FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.—Police officer Frankie Nunez entered the Fort Lauderdale courtroom Wednesday and threw up his arms in frustration, finding the floor littered with Solo cups, salsa, and Coors Light empties.
The judges had been playing “gavel pong” again.
Gavel pong—a drinking game in which players take a drink every time an opponent hits them with a gavel—has become the latest craze amongst South Florida judges, a group already known for its misconduct, or, as its robed members call it, “a party lifestyle.”
Having replayed footage from the courthouse security cameras, officer Nunez described the game: “It’s like a hybrid between dodgeball, tag, and hitting a piñata. Except there aren’t any children, and it looks more painful—and stupid.”
Broward citizens worry that this drinking game obsession is negatively affecting their local community and judiciary system. Leaving a gavel pong tournament at the Fort Lauderdale courtroom last week, Judge Lynn D. Rosenthal hit a police vehicle in the courthouse parking lot. She then rammed her BMW into a gate repeatedly. Judge Rosenthal was arrested for driving under the influence.
In a statement released after the incident, Judge Rosenthal apologized saying, “I regret finishing the g-pong tournament in last place. I never realized how heavy those gavels are. Good thing I was numbed out…they sting like hell!”
A fellow gavel pong enthusiast and one of Judge Rosenthal’s colleagues, Judge Gisele Pollack was arrested on a D.U.I. charge five days prior. Judge Pollack was already on leave after coming to work drunk on two separate occasions. Judge Pollack has since admitted to having a “gavel pong problem” and is seeking treatment for her bruises.
Tony Lupo, a resident of Pompano Beach, called these incidents “disturbing but not surprising.” Many Broward judges are the siblings and fraternity brothers of other judges, bringing their frat house traditions with them to the bench. Past offenses of other Broward judges include smoking marijuana in a public space and being found drunk and partly nude in a hotel hallway.
Judge Rosenthal remarked, “I realize people probably think of Broward as a lawless county. But that’s pure, unadulterated bologna. One rule of gavel pong is that the loser has to make a lap around the courthouse blindfolded. I didn’t realize I was allowed to do that on foot. It was stupid of me to try it in my car. Either way, I was just playing by the rules.”