1.) Diane Cuddihy, Marty Bidwill, and Peter Weinstein, basking in some Point Blank light; 2.) The view from some JAABLOG-in-laws' living room, Watertown, Massachusetts, during the lock-down; 3.) Lead by Example. Ron Rothschild has been picking up shifts pro bono, when asked; 4.) The Weight of the World. Veteran homicide prosecutor Chuck Morton waiting on a verdict; 5.) The reason why there are always jurors available, even when lawyers with three year old cases really don't want them. Jury Room Chief Pat LaVigne; 6.) Tony Loe put in for judge, when will Brian Cavanagh? Bruce Udolf is on the right ...
William Gelin, best known as the main author of JAABlog, is under investigation based on complaints that apparently stem from his comments about judges in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
On advice of his attorney, Norman Kent of Fort Lauderdale, Gelin said he would not respond to The Bar's questions "in the event this is a political agenda."
Gelin maintains The Bar is not following its own rules by citing which rules of conduct are the basis of the investigation.
By Bar policy, the source of the complaints against the Oakland Park attorney is confidential.
"They are just coming at this from a very strange perspective," Gelin said. "They refuse to identify any type of misconduct. They won't specify anything from among the thousands of words and the hundreds of pictures which they find offensive."
Bar counsel Navin Ramnath of the Sunrise office sent Gelin the first notice of an investigation with a list of questions relating to identifying the authorship of two dozen JAABlog posts from 2012 and 2013. After Kent replied for Gelin, objecting to the vagueness of the inquiry, Ramnath sent two letters dated May 10 relating to different complaints.
Each began with the statement: "I agree that the requested information was vague. Please provide The Bar with a response to the following questions."
If Gelin did not respond by Monday, Ramnath continued, "this matter may be referred to a grievance committee."
The investigation prompted the directors of three other South Florida legal blogs to issue a joint statement Monday condemning The Bar's actions. The Justice Building Blog, the South Florida Lawyers blog and the Southern District of Florida Blog said The Bar letters "will have a chilling effect on the free speech of lawyers."
The bloggers called Gelin courageous for openly criticizing judges through JAABlog as opposed to the more common practice of attorneys commenting anonymously.
"Apparently after a series of posts about two judges in West Palm Beach and Broward County, ironically, anonymous bar complaints have prompted The Bar to send Mr. Gelin letters seeking him to admit or deny his involvement in the JAABlog," the joint statement said.
"Judges are invested with responsibilities and powers, and all too often those powers cloud their judgment," the statement continues. "The ability of lawyers to freely comment on a judge represents an important check on those powers."
The bloggers interpreted The Bar's actions as a "fishing expedition and a veiled threat for (Gelin) to stop criticizing judges from the pages of his blog."
Karen Kirksey, a spokeswoman for The Bar, said Gelin is a member in good standing with no disciplinary history.
"A complaint was filed, so The Bar is looking into it as normal," Kirksey stated by email. "It may have no merit at all. Any further information about the complaints at this point is confidential."
The Bar questions concerning Gelin's blog activity covered a wide range of topics posted over the past year. But the questions seem weighted toward his criticism of Broward County Court Judge Robert Diaz and Palm Beach County Court Judge Marni Bryson, and his editorial control over the blog.
Gelin opposed Diaz's re-election last year and has often criticized the judge's work ethic, claiming he is often absent and shifts cases to other judges. Gelin has made a habit of scouting courtrooms to count how many judges are working in public sessions.
In Bryson's case, Gelin claimed attorneys familiar with her do not think she treats all attorneys equally. He also recalled past media coverage citing financial disclosure discrepancies in her election campaign and a 1994 accusation of misdemeanor battery when she was a college student that never led to a formal charge.
In 2010, a Broward County Bar Association committee debated whether Gelin's blog activities met professional standards. The association's rules of professional standards state lawyers are not allowed to criticize judges, opposing counsel, parties or witnesses because it could cast the justice system in a bad light. The association has no authority to regulate or punish lawyers, and nothing came of the inquiry.
Gelin told the Daily Business Review that judges already are an insulated class of elected officials. The Bar would prefer lawyers to bring their grievances against judges to the state Judicial Qualifications Commission, but for lawyers who rely on the impartiality of judges for their livelihood, going to the JQC can be a high-stakes gamble, he said.
"If the judiciary and The Bar do not like lawyers using media they can't control, then they need to change the rules. But if they want to change the rules as they go along, forget about it," Gelin said. "There needs to be an open discussion."
There were no posts on JAABlog from April 10 to Monday, but Gelin insisted the inactivity had nothing to do with the investigation. In fact, JAABlog postings had become increasingly sporadic over the past year because Gelin said he was more involved with his legal practice and his family.
In addition, Gelin said many of the changes lawyers sought had occurred in the Broward court system. JAABlog began as a team effort by several lawyers in 2006 to take on institutional racism, he explained. Broward lawyers used it to shed light on abuses from the bench and to pursue reforms.
"For whatever reason, a lot of that has been achieved," Gelin said. "Lawyers will tell you it's a much better place to practice than it was 10 years ago."
Sun Sentinel - Courthouse blogger faces Bar scrutiny after criticizing judges (5/18)
Sun Sentinel - Sheriff's Office rehires court deputy fired for hitting on jailed woman (5/14)
PB Post: Political consultant’s lawsuit against Marni Bryson raises allegations (4/20)
The following thirty lawyers have made application for Susan Aramony's former circuit court position. Interviews will be June 3rd, at the Broward Bar. We'll post the lucky interviewees when they're selected.
Arlene Backman, Dennis Bailey, Mark Bockstein, Randi Boven, Kelly Charles-Collins, Haccord Curry, Jr., Paul Eichner, Kal Evans, Phoebee Francois, John Fry, Pamela Gordon, Renee Harrod, Susan Hugencugler, Jorge Hurtado, Jonathan Kasen, Tony Loe, Sam Lopez, Scott Mager, Giusepina Miranda, Charles Moorehead, Robert Nichols, Michelle Ricca, Mark Rickard, Abbe Rifkin, Derrick Roberts, Stacy Ross, James Rubin, Richard Sachs, Maxine Streeter, Jerry Williams.
May the most politically connected win!
Friday, April 12, 2013
5:00 – 8:00 PM
Service at 7:00 PM
Baird-Case Jordan Fannin Funeral Home
4343 North Federal Highway
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33308
Saturday, April 13, 2013
10:00 AM – Funeral Service
Saint John The Baptist Catholic Church
4595 Bayview Drive
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33308
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to your favorite charity.
SS: Obituary Susan Aramony
Here is the complaint the Palm Beach judicial set is talking about, filed by prominent campaign consultant Rebecca Shelton against Marni Bryson for allegedly unpaid expenses and consulting fees from Bryson's successful 2010 county court campaign totalling $30,292.45. Shelton was identified by Palm Beach Post articles as Bryson's "campaign manager", a role Shelton has performed for many judges and politicos in the Fifteenth Circuit. The suit was filed April 1st by attorney Mark Shumaker, assigned to circuit judge Meenu Sasser. Bryson was reportedly served in the courthouse last week.
The complaint is soon to be the newest headline in Bryson's short but newsworthy judicial career. The Post has already published articles over Bryson's alleged personal relationships with a fireman witness, a DUI Defendant's ex-husband, a controversy over not disclosing a misdemeanor battery charge, and Bryson's official sanction by The Florida Commission On Ethics, together with related stories over questions concerning Bryson's campaign money sources. And now a public beef over another monetary issue connected to the 2010 campaign, this time with a former ally and confidante.
The Shelton complaint may be newsworthy besides a rare and juicy peek behind the judicial elections' curtain, since there are still unanswered questions regarding the manner in which the Shelton managed Bryson campaign was funded.
Here's what Bryson's opponent Laurie Stilwell Cohen told The Post at the time of the Ethics Commission's recommendation:
Cohen said the ethics commission never investigated where some $163,000 of Bryson's campaign money had come from.
"I don't think we'll ever know the answer to that question," Cohen said. "But at this point, it's moot. It's over."
And now it may not be over after all, since Bryson's staunchest defender is now an adversary. If anyone can verify whether Cohen's concerns were valid, it would be Bryson's former campaign manager. Definitely a wait and see. In the meantime, we'll be following all the Shelton v. Bryson developments, so stay tuned ...
He likes it! - Bobby Diaz still doing jury pool
swear-ins months after the election ...
(Note to Florida Bar - Photo by JAABLOG)
Coming Soon - Palm Beach judge challenged?
Remember when you were young ...