Judge Wilfredo Martinez recused himself on Tuesday from the case of a former state lawmaker after WFTV/9 Investigates uncovered a connection between the two.
Former state representative-turned-lobbyist Chris Dorworth pleaded not guilty to violating Florida’s open meeting law after accusations of discussing a takeover of the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority.
Martinez was to hear motions in the case on Friday, but instead took himself off the case after Channel 9 discovered Dorworth helped get Martinez appointed to the Ninth Circuit Court in November 2010.
WTFV Reporter Shannon Butler learned several in the Orange County legal community asked Dorworth to vouch for Martinez after his nomination for the Circuit Court to replace retiring Judge Cynthia MacKinnon.
Richard Hornsby, Dorwoth’s attorney, said he discussed Butler’s information with his client, who verified it was true. All Dorworth did was contact the chief of staff of then-Gov. Charlie Crist’s to express his support, Hornsby added.
“It should be noted that Mr. Dorworth does not know Judge Martinez personally and expressed his support for Judge Martinez based on the recommendation of the members of the legal community who approached him,” Hornsby said.
Legal analyst Bill Schaeffer told Channel 9 that Dorworth’s recommendation is sufficient reason for the judge to transfer the case to someone else.
“To avoid the appearance of impropriety, and to protect the public perception of the judicial system,” Schaeffer said, “Judge Martinez should step down from this case.”