Rhonda Hollander P.A.
The Quarterly Brief

Daily Busines Review Article 12/5/2012

Former Broward traffic magistrate Rhonda Hollander tries to repair her reputation

December 5th, 2012 | By 

The former senior Broward County traffic magistrate was cleared of a 2011 assault charge and is now trying to rehabilitate her legal reputation. 

With the dismissal of a criminal charge against former Broward traffic magistrate Rhonda Hollander, the Dania Beach real estate attorney hopes to rebuild her damaged reputation. 

Hollander was arrested June 30, 2011, on a felony charge of assault of an officer. The original report of the arresting officer, Broward sheriff's Deputy Darlene Harden, claimed Hollander followed Willie Jackson Jr. into a men's room at the west satellite courthouse in Plantation to take his photograph just as he was about to urinate.  Minutes later, after Jackson complained, Harden demanded to inspect Hollander's cellphone. During the confrontation, Harden alleged the attorney lunged at her in an attempt to bite her finger. 

At an Oct. 8 hearing, Broward County Court Judge Joseph Murphy said there were issues with Harden's credibility.  During testimony, it was revealed Harden wrote four drafts of her report that were not approved by her supervisor. 

"The court finds, number one, that it would have liked to have seen the first four drafts of the report," Murphy said.

Harden never determined the relationship between Hollander and the two men she followed out of a foreclosure hearing. She represented a Tamarac condominium association in a dispute with a delinquent owner. Hollander was trying to determine who should be served with eviction papers. 

Either Jackson or Brandon Johnson, who attended the hearing, appeared to be the unit owner. But they did not respond to Hollander's questions, and she used her cellphone to take a photograph for identification purposes when they turned and ran. 

Michael Dutko, Hollander's attorney, questioned Johnson about the rest room incident and maintained Hollander was immediately behind Jackson when he entered the rest room, snapped his reflection in the mirror and left. Johnson said his friend ducked into the rest room to avoid Hollander and did not use a urinal while she was there. 

Johnson also testified about the confrontation between the deputy and Hollander. Harden found Hollander at a judge's chambers and barred her from leaving the courthouse. Johnson described a heated argument about handing over the cellphone and the reason for Hollander's detention.

He said Hollander, who was physically smaller, never threatened the deputy. 

Murphy said Harden's conduct and the various versions of events clearly indicated the deputy believed it was illegal to take pictures and she had a right to delete them from Hollander's phone.

"There are some people who believe it's illegal to take pictures in the courthouse, and it is not," Murphy said at the hearing.

Murphy granted Hollander's motion to suppress Harden's testimony Oct. 29. The charge, already reduced to misdemeanor assault, was dropped by the state attorney's office. 

Hollander told the Daily Business Review she was kept in custody overnight on her 26th wedding anniversary and was never allowed a phone call.  "My husband found out I was in jail through the rumor mill. Someone in the sheriff's office called someone who called someone else to tell him," she said.  The incident also scratched her plan to take her son to Disney World the day after her court appearance.  

More importantly, she resigned as a magistrate, a position she had held for 20 years.

"I was given 60 days to get this case resolved, and that wasn't going to happen.  It was so embarrassing to the judiciary, and I didn't want to hurt the bench any further," Hollander said.

"It also ruined my standing as a mediator. I had become perceived as this psychotic person who couldn't be used anymore." 

The bizarre nature of the arrest became international news. Only Hollander's real estate practice remains more or less intact. She worries it may be years before her name is fully rehabilitated.