Judges, by virtue of the threatening signs that they post in their courtrooms, often threaten to confiscate the phone of a person in their courtroom.
By what right and authority can a judge take a piece of personal property of another person?
None that we're aware of.
Florida's Forfeiture statutes state (in part)
(1) It is the policy of this state that law enforcement agencies shall utilize the provisions of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act to deter and prevent the continued use of contraband articles for criminal purposes while protecting the proprietary interests of innocent owners and lienholders and to authorize such law enforcement agencies to use the proceeds collected under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act as supplemental funding for authorized purposes.
§ 932.704, Fla. Stat. Ann.
(1)(a) Any contraband article, vessel, motor vehicle, aircraft, other personal property, or real property used in violation of any provision of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, or in, upon, or by means of which any violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act has taken or is taking place, may be seized and shall be forfeited subject to the provisions of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act.
§ 932.703, Fla. Stat. Ann.
Judge's aren't (as surprised as some of them may be to read this) law enforcement officers or agencies. Using a phone in court is not a violation of Florida's Contraband Act (unless you're using the phone to commit a crime).
As such Judges have no authority to seize the personal property of another individual, even if that person has the temerity to ignore the judge and play candy crush while sitting in court and eating a bucket of popcorn (there is no law against eating in court either).
So with the law being firmly established we turn to the kerfuffle in Seraphin's court on Wednesday:
A wild scene in Judge Seraphin's Courtroom today...
Judge Seraphin's bailiff took away some guy's cell phone because the guy was texting while he was sitting in the gallery. Instead of asking the guy to leave to text outside the courtroom, Judge Seraphin took the phone from his bailiff and started looking through it. He was not a happy camper. The Judge then decided to hold the guy in contempt. All the while the morning calendar was supposed to be going on.
The Judge decided to hold a mini rule to show cause hearing for why the guy shouldn't be thrown in jail. Pretty sure a Judge can't do that without going through the proper procedures for notice and whatnot, but Judge Seraphin had it out for this guy. The Judge must've realized he couldn't just throw the guy in jail on the spot...so he appointed the PD to represent him. The PDs advised the guy not to say anything--as any good attorney would advise his client to do--but the guy's silence made Judge Seraphin even madder. The Judge then demanded the guy apologize, on the record. The PDs told him just to do it and he did. The Judge was then satisfied with himself. And he gave the guy his phone back and let him sit back down in the gallery. All in the middle of the morning calendar.
Rumpole notes ominously, as near as we can tell, depriving the personal property of another individual without legal justification, even temporarily, is theft under Florida law. If the phone was worth more then $300, then it could be grand theft. Directing another to do it could well constitute a plan to conspire, combine and confederate to commit a crime. Not smart.
It's probably not a good idea to steal a phone while sitting on the bench when you have already alienated most of the female voters in Miami-Dade County with Neanderthal like views about breast-feeding. We mean, we're not Donald Trump or Karl Rove, but still, this can't help a candidate vying for re-election, unless the Judge subscribes to the view that any publicity, no matter how bad, is good publicity.
See You In Court, where it's not polite to play Candy Crush on your phone in court, but it's not against the law.