by Haydee Oropesa, Esquire

(Haydee is a Stetson grad, practicing in the Tampa Bay area)

I don’t know Bill Gelin, don’t practice law in his neck of the woods, and never heard of his blog until now.   I hear the Florida Bar is investigating him.  I‘ve perused that blog and can’t say I personally endorse it; in fact, I find some of the postings and commentaries distasteful. 

Mr. Gelin suspects that he is being investigated for being critical of two local judges.  He says he is not being told what rule he has violated or who submitted the complaint against him.   In any event, a local reporter, Bob Norman, covered his story and prominent politicos went on the record in his defense.   Broward Property Appraiser Lori Parrish, who is married to a Circuit Court Judge, claims that Mr. Gelin’s blog efforts in commenting about the local courthouse has resulted in a public good worthy of praise and appreciation - not an investigation.  Howard Finkelstein, Broward’s Public Defender, also chimed in supporting Mr. Gelin and called the investigation a “travesty.”   If Mr. Gelin is having to undergo every attorney’s worst nightmare for making truthful public commentary about judges, the much dreaded and anxiety-producing experience that is a Florida Bar investigation, Mr. Finkelstein is right. 

I contacted Mr. Gelin and expressed an interest in supporting his efforts of truthfully raising legitimate issues however critical of the judiciary.  Mr. Gelin expressed appreciation but kindly cautioned me against identifying myself as he did not want me being drawn into the fray or potentially coming under scrutiny myself.  I appreciate you looking out for me, Mr. Gelin, but, no thanks.  I am Haydee Oropesa, and here is my complaint. If Mr. Gelin has not said anything false or with reckless disregard to the truth in commenting publicly about the judiciary (should that be the basis of his investigation), the chilling effect on the speech of attorneys fearful of such investigations is problematic and detrimental to the public at large.

Freedom of speech and our ability to petition the Government for a redress of grievances is a right that we as Americans cherish deeply.  Since early childhood, my Cuban parents, who fled communism in Cuba, continually reminded me of how fortunate I was to have been born in a free country.  Soon we will be celebrating the 4th of July and the adoption of our Declaration of Independence.  Prior to listing the King’s repeated injuries and abuses, which included his control of the judiciary, the signers declared, “To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.”  I would venture to guess, had the technological advances of our day been available, this massive document would have appeared on a blog like Mr. Gelin’s.

Americans, however, do not enjoy an unbridled right to free speech.   In discussing this issue, routinely one is met with the famous, “you do not have the right to run into a crowded theater and falsely shout fire."  Conversely, what happens when there is a fire in the theater and you fail to run in and alert those in danger of being set ablaze because you have been conditioned and stifled by fear of negative repercussions?   Attorneys who fear becoming the subject of investigation and fail to publicly comment on valid issues may therefore achieve the very thing Rule 4-8.2 is in place to prevent, namely deteriorating public confidence in the judicial system.

The Florida Bar’s interest in regulating an attorney’s speech under Rule 4-8.2 serves a legitimate interest and is a reasonable limitation on what attorneys say.  Rule 4-8.2 reads in part, “A lawyer shall not make a statement that the lawyer knows to be false or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge….”   The Florida Supreme Court in The Florida Bar v. Ray, 797 So.2d 556 (Fla. 2001), made it abundantly clear that the purpose of this rule is not to shield judges from criticism by attorneys in exposing valid problems within the judicial system, but to rightly  prohibit the practice of attorneys making false and reckless statements without regard for truth. The Florida Supreme Court stated that the purpose of the rule is to preserve public confidence in our judicial system.  Litigants at times justifiably walk out of courtrooms with their confidence in the system compromised and not because of comments made by a lawyer.  When an attorney speaks out publicly to call attention to valid problems within the judiciary, the public’s confidence in the system is reinforced and, if it has waned, has a chance of being restored. 

Who gets to sit on the bench and administer justice on behalf of the public is decided by voters.  Judges wield immense power over the lives of those brought before him or her.  As such, one casts a vote and hopes it is a well cast vote.  “Robitis” is a term known by lawyers as meaning someone who changes dramatically upon being clothed with the mighty black robe.  A good inoculation program against “Robitis” is blogging the truth about judicial conduct when warranted for the benefit of voters.  We the people should be well informed in order to quarantine from the bench those we deem necessary come election time.  A good number of the electorate will never have occasion to enter a courtroom and see their elected judge in action, much less regularly observe how a particular judge daily carries out his or her judicial duties.  Attorneys, on the other hand, have that unique position.  As such, commenting publicly gives any interested voter the means to gain knowledge on who should or should not remain on the bench.

Mr. Gelin’s truthful blogging efforts can achieve this goal and I stand with him towards this end.  The news and controversy surrounding his story has already reached the Tampa Bay area where attorneys are discussing the issues.  I will remain hopeful that the Florida Bar will sort through the facts of this interesting case and make the right decision.  

(Disagree with Haydee, or anything else on the blog?  As always, JAABLOG will print any viewpoint you may have, so long as it's written in coherent English.  Just drop us a line ... )

                                THANK YOU HAYDEE!

COMING SOON - Is it time for a new Chief Judge?

Howard Finkelstein editorial on the latest government intrusions

Howard Finkelstein's Letter to Satz re Crime Lab

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SS: Crack missing from BSO crime lab ignites dispute, call to review cases

SS: McHugh releases ex-Dolphin Chad Johnson from jail

Herald: Scherer sharply questions state workers

SS: Broward courthouse 'going up fast'

Bob Norman: The Florida Bar Strikes a Blow for Unjustice Everywhere (2009)

ARE YOU A RACIST?: NYT EDITORIAL: Racially Biased Arrests for Pot

The Senior Judge Army's Steve Shutter


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  • 6/18/2013 7:12 AM Anonymous wrote:
    Nice but FlBar is just following orders.
    Reply to this
  • 6/18/2013 7:41 AM Anonymous wrote:
    Here is the problem with lawyers speaking their mind about judges---The judges can't talk back and defend themselves under the ethical canons. So a one way conversation is had with the muted judge always on the losing end. Some richly deserve to be slammed for their laziness, arrogance etc. But some don't. Thus the reason for the rule. Hell if Il Giardino's was still around, none of this would be necessary--we used to go there and talk these things out, shake hands and walk away. Today the judiciary has become so insulated that it is almost impossible to work out these issues. Or when a judge calls a lawyer in to talk, they run to their "supervisor" and cry foul. So there needs to be restraint and some give and take on both sides of the bench.
    Reply to this
  • 6/18/2013 8:00 AM Anonymous wrote:
    I disagree. Judges can talk back or fight back against anything so long as the issue does not involve a case.

    Check the Canons and election laws.

    The whole poor Judges cannot fight back thing is a convenient excuse for Judges in the wrong to hide in the shadows.
    Reply to this
  • 6/18/2013 9:13 AM FLORIDA U KNOW THIS COURT wrote:

    Scorned Attorney Threatens to Take Down Lawyer-Review Site



    Reply to this
  • 6/18/2013 9:58 AM Anonymous wrote:
    If Judges don't like rules they should get different jobs
    Reply to this
  • 6/18/2013 10:31 AM Elena wrote:
    Good article.
    Reply to this
  • 6/18/2013 10:53 AM Sadly wrote:
    Most Broward lawyers wont admit reading blogs let alone speak out.
    Reply to this
  • 6/18/2013 12:21 PM Anonymous wrote:
    BACDL to the rescue.
    Reply to this
  • 6/18/2013 12:39 PM Jack Thompson wrote:
    John B. Thompson, J.D., M.A.
    5721 Riviera Drive
    Coral Gables, Florida 33146

    June 18, 2013

    ACAP and Ken Marvin
    Director of Lawyer Regulation
    The Florida Bar
    651 E. Jefferson St.
    Tallahassee, Florida 32399

    Re: Formal Sworn Bar Complaint against Florida Bar Member Ronald E. Sholes,
    Florida Bar #536741

    Dear ACAP and Ken Marvin:

    As you know, The Florida Bar is presently, by self-arrogation, in the business of regulating lawyers’ speech about everything. For example, then Bar President Hank Coxe said I had to be disciplined by The Bar “Because of your tone” in telling the truth about a bizarre Circuit Court judge (reiterating what the Third DCA had said about him) and for my “tone” in my pro bono labors against porn lawyers distributing adult material to children. The certainly would discipline Jesus for his tone in taking on the Pharisees and the money changers, wouldn’t it?

    Just as importantly, The Bar is presently, illegally and unconstitutionally, harassing with Nazi-like disciplinary zeal a Ft. Lauderdale lawyer for truthful comments about corrupted, incompetent, and lazy Broward County judges, simply because those hot-wired judges find the truth hurts.

    So, The Bar, volitionally, has decided to revoke the First Amendment rights of lawyers, just as our federal government has decided to revoke the First as well as the Fourth Amendments (see NSA, James Rosen, and Attkisson scandals). Fascism is on the march, just as Justice Douglas predicted in Lathrop: “Eventually integrated state bars will become goose-stepping brigades intent upon forcing conformity on a previously independent bar.”

    So, since The Bar is in the speech code enforcement business 24/7/365 for anything whatsoever a lawyer might say in any setting (dead Bar Governor Steve Chayin: “Any lawyer who does not support gay adoption should be disbarred”), then I, in order to extend the logic of The Bar’s position, file this formal sworn complaint against Jacksonville lawyer Ron Sholes who has placed billboards both northbound and southbound on I-95 in Jacksonville, proclaiming: “You hurt? We FIGHT!”

    Here is a similar image of Ron Sholes found on the Internet at http://www.print2webcorp.com/news/Jacksonville/MayportMirror/20101209/img/a_2_p10.jpg . Note that Sholes is pictured rolling up his sleeves as if readying for a fist fight. How professional.

    If you go to Sholes’ web site found at http://www.ronsholespa.com/ , you will see that Sholes claims, “At the Law Offices of Ronald E. Sholes in Jacksonville, Florida, we bring a military-like commitment to our criminal defense and personal injury cases.” Wow, here’s the tactical equivalent of carpet bombing in the courtroom. How professional. Sholes even has a fighter jet and an aircraft carrier pictured on his web site. The Bar, by its own proclamations, says lawyers are to avoid promotions extraneous to the actual practice of law.
    Reply to this
  • 6/18/2013 12:42 PM Jack Thompson wrote:
    I and others are wondering if this very public, very lucrative celebration of wartime bellicosity by Mr. Sholes is consistent with the image that The Bar and then Florida Supreme Court Justice Cantero have sought to impose upon the practice of law? Put another way, how can The Florida Bar allow Mr. Sholes to militarize the practice of law, even to the point of picturing himself readying for hand-to-hand battle and celebrating images of the weapons of war, while at the same time The Bar harassed me for my “tone” and while it harasses presently a reformist lawyer, Bill Gelin, who has helped clean up the Broward judicial cesspool through his public-spirited law blog?

    Put yet another way so that even the outgoing Bar President can understand it: If The Bar is going to be the speech police for some lawyers how can it avoid being the speech police for all lawyers without running afoul of equal protection claims that arise from arbitrary selective prosecution of some speech and not others?

    Here is a relevant fact: In November 2005, the Florida Supreme Court whacked a law firm for advertising that it would fight for its clients like “pitt bulls.” Quoting the Court, “These devices, which invoke the breed of dog known as the pit bull, demean all lawyers and thereby harm both the legal profession and the public’s trust and confidence in our
    system of justice.” See the assault upon the First Amendment by the High Court at
    http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/2005/sc04-40.pdf.” Not surprisingly, Justice Cantero, aka Miss Manners, was on the court at that time.

    So, this is my formal complaint against Mr. Sholes. Either The Bar disciplines him for such speech that militarizes the practice of law or it gets out of the speech code business altogether, for if what Sholes is doing is not over the line, then, for all intents and purposes, there is no line anywhere as to any speech in which a lawyer might engage.

    Choose wisely. Get consistent. Or get the heck out of “The First Amendment protects us and our friends but not our critics” business.

    Signed, John B. Thompson, 6/18/13

    Copies: Lots of folks, including “Pit Bull” Attorney John Robert Pape
    Bill Gelin and Norm Kent
    Bob Norman
    Florida Supreme Chief Justice Ricky Polston, who apparently has, in his own words in the Liberty Counsel case dissent, “abdicated the Court’s duty to supervise The Florida Bar.” Wake up, Chief Justice, before the entire Bar mechanism collapses upon its fascistic self.
    Reply to this
  • 6/18/2013 12:57 PM alfcont there wrote:
    With all respect for your position, this is one of silliest and in some ways most frightening thing I have ever read on this topic. Judges can't defend themselves? Are you kidding? First, nothing in the canons prohibits a judge from defending himself publicly as to any criticisms leveled against him. He can do it in the courtroom, in his chambers, on the courthouse steps or in a sauna if he likes.

    Secondly, the courts are "insulated" precisely for the opposite reason you state: judges are treated as if they were a branch of government to be insulated from criticism. You have The Bar promoting "judicial independence" to mean protection of judges from the critiques of those who know best how they are doing--lawyers who appear in front of them!

    The First Amendment's core is to protect speech about government and its officials, whether they are judges or not. I don't see liberal bars rushing to defend Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas from two decades of criticism by lawyers? Why? Because he's a black conservative!

    Finally, where is the freaking ACLU in coming to the defense of this web site? Is the local ACLU too busy protecting the "right" to kill late term babies to take an interest in the First Amendment?
    Reply to this
  • 6/18/2013 2:42 PM Fred Haddad said what wrote:
    Lawyers tell us there are other problems, and even experienced attorneys have had enough.

    Fred Haddad: "A lot of the judges on the bench are embarrassing, going in their courtroom is embarrassing, seeing the way they act towards younger lawyers, and the way they act towards some litigants is embarrassing."

    Younger attorneys have taken to the internet and a blog that gives them a chance to speak out.

    They say they're afraid to file formal complaints for fear of retaliation.

    Sean Conway: "If you're a young lawyer, and you try to voice your concerns, they'll push you around."

    Read more: http://www.wsvn.com/features/articles/investigations/MI48822/#ixzz2WavOWLmO

    what's old is new
    Reply to this
  • 6/18/2013 3:05 PM Jack Thompson wrote:
    The Florida Bar is violating not only the First Amendment but also certain Florida statutes and its own Bar Rules by the harassing of Bill in the fashion that it harassed me. Consider:

    The Florida Supreme Court in 2000 decided Bar v. Brake. In Brake, the Court ruled that The Bar cannot discipline a lawyer for what he does unless he is engaged "in the practice of law." In other words, unless he has a client whom he is representing and on whose behalf he has acted improperly. This does not include, of course, commission of a felony which would reflect poorly on his fitness. But with that exception, who is Bill Gelin's client in posting at Jaablog? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone? So Brake prohibits this harassment at the threshold.

    Secondly, what The Bar is doing is threatening Bill, as it did me, with a prosecution for "criminal libel." It attempts to levy a sanction upon speech that constitutes a forfeiture, a disciplinary sanction, upon pure speech. Criminal libel does not exist in Florida.

    Thirdly, Florida has an anti-SLAPP statute, FS 768.295, which expressly prohibits the bringing of any action by the state in retaliation for any complaint about the government. Does this statute protect Bill Gelin? Of course it does. He has engaged in speech about sitting state judges, and this Bar harassment is in retaliation for that. So the SLAPP statute should be invoked, right now, preemptively, to shut The Bar matter down right.

    I have no earthly idea why Bill Gelin, bless him, has not filed a civil action for declaratory relief, seeking a injunctive remedy in federal court invoking not only 42 USC 1983 but also the aforementioned pendant state action under the anti-SLAPP statute.

    It is a serious mistake not to have done so by now, because once The Bar gets its act together, and it will, then a federal court will be more reluctant to shut this down once it gets really geared up. It's called federal abstention. I've been all through that in my travail.

    Once The Bar cites a Rule, then the wheel will start grinding and it will be harder to stop. It is nice of Mr. Haddad to cite Sean Conway, but the simple fact is that Sean also played The Bar's game and lost. Same is likely to happen here unless a suit for dec relief is filed NOW.
    Reply to this
  • 6/18/2013 4:07 PM No comparison wrote:
    Comparing Bill Gelin to Sean Conway is like comparing apples and oranges. Bill created an outlet to encourage free speech and called things to questions. Conway essentially yelled fire in a crowded theatre so he could get some free press for his law practice (does he even still practice here, if not, that plan sucked). Remeber despite having Freddy repping him for free Conway took the first plea deal he could then whined how no one including Bill didnt have his back. At that point he already had his name in all the papers, got his 15 minutes so he put his tail between his legs and ran. One thing I know about Bill, he certainly not looking for a plea deal and will fight this to the end.
    Reply to this
  • 6/18/2013 4:57 PM Anonymous wrote:
    the point is how judges treat attorneys and litigants
    Reply to this
  • 6/18/2013 5:23 PM bacdl sukit wrote:
    bacdl will not defend a lawyer and blog that's done what they were too cowardly to do. they will figure a way to award judges causing problems instead.
    Reply to this
  • 6/18/2013 5:40 PM Sauna not wrote:
    Judge in a public sauna? Not likely. They don't want nobody looking at Mr. Tiny.
    Reply to this
  • 6/18/2013 6:34 PM Jack Thompson wrote:
    You didn't read my post that mentioned Conway very carefully. I noted he "played The Bar's game," which of course included not fighting it and he copped a plea. You're not saying anything I don't know and didn't say. The point is not your long distance psychoanalysis of Mr. Conway (wow, how cool that you can determine people's motivations from where you sit) but rather how dangerous The Bar is. You can't play their game in their playpen. That was my point. You fight them on constitutional grounds in a venue in which the Florida Supreme Court does not have the case, ultimately.

    You seem so eager to put your spin on something you really don't know about that you can't see the forest for the trees. The Bar aims to destroy the blog and Gelin, and he would be well advised to get the battle into a venue that The Bar does not fully control. Pretty simple, really.
    Reply to this
  • 6/18/2013 6:52 PM Hey fuk wrote:
    Wasn't Adrian Thomas your lawyer?
    Reply to this
  • 6/18/2013 7:02 PM Anonymous wrote:
    Yeah, can't compare Conway and Gelin.

    Conway was first out of the gate to sign his name and take the heat. The way I see it, Gelin is on the coat tails, copying and coming in 2nd.

    But then that's why Conway got the front page press, NYTimes, WSJ and this thing with Gelin will only remain local.
    Reply to this
  • 6/18/2013 7:51 PM Anonymous wrote:
    Hey 4:07,

    What does it feel like to comment from the sidelines about the actions of attorneys who have the courage and strength to get things done?

    Conway was a pioneer, someone who put his name to his comments and got nabbed by Bar (but that publicity he got is priceless). You? Sit on the sidelines and provide commentary.
    Reply to this
  • 6/18/2013 8:19 PM COURT GONE WILD wrote:







    Reply to this
  • 6/19/2013 12:37 PM re Judge Marni Bryson wrote:
    Justice for all wrote:
    Kelly Uustal has info on her, her brother & her father
    Reply to this
  • 6/19/2013 6:00 PM Guarding Inspiration wrote:
    Thanks for the email. I enjoyed reference and comparison to your Cuban heritage. I believe whomever is against freedom of speech is akin to Castro the communist dictator so many fled to freedom in America. I commend this action against communism and repression.
    Reply to this
  • 6/19/2013 8:19 PM Anonymous wrote:
    Is Judge Diaz of Cuban descent? It would be ironic if he is behind this. After the way Cuban Americans stand for freedom of thought and expression. Anybody know if he is Cuban American?
    Reply to this
  • 12/2/2013 2:02 PM bid 2 win wrote:
    The international game has changed for bidding cities.
    Reply to this
  • 4/22/2014 12:27 AM obat kanker darah wrote:
    The first visit, Greetings
    Reply to this

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