BOCA RATON, FL (BocaNewsNow.com) — The judge presiding over the lawsuit that challenges Palm Beach County’s mask mandate, John Kastrenakes, was himself photographed without a mask at a holiday party this week. The party, inexplicably hosted by the Palm Beach County Bar Association, was attended by several high profile Palm Beach County attorneys and judges. It was held at the PGA National Country Club.
Kastrenakes’ appearance at the event — regardless of mask use — may lead to questions concerning his judgment by attorneys on both sides of the constitutional case. Why a judge presiding over a heated issue like masking would attend an in-person holiday party — as the CDC says no holiday party is safe — is a potential issue. His appearance without a mask at the party — while in line at a buffet — also raises questions about his beliefs when it comes to masking and social distancing.
The Hon. Krista Marx, Chief Judge for the 15th Circuit, did not respond to a request for comment on Friday. She has a standing order with very specific rules of conduct for attorneys and judges during COVID-19. There was no response to an email sent to Judge Kastrenakes himself.
Why the Palm Beach County Bar Association, an organization with a primary purpose of ensuring the integrity of judges and attorneys, would hold an in-person holiday party is also unclear. Photographs posted to the Bar Association’s Facebook page reveal some of the area’s heavy hitters, like Attorney Jack Scarolla of Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart and Shipley, attended the event. While photographs show Scarolla was masked, many people were not. Attorneys and judges tend to be very cognizant of public image. Attending a mass gathering in the midst of COVID-19 appears to be optically challenged.
Whether those optics issues create a problem for Judge Kastrenakes remains to be seen. There was no immediate response from an attorney representing the plaintiffs in the Palm Beach County mask case which challenges requirements to wear masks and to socially distance — two practices apparently not followed by Judge Kastrenakes at the holiday party.
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