Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers - Miami Chapter

Judge Sherer letter

President: Michael Davis

President-Elect: Dianne Carames

Vice-President: Lauren Krasnoff

Secretary: Zena Duncan

Treasurer: Keyla Smith

Executive Director:  Arlen Santa Maria

Immediate Past-President:  Kevin Hellman

Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers – Miami Chapter

November 22, 2022November 22, 2022

Hon.  Jack Tuter

Chief Judge, Seventeenth Judicial Circuit

Broward County Courthouse

201 SE 6th Street

Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33301


RE: Judge Elizabeth Scherer

Dear Chief Judge Tuter, 

We are writing on behalf of the entire membership of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers – Miami Chapter, to express our utmost concern regarding Judge Elizabeth Scherer’s behavior during the trial and sentencing of Nikolas Cruz. As members of the Criminal Defense Bar, our mandate is to ensure the rights of the accused while fostering the integrity of our judicial system and, when necessary, to diligently raise issues that jeopardize either. We therefore are obligated to speak out about Judge Scherer’s extraordinary breach of judicial integrity during Mr. Cruz’s trial and the danger that her behavior poses to the rights of all of the accused who appear before her. 

Accordingly, we implore you to take action to ensure such a failure does not happen again, by immediately, and permanently, removing her from the criminal division. 

Judge Scherer’s antagonistic demeanor towards the defense lawyers in the Cruz case and other unrelated criminal matters not only compromises the integrity of the judicial system, but also degrades the public’s faith in equal justice under the law. Our judicial system is founded on the bedrock principles of integrity, impartiality, and fairness. Defense lawyers accordingly fulfill this integral role required by our state and federal Constitutions, and promote fundamental standards of fairness and equal treatment under the rule of law. 

Through her behavior, Judge Scherer consistently fails to uphold these fundamental standards by repeatedly showing signs of favoritism toward the prosecution while unprofessionally admonishing defense attorneys and others appearing before her. In order to ensure respect for our system of justice, it is imperative to correspondingly respect the role of the defense counsel. A judge who does not promote this standard of integrity and compliance with law jeopardizes the purpose of the judicial process and is unfit to serve on the criminal bench.

Judge Scherer’s demeaning of the minimal standards of justice threatens the meaning of justice in every future criminal case. Accordingly, we urge you to restrain the judge’s dangerous behavior and protect the fundamental tenets of the criminal justice system, by transferring Judge Scherer to a civil division. Observations by members of our organization indicate that Judge Scherer displays this behavior throughout the spectrum of her criminal cases. Her behavior in the Cruz case, although extreme, was not atypical. This is a real problem that you must address immediately.

Our concerns are not meant to dismiss the agonizing and incomprehensible impact the Parkland massacre had on our community. Nor do we mean to suggest that our grievances are rooted in disagreement with her legal rulings in any given case.

However, the entire community is best served when its members have faith in the integrity of the legal system. People around our country and even the world watched the Cruz sentencing hearing to view the process of justice in view of the great harm endured by victims and families. The Court – Judge Scherer – had a responsibility to arbitrate impartially and fairly to all litigants and counsel. Instead, Judge Scherer was hostile, dismissive, and biased against the defense counsel and their team, including elected Public Defender Gordon Weeks, and at least one Miami-Dade Public Defenderat least one Miami defense attorney, who  also had to appearalso appeared before her in connection with the case. Regrettably, Judge Scherer’s incomprehensibly poor behavior is not limited to the Cruz case. Rather, it is on full display day after day in her courtroom. 

Continuing to allow Judge Scherer to preside over criminal matters tacitly authorizes prejudicing defendants appearing before her and jeopardizes the role of the defense attorneys representing them. The actions and decisions taken by Judge Scherer also have obvious implications that supersede the confines of Broward County. For members of FACDL–Miami,  some of these decisions have even harsher implications. Many of our members have, or will have, cases in Broward County. We are not only committed, but required, to advocate for our clients with zeal. Members of FACDL–Miami share a deep concern  for our ability to provide the best defense possible for our clients whose cases are assigned to Judge Scherer. Moreover, because we are on the same media network as Broward County, we share the same potential pool of jurors. Her conduct affects cases in Miami Dade, Broward, and throughout the state of Florida and the nation. As members of FACDL-Miami, we are deeply concerned with how Judge Scherer’s demonstrated practices will inhibit the sincerity and dedication of attorneys not only in our cases, but also the cases of defense attorneys everywhere.   

The unwarranted, unprofessional, and unconstitutional behavior that Judge Scherer presented throughout the Cruz sentencing poses dramatic threats to our judicial system. The principles and morals that guide us are uncompromising in their essence and we cannot sacrifice them by allowing one unsuitable personality to continue to preside over criminal matters. Therefore, on behalf of the entire member of  FACDL–Miami, we respectfully ask you to take immediate action by removing Judge Scherer from the criminal division.