attorneys stated before the grand jury on October 25, 2000 that,
"Ive probably been contacted by virtually everyone in this building about giving a campaign
contribution. You know, I mean, many of these judges raise funds for the sake of basically
driving away oppositionfrom the Clerk of Court right up to, you know most of the
judges, yes. The judges are not permitted to solicit funds themselves. But, they have
people raising funds for them."
He explained that committees are set up to raise funds and the lawyers contact other lawyers. That "by
the time you get hit by all the candidates, you might be talking about a campaign cycle of where youve
given away a fair amount of money".
On October 11, 2000 J udge Holders bailiff gave testimony to the grand jury describing the X rated
activities going on in a judges courtroom adjacent to J udge Holders court. She stated she was told
what happened in that judges court by his former girlfriend, who was a bailiff to another judge. The
judge who was married, wanted to have a pole installed in his office so that this young woman, the
bailiff, could dance on the pole like they do in a strip club. (Well, obviously this is the new version of the
judicial poll.) The judge wanted the young woman to wear his robe with no clothes on underneath
because he wanted her to feel the power that his robe had. The judge had a new sofa brought in
purchased at public expense so that he could have his sexual pleasures on the sofa. She also traveled
with him. He enjoyed wearing her T-back underwear. While J udge Holder was holding court this judge
next door would be conducting his affair with his judicial assistant in the closet and so forth. This judge
has since resigned.
A sealed grand jury report, regarding J udge Bonanno was released by the grand jury, on J une 19,
2001. The grand jury recommended, the resignation or removal of J udge Bonanno. The grand jury found
that J udge Bonanno gave "conflicting answers" to the question of when or why he was in J udge Holders
office. The jury also found that J udge Bonanno "lost the credibility necessary for a judge" by virtue of
the "incredible and conflicting accounts he had given about the incident, but could not determine
"whether his observation and memory are faulty or he is just plain lying." The grand jury also cited
"incontrovertible evidence" that J udge Bonanno carried on an illicit affair with a court clerk, on public
time on public property. The two spent time together in J udge Bonannos offices, and even attended a
judicial conference together in Ft. Lauderdale. The grand jury concluded that, "because of his lack of
credibility and his conduct of his personal life he is no longer fit to be a judge".
The J udicial Qualification Commission took this as a mere recommendation over which they could pass
their judgment. In a Report and Recommendation issued in September 2001 they made the finding that
J udge Bonanno should not be removed but receive only a public reprimand from the Florida Supreme
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Court. The J QC whitewashed his illegal entry into J udge Holders office as not intentional and his illicit
affair with the deputy clerk (the assignment clerk) as a private consensual affair and also disregarded
other charges made against J udge Bonanno.
However, it did not end here because the matter was also taken up by the Florida Legislature. Rep.
Larry Crow the chairman of the House J udicial Oversight Committee announced that his staff would
conduct a preliminary review of the allegations against J udge Bonanno. House Speaker Tom Feeney,
directed Crows committee to consider whether the Legislature should move ahead with impeachment
against Bonanno. The hearings did get underway in Tampa. J udge Bonanno was summoned to appear
to answer questions concerning his professional and personal life, the financing of a $450,000 house
and accusations that he sealed cases and did favors for relatives and friends. On December 26, 2001
J udge Robert Bonanno resigned from the bench effective J anuary 21, 2001, leaving these questions
unanswered. The J QC treated the matter as moot. Chief J udge Alvarez retired at age of 56 during the
summer of 2001.
Well, it would be expected that J udge Holder would receive appreciation and some form of recognition
for ridding the courthouse of judges unfit to serve the public. But, the good ol boys club was obviously
seeking to retaliate against J udge Holder and embarked to remove him from the bench.
On November 9, 2001 the J udicial Qualifications Commission at its meeting in Orlando, Florida instituted
formal charges against J udge Holder which had nothing to do with his performance on the bench, for
allegedly providing "false or misleading" information on a federal judgeship application. The J QC
charged that the application was submitted by J udge Holder on or about May 2001 in which he was
asked:
"Have you ever been disciplined or cited for a breach of ethics or unprofessional conduct
by, or been the subject of a complaint to any court, administrative agency, bar
association, disciplinary committee, or other professional group. If so give particulars.''
J udge Holder answered "No". But, the J QC's investigative panel said J udge Holder
"met twice with the Chairman of the J QC to be admonished concerning your conduct as a
result of complaints filed against you by the J QC. The answer was also false or
misleading in view of complaints made against you to the chief judge of your circuit, of
which you had been aware."
By the J QCs own contentions for the most part the charges arose from J udge Holders communications
with the media. Obviously, J udge Holder was to be penalized and stopped from public disclosure of the
scandal at the courthouse. The J QC said that (1) on or about March 1998 J udge Holder was requested
to come to the chambers of Chief J udge Alvarez. Also present in chambers were the J QC General
Counsel and the J QC Chairman who it was claimed admonished J udge Holder for remarks he made to
the press on an appellate decision reversing his decision. (2) That even before this meeting J udge
Holder was cautioned by Chief J udge Alvarez about making public remarks concerning the Thirteenth
Circuit judiciary; and (3) On or about February 9, 2001 J udge Holder was again confronted by the J QC
Chairman and was advised of a complaint against him for throwing handcuffs on his desk in heated
hearing in his courtroom, which one of the attorneys considered as threatening to him and his client.
Based on these charges the J QC sought public reprimand and/or the removal of J udge Holder from the
bench.
J udge Holder responded that, he had made a prior application for federal judgeship in J anuary 4, 1999
and May 27, 2000, all of which were after that 1998 meeting in J udge Alvarez office and he gave the
same answer to the same question in these applications, without resulting in any investigation by the
J QC. J udge Holder said he didn't provide details of those discussions in his unsworn federal application
because he believed those discussions were informal, did not result in formal charges and that he was
specifically told that it was to be kept confidential and not to be disclosed to anyone. As to the
incidence with the handcuffs J udge Holder explained it was a raucous family law hearing, one attorney
calling the other a liar on which no charges were filed against him. However, that was to remain
confidential as well. J udge Holder further said that he did not intend to make any misleading statements
in his application for federal court judgeship, and he even signed a waiver as to all documents from any
source as to his qualification for judicial office.
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Ironically, while the objective of the J QC was to eliminate publicity, the Holder case generated wide
media coverage and public outcry. (See, one of those news articles below) J udge Holder wanted to
make all the records concerning the J QC proceedings in his case public but, the J QC opposed it. The
J QC went to the extent of retaining noted attorney Barry Richard , (who represented President George
W. Bush during the 2000 election recount) to make sure the records about J udge Holder would stay
secret and to fight newspaper requests to inspect those records. This came at a time when the state
House of Representatives was preparing for hearings on an amendment to the Florida Constitutional to
make the J QC records public (which never came to pass).
The matter came to an end with a Stipulation entered into between J udge Holder and the J QC. J udge
Holder was required to admit that regardless of what he believed the discussion with members of the
J QC was whether informal and/or confidential his answer to the question on the application for federal
judgeship "was incorrect given the Commissions broad interpretation of this question." J udge Holder "
was required to acknowledge that the Commissions interpretation on that question was correct" and
that "in hindsight, regrets his answer to the question" and that he "apologizes for his error to the
Commission and the citizens of the Thirteenth J udicial Circuit, State of Florida". On J une 6, 2002 the
Florida Supreme Court approved the Stipulation and dismissed the Notice of Formal Charges against
J udge Holder.
New attacks were made against J udge Holder by the J udicial Qualifications Commission in J uly, 2003.
J udge Holder was charged with plagiarizing a paper he submitted to the Air Force as a reservist. To
see the formal charges by the J udicial Qualification Commission click on
http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/pub_info/jqc/index.shtml
J udge Holder denied those charges. 38 witnesses are to testify for J udge Holder at a hearing to
decide whether Holder should be suspended pending an investigation. A final evidentiary hearing was
scheduled before the J udicial Qualifications Commission Hearing Panel on the Formal Charges for
J anuary 20, 2004 at the Hillsborough County Courthouse, Tampa Florida. The hearing panel is to
consist of two judges, two lawyers and two lay members. That hearing has been continued. J udge
Holder filed a motion to dismiss on the ground that the matter was investigated by the Air Force and no
wrongdoing was found by J udge Holder and so the charges which are based on the same occurrences
by the J QC should be dismissed. The J QC in its response has rejected the determination by the Air
Force saying that it was not upon evidence and testimony at a trial. The J QC denied the motion to
dismiss without prejudice to raise it based on evidence and argument at the final hearing on the
charges. The matter has now been set for final hearing for J une 14, 2004, but that hearing has been
continued. A new date for the hearing before the J QC was set for September 20, 2004. However, that
date was continued because of the hurricane. The trial is now rest J une 6, pursuant to Report of the
the state J udicial Qualifications Commission on the charge that Holder plagiarized a 1998 research
paper as an officer in the Air Force Reserve.
To read News Articles on the Holder story and on the J udicial Clique click here.

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