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Holloway denies trying to sway fellow judge

By SUE CARLTON

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 21, 2000


TAMPA -- A judge accused of interfering in a child custody case denied Wednesday that she tried to influence a fellow judge and a detective.

In October, the Judicial Qualifications Commission charged that Hillsborough Circuit Judge Cynthia Holloway abused her position and made sworn statements inconsistent with what actually happened in the case.

The accusations center on a bitter custody dispute over a young girl, whose mother is the sister of a close friend of Holloway. (The family's names are not being used because the case involves allegations of sexual abuse.)

Once in 1998 and once in 1999, Holloway was called by the mother to testify.

As the battle between the parents played out, the JQC said, Holloway spoke "in a loud, angry and temperamental manner" to the presiding circuit judge, Ralph Stoddard. The JQC charged that Holloway shook her finger at Stoddard, criticized him for delays and said she would be concerned if the father got custody.

In a deposition, Holloway denied contacting Stoddard. She later amended that statement, saying she thought the questions pertained to a certain day, not whether she had ever contacted him about the case.

Holloway's attorney Scott Tozian said Wednesday that rules allow a person who is deposed to review the deposition and amend it to clarify misstatements.

Under the law, that corrected testimony "is considered as if it were given at the original statement," Tozian said.

In her 22-page response Wednesday, Holloway said she acted out of concern for the child, then 4, and may have shown "poor judgment." But she said she did not try to influence Judge Stoddard and has apologized to him for her emotional behavior.

Holloway was also accused of trying to influence a criminal investigation in the custody case by calling the detective, asking to be kept apprised and expressing "displeasure" at some of his conclusions. In her response, Holloway denied she tried to influence the detective.

Holloway also said in court documents that the child's father has been openly hostile to her and has threatened to ruin her career through political contacts.

Holloway and the JQC attempted a settlement that would likely have meant a reprimand and no formal charges. But the judge didn't want to be seen as admitting to lies when she felt she had been truthful, her lawyer said.

Holloway, a judge for 10 years, will be tried before a six-person JQC panel, though no date has been set. The Florida Supreme Court will make the final decision.

- Sue Carlton can be reached at (813) 226-3346 or carlton@sptimes.com.

Recent coverage

Judge accused of abusing power (October 27, 2000)

Judge's conduct examined (October 21, 2000)

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