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Are Florida Judges Too Hotheaded?

Is it the Florida sun that saps any sense of reasonableness out of the profession?  First, it was the Florida judge who threatened to sanction and revoke the pro hac vice status of an out-of-state attorney for characterizing her ruling as a few french fries short of a happy meal.  Then, there's the Florida Peoples' Court judge who went overboard in reprimanding an admittedly disrespectful law student-litigant.  And of course, there's the Florida Bar's continued and unnatural obsession with preventing lawyers from using certain animal images, like pitbulls or sharks, in advertising.

So, it comes as no surprise to learn from LexBlog that the Florida Bar is pursuing a complaint against attorney Sean Conway for impugning a judge's integrity at his blog, by referring to her as having "an ugly condescending attitude" and questioning her mental stability after she forced lawyers to choose between unreasonable trial dates or waiving clients' rights to speedy trial. (Underlying story here, from the Florida Sentinel.  There's a bunch of comments on the subject at WSJ Law Blog in response to the question "should a lawyer lose his license for harshly criticizing a judge?"

I realize that civility in the legal profession is on the decline (perhaps another reason for increased lawyer depression, described in the last post).  At the same time, the attorney's conduct took place outside of the courtroom and his comments were aimed at correcting an unjust policy that placed criminal defendants at a severe disadvantage.  Moreover, for what it's worth, the judge herself is now on trial for alleged misconduct before the Judicial Ethics Committee.

Yes, we all recognize that the lawyer could have criticized the judge in a more tactful manner.  But does he deserve a formal reprimand or suspension of his license?  Hardly.  And issuance of a harsh penalty may chill other lawyers from speaking out against unjust policies in the future.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on December 14, 2007 at 05:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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