A Broward County criminal defense lawyer went online in a blog discussion about local judges and voiced his opinion about a certain judge. The lawyer called the Judge an “evil, unfair witch.” He also said that the judge had an “ugly, condescending attitude” and questioned her mental stability after, he says, she unlawfully forced attorneys to violate the constitutional rights of their own clients.
Now the lawyer is threatened with sanctions by the Florida Bar and could lose his license to practice law. The lawyer is charged with violating Florida Bar rules that forbid impugning the judge’s qualifications or integrity. This is especially interesting because this very Judge was herself on trial for alleged judicial misconduct.
Certainly the comments were not nice. It is true that lawyers should respect the integrity of the system and show respect for the judges that for the most part are hard working dedicated professionals. Obviously the lawyer could have made his point in a more professional manner. There is, however, the issue of the First Amendment and Freedom of Speech. The comments were not made in court, they were made on a courthouse weblog made solely to examine Broward County judges’ performances and other law related issues. They were directed to a Judge who is awaiting a ruling on charges of misconduct. To potentially lose your license to practice just because of the expression of opinions on such a blog is likely to make other lawyers afraid to express opinions they have about the performance or ability of judges. The Constitution protects the right to express opinions about our government and its officials. As a personal injury lawyer I certainly do not want to be afraid to reveal my opinions about Judges that are unfair to personal injury victims or who favor insurance companies. The lawyer is challenging the Bar Rule on the grounds that it violates his First Amendment rights.
It is an interesting case and we will stay on it. .