Justia Legal Ethics Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Florida Supreme Court
by
The Supreme Court affirmed the findings and recommendation of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) concerning misconduct by Judge Ernest Kollra of the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit and a stipulation entered into by Judge Kollra and the JQC, approved the parties' stipulation, and commanded Judge Kollra to appear before the Court for the administration of a public reprimand. The parties entered into a stipulation that Judge Kollra improperly introduced partisan political activity into his campaign for judicial office, that Judge Kollra's conduct violated two canons of the Code of Judicial Conduct, and that the appropriate discipline was a public reprimand. The Supreme Court concluded that the JQC's findings were supported by clear and convincing evidence and approved the stipulation, holding that the appropriate discipline in this case was a public reprimand. View "Inquiry Concerning Judge Ernest A. Kollra" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the stipulation entered into between Judge Dennis Daniel Bailey and the Judicial Qualifications Commission that stipulated that Judge Bailey violated the Code of Judicial Conduct and should be publicly reprimanded and commanded Judge Bailey to appear before the Court for the administration of a public reprimand. Based on the judge's conduct in a certain trial, the commission charged Judge Bailey with violating canons 1, 2A, 3B(1), 3B(4), and 3B(7) of the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct. The commission found probable cause for the violations and recommended that Judge Bailey be publicly reprimanded. Judge Bailey stipulated that he did not contest the commission's findings and accepted the recommended discipline. The Supreme Court agreed with the commission's findings and Judge Bailey's admissions and ordered that Judge Bailey appear for the administration of a public reprimand. View "Inquiry Concerning a Judge Dennis Daniel Bailey" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court approved the stipulation entered into between Judge Deborah White-Labora, a judge of the Miami-Dade County Court, and the Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) to the JQC’s finding that Judge White-Labora’s misconduct violated two canons of the Code of Judicial Conduct and approved the stipulated discipline of a public reprimand, holding that there was clear and convincing evidence to support the findings of fact for the charges. The JQC alleged that Judge White-Labora improperly provided a character reference letter on her official court stationary on behalf of a criminal defendant awaiting sentencing in federal court. The Supreme Court approved the stipulation to the allegation and concluded that the judge violated Canons 1 and 2 by engaging in such conduct. The Court then held that, under precedent, Judge White-Labora’s conduct warranted a public reprimand. View "Inquiry Concerning Judge Deborah White-Labora" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court approved the decision of the Third District Court of Appeal ruling that the existence of a Facebook “friendship” was not a sufficient basis to disqualify a trial court judge, holding that the existence of a Facebook “friendship” was not a sufficient basis for disqualification. A law office and attorney petitioned the Third District for a writ of prohibition to disqualify the trial court judge in the underlying case based on the fact that an attorney appearing before the trial judge was listed as a “friend” on the trial judge’s personal Facebook page. The Third District denied the petition for writ of prohibition, ruling that an allegation that a trial judge is a Facebook “friend” with an attorney appearing before the judge, standing alone, does not constitute a legally sufficient basis for disqualification. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that where Facebook “friendships” regularly involve strangers, there was no reason that this particular relationship should be singled out and subjected to a per se rule of disqualification. View "Law Offices of Herssein and Herssein, P.A. v. United Services Automobile Ass’n" on Justia Law

by
For the reasons discussed in this opinion, by a prior order, Dana Marie Santino was removed from office on the grounds that Santino’s conduct “does not evidence a present fitness to hold judicial office.” On July 2, 2018, the Supreme Court issued an order removing Santino from the office of county judge of Palm Beach County, Florida. Here, the Court provided an opinion explaining the reasons for removal. The Judicial Qualifications Commission hearing panel concluded that Santino violated Judicial Canons 7A(3)(a), (3)(b), (3)(c), (e)(i), and (e)(ii) and Rule 4-8.2(a) and (b) of the Rules of Professional Conduct for making false and misleading statements about her opponent, Gregg Lerman, in e-mail advertisements and on social media during her 2016 election campaign and recommended that she be removed from office. The Supreme Court held that Santino’s campaign misconduct warranted removal under these facts. View "Inquiry Concerning Judge Dana Marie Santino" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court concluded that Judge Scott C. DuPont of the Seventh Judicial Circuit violated the Code of Judicial Conduct and that those violations warranted the most severe sanction of removal from office. The Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) recommended that DuPont be removed from office by disseminating false and misleading information during his judicial campaign and conducting an unlawful judicially ordered seizure in open court. The Supreme Court approved the JQC’s recommendation of removal and removed Judge DuPont from office, holding that Judge DuPont demonstrated a present unfitness to hold office. View "Inquiry Concerning Judge Scott C. DuPont" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court approved the findings of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) that Judge Philip James Yacucci, Jr., a county court judge in the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit, violated Canons 1, 2A, 3B(8), 3B(8) and 3(E)(1) of the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct. The court also approved the JQC’s recommended discipline of a public reprimand, a thirty-day suspension without pay, completion of a judicial ethics course within one year, and payment of the costs of the JQC proceedings. Before the court, Judge Yacucci disputed only the recommendation of a thirty-day suspension. The Supreme Court concluded that, in light of Judge Yacucci’s conduct, suspension was an appropriate sanction. View "Inquiry Concerning Judge Philip James Yacucci, Jr." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court denied the petition for a writ of quo warranto filed by Petitioner, the state attorney for Florida’s Ninth Judicial Circuit, challenging Governor Rick Scott’s authority to reassign the prosecution of death penalty eligible cases in the Ninth Circuit to the state attorney for Florida’s Fifth Judicial Circuit. The Governor reassigned the prosecution of death penalty eligible cases pending in the Ninth Circuit after Petitioner announced her intent to implement a blanket policy of not seeking the death penalty in any eligible case. The Supreme Court held that the Governor did not abuse his discretion in reassigning the cases at issue to the state attorney for Florida’s Fifth Judicial Circuit pursuant to Fla. Stat. 27.14. View "Ayala v. Scott" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court concluded that the findings of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) Hearing Panel that Circuit Court Judge Kimberly Michele Shepard violated Canons 7A(3)(e)(ii) and 7A(3)(b) of the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct and Rule 4-8.2(b) of the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar during her judicial campaign were supported by clear and convincing evidence. The Supreme Court approved the sanction recommended by the Hearing Panel and hereby suspended Judge Shepard without pay for ninety days, ordered her to pay investigative costs and the costs of these proceedings, and commanded Judge Shepard to appear before the Court for the administration of a public reprimand. View "Inquiry Concerning Judge Kimberly Michele Shepard" on Justia Law

by
After an evidentiary hearing, the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) determined that Circuit Judge Andrew J. Decker, III violated certain provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct during his judicial campaign and certain Florida Bar Rules of Professional Conduct before his judicial campaign. The JQC hearing panel recommended a ninety-day suspension, public reprimand, and payment of costs of the proceedings. The Supreme Court concluded that, with limited exceptions, the hearing panel’s findings were supported by clear and convincing evidence and modified in part the recommended sanction and imposed a six-month suspension, public reprimand, and payment of costs of the proceedings on Judge Decker. View "Inquiry Concerning Judge Andrew J. Decker, III" on Justia Law