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Judge sentences car in his spot to lockdown

When Judge Stanley Mills finds his reserved place taken, he blocks the car in for hours.

Published September 12, 2006

[Times photo: Julia Kumari Drapkin]
Nicole Delameter waits for Circuit Judge Stanley Mills to move his car. He blockaded her vehicle in his reserved spot.

It's Your Times: What do you think?

NEW PORT RICHEY - You don't tug on Superman's cape. You don't pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger.

And you never, ever, pull into Circuit Judge Stanley Mills' parking spot.

Nichole Delameter spent all day Monday learning that lesson while cooling her flip-flops at the West Pasco Judicial Center.

Mills made Delameter sit in his courtroom for much of the morning after she parked in his reserved spot. He used his 2005 Cadillac to block in her 1990 Oldsmobile until he left at the end of the day.

Delameter , of New Port Richey, swears she thought the "reserved" sign meant it was reserved for those going to court.

"I'm very, very sorry," Delameter, 26, told a reporter. "I'll never do it again in a million, million years."

For the second time in two weeks the Pinellas-Pasco circuit judge arrived for morning court to find another vehicle in his spot. And just like last week, he pulled behind it, parking perpendicular to the offending vehicle and blocking it in.

Last week he didn't move his car, the judge said Monday, until the errant driver got this lecture in court: "There's two perks to the job," Mills said. "I have my own bathroom, and I have my own parking spot, and you're not going to get to use either."

Delameter had to sit in the judge's courtroom for more than three hours - and she had come only to give her sister a ride to a boyfriend's court hearing.

Is this an example of a judge abusing his power?

"Forget that it's a judge for a while," said Stetson University College of Law professor Robert Batey. "If you've got a reserved parking spot that someone else parks in, I might be tempted to block them in."

It might be an abuse of judicial power, Batey said, to have the driver arrested. Delameter got only a $10 ticket, and Mills said he didn't have anything to do with that.

Judicial Qualifications Commission executive director Brooke Kennerly remembers a Panhandle judge who locked up a delivery truck driver for taking his spot. That judge was removed for a pattern of arrogance on the bench. And Kennerly, whose commission investigates judicial misconduct, said years ago she parked in a judge's spot - and got blocked in.

In Pasco, Monday's was the latest parking skirmish in a lot full of them. Parking at the old courthouse remains scarce. Instead of parking in the back of the West Pasco Government Center, drivers get creative in front of the courthouse entrance, parking on the grass, in the dirt, even on curbs.

Then there's the handful of reserved spots for top officials. Mills, a former prosecutor who became a judge in 1989, said he catches people trying to park there all the time. In the morning bailiffs shoo drivers away from the spots.

Circuit Judge Daniel Diskey said he has blocked folks in, too, but declined to elaborate on Monday.

Why does Mills do it?

To teach people a lesson, he said. If judges can't park, they can't get to court, they can't get to work, and nothing in the courthouse gets done, he said.

"People park in there for the same reason that they park in a handicapped spot," Mills said. "They're lazy, they don't want to walk very far and they don't care about other people's rights. They just do what they want to do.

"So I'm going to do the same thing they do to them every time they take a spot that belongs to us. They're completely ignoring us, so I'm just going to ignore them."

The judge did just that Monday, ignoring Delameter as she sat in his courtroom.

At first bailiffs told Delameter she wasn't allowed to leave the courthouse. Batey, the law professor, said that might have been improper.

Then Assistant Public Defender Dean Livermore spoke to the judge. Delameter was then told she could leave, but the judge's car was staying.

Delameter said it was the only spot she could find before 9 a.m. She doesn't remember the lot ever being so crowded.

Her last visit was back in 2005, when Mills sentenced her to a year in prison for violating probation for forgery and grand theft. It wasn't clear whether the judge remembered her Monday.

Delameter had to cancel her 7-year-old daughter's dentist appointment and get the girl's father to pick her up from school. She got a ride from a friend so she could pick up her 4-year-old niece and 2-year-old nephew from day care. The judge said she should have thought about the kids before she parked illegally.

It was 3:30 p.m. in the parking lot when remorse gave way to anger. While Mills was still working, his judicial assistant kept moving the Cadillac to let other judges get in and out of their spots. But Delameter's car was still stuck.

All around her, vehicles were parked illegally, on the grass, on the curb. So Delameter asked: Isn't the judge parked illegally, too?

"What makes him so special that he can do that and no one else can," she said. "Just because he's a judge it makes him a better person?

"He's a judge, he's supposed to obey the law, not break it." Soon she left with her friend.

Mills finally left at 4:20 p.m. Delameter came back at 5:10 p.m.

So was the judge's car parked illegally?

"I don't know," Mills said. "Did someone give me a ticket?"

[Last modified September 17, 2006, 13:26:34]

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