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Trial Lawyers' Group Suspends Top Three Execs

The Florida Justice Association suspended its top three executives Friday after an investigation disclosed their roles in sending out a racially charged mailing last month in an attempt to defeat former Florida House Speaker John Thrasher in his Republican state senate primary. But some Florida plaintiffs lawyers are calling for the FJA to take even harsher action against the executives.

Carruthers2006 The FJA suspended political director Albert Balido, executive director Scott Carruthers (pictured) and deputy executive director and general counsel Paul Jess. The suspensions followed release of a report by former Florida Supreme Court Justice Gerald Kogan, who the FJA commissioned to investigate the mailing. Kogan concluded that the three executives all knew of and approved the mailing before it went out.

Balido, the FJA's political director, made the decision to send out the mailer as a way of enticing Republican voters to send in an attached absentee ballot request form. Their requests would then give him a list of persons who could then be lobbied to vote against Thrasher. The mailer warned that Black Panthers and "armed thugs" would try to intimidate voters and had photos of President Obama, the Rev. Louis Farrakhan and militant-looking black men.

In a statement released by the FJA, it said it was temporarily suspending the three executives involved in the mailing and enacting a series of reforms "designed to help ensure an event like this never occurs again." These include establishment of an oversight committee of elected FJA members that will review and approve all electioneering materials and all election-related expenditures.

But some members say these moves are not enough. "I have trouble believing that they couldn't have stopped the mailer," Orlando attorney John Morgan told the Orlando Sentinel. "I just don't buy it. ... I don't think it resolves it all, and I could have had this report done in two hours." He added, "If Balido is not fired by Monday morning, I'm quitting."

The FJA's executive committee is slated to meet this week to decide whether to take further action against the three executives.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on October 19, 2009 at 11:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

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