A longtime Broward County judge collapsed on the bench during trial and was rushed to the hospital Wednesday evening.
County Judge Mary Rudd Robinson, believed to be in her late 50s, was presiding over a drunken driving case around 5 p.m. when she began to twitch and make gurgling noises, said Assistant Public Defender Lyle Long.
Michael Wagner, a toxicologist with the Broward Medical Examiner's Office, was testifying when Robinson, who was appointed to the bench in 1989, fell ill. Confusion erupted in the courtroom.
"Everyone knew something serious was happening, but nobody knew what to do," Long said.
Wagner and Long raced to administer aid, laying the judge on the floor. Wagner began compressing Robinson's chest, while Long elevated her head and checked for a pulse.
"I couldn't feel her pulse," Long said. "We kept telling her to hang on, breathe. We couldn't tell if she heard us."
Robinson's husband, Circuit Judge Michael Robinson, arrived within minutes. "He was there before the paramedics got there," Long said. "He kept saying, 'Come on, baby, breathe, breathe.' "
Paramedics quickly put the stricken judge on a stretcher. "They said she had a steady pulse," Long recounted.
Division Chief Robert Bacic with Fort Lauderdale Fire-Rescue said a patient from the courthouse was taken to Broward Health Medical Center just before 5 p.m..
"This is just devastating to those of us in the courthouse," said Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, who's known Robinson for 35 years.
It wasn't clear Thursday whether Robinson had regained consciousness. Hospital officials would not give her condition, or even acknowledge her as a patient.
"We have no one in our system by that name," spokeswoman Cathy Schwartz said. "It's not that we lost track of a patient; she might have opted out of the system, which means she might be here, but her family might have wanted privacy."
Courthouse personnel were also reluctant to speak about Robinson.
Wagner, through the Medical Examiner's Office, declined to comment. Court Administrator Kathleen Pugh would only say a relief judge was assigned to handle Robinson's caseload. "We haven't heard anything," she said.
"She's just a wonderful woman. Everyone's praying that she's OK," said State Attorney Michael Satz.
"A sweet, elegant woman," was how Robinson was described by Finkelstein, whose daughter played softball with the judge's daughter.
"We all watched each other grow, not just professionally, but personally," he said. "When a tragedy like this strikes the courthouse family, it's just like it strikes your own family."
Staff writer Linda Trischitta contributed to this report.
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