Judge in Chris Dorworth case backs off after reporter uncovers conflict of interest

in Uncategorized by

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.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.