Florida: hearing on “Judicial Accountability” bill, would force judges off of criminal cases if racial disparity in sentencing found

A hearing has been set for next week before the Florida Senate’s Criminal Justice committee on a bill that could force judges to recuse if they are found to be handing down disproportionate sentences to members of minority groups.

Under SB 382 as discussed here the legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) would be required to collect data on all criminal sentences handed down over the previous 5 calendar years. Data would include:

(a) The judge who presided over each trial.
(b) The judge who presided over the sentencing phase.
(c) The circuit in which, and the specific location of the court at which, each case was heard.
(d) Each offense for which the defendant was convicted or entered a plea of nolo contendere.
(e) The range of possible sentences for each offense.
(f) The sentence imposed for each offense, including, but not limited to, any fines or jail, prison, probation, or other imposed terms.
(g) Demographic information about the defendant, including, but not limited to:

1. Age.
2. Sex.
3. Race.
4. Income.
5. Prior criminal history.

If OPPAGA’s analysis found evidence of disparity in sentencing by a judge with regard to any demographic group, the judge would be disqualified from any case involving a member of that demographic group, pursuant to s. 38.10.

Additionally, OPPAGA’s judge-by-judge reports would be delivered to the individual judge as well as the Governor, Chief Justice, and Legislative leaders.