Justia Legal Ethics Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Florida Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court approved the stipulation entered into by Judge Richard Howard of the Fifth Judicial Circuit and the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) that Judge Howard should be publicly reprimanded because he acted in appropriately.Judge Howard attempted to dissuade a judicial candidate from running against an incumbent judge and attempted to persuade the candidate either to run against a different incumbent judge or to forgo the campaign altogether. The JQC concluded that Judge Howard's conduct violated Canon 7A(1)(b). Judge Howard conceded that his conduct was improper. The Supreme Court approved the stipulation entered by the parties but declined to endorse the conclusion that judge Haward's conduct involved endorsing and opposing candidates for office in violation of Canon 7A(1)(b). View "Inquiry Concerning Judge Richard Howard" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court approved a stipulation of the Judicial Qualifications Commission and Twentieth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Scott Cupp agreeing to the discipline of a public reprimand, holding that a public reprimand was appropriate.In the stipulation, Judge Cupp admitted to violating Canons of Judicial Conduct 1, 2B, and 7B(1)(b) and damaged the integrity of the judiciary by creating the appliance that he was interceding in a judicial election. Judge Cupp also admitted to violating Canon 7 and Fla. Stat. Chapter 106 during his 2020 reelection campaign and that his conduct damaged the public's perception of the judiciary. The Supreme Court approved the stipulation and ordered Judge Cupp to appear before the Supreme Court for the administration of a public reprimand. View "In re Judge Scott Cupp" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the conduct of Judge David Craig Miller of the Eleventh Judicial Court violated the Code of Judicial Conduct and that the appropriate discipline was a public reprimand, concluding that the findings of the Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) were supported by clear and convincing evidence.In its findings and recommendation of discipline, the JQC found that Judge Miller violated Canons 1, 2A, and 3B(4) of the Code of Judicial Conduct. The JQC then recommended a public reprimand. In a stipulation, Judge Miller admitted to the alleged conduct, conceded that the conducts violated the Code of Judicial Conduct, and accepted the JQC's findings and recommendation of discipline. The Supreme Court approved the stipulation entered into by Judge Miller and the JQC and reprimanded Judge Miller for his misconduct. View "Inquiry Concerning Judge David Craig Miller" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reviewed the findings, conclusions, and recommendations of the Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) concerning five judges (Respondents) and approved the stipulated discipline entered into between Respondents and the JQC, holding that the JQC's findings were supported by clear and convincing evidence.The JQC Investigative Panel served a notice of formal charges on Respondents for violating Canons 1, 2, and 4 of the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct. Thereafter, the JQC and Respondents entered into a stipulation wherein Respondents admitted their wrongdoing and agreed that the alleged violations were demonstrated by clear and convincing evidence. The parties further stipulated to the recommended discipline in the form of a written public reprimand. The Supreme Court agreed with the JQC's findings of fact approved the stipulated discipline of a written reprimand. View "Inquiry Concerning a Judge No. 18-572" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court approved the recommended sanctions of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) concerning misconduct by Judge Robin C. Lemonidis of the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit, accepted a stipulation entered into by Judge Lemonidis and the JQC, and commanded Judge Lemonidis to appear before the Court for the administration of a public reprimand.This case arose from Judge Lemonidis's conduct in two incidents that occurred in two unrelated proceedings. The JQC charged Judge Lemonidis with violating the Code of Judicial Conduct and proposed that a public reprimand and continued participation in stress management counseling were appropriate sanctions. The parties executed a stipulation, in which Judge Lemonidis admitted to the conduct and accepted the recommended discipline. The Supreme Court concluded that the JQC's findings were supported by clear and convincing evidence and approved the JQC's recommended discipline and the parties' stipulation. View "Inquiry Concerning Judge Robin C. Lemonidis" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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