Lawyer running for judge fighting ethics charge for speech

Here’s an interesting one.  In this campaign, both the challenger and the incumbent judge Eugene C. Turner are the subjects of complaints apparently being investigated by Florida’s Judicial Qualifications Committee.

(Story here).

The incumbent judge.

The incumbent judge is accused of retaining a democratic heavy-weight to advise his campaign, supposedly “partisan.”

That seems weak.  I don’t know who filed the complaint, but I’m against using the disciplinary process to further a campaign.

The lawyer-challenger.

Turner’s [lawyer] challenger is accused of taking “information out of context” regarding Turner’s participation in the Florida Deferred Retirement Option Program in 2008 by alleging the sitting judge “double dipped.”

“Should we expect more from Judge Turner?” the complaint quoted the advertisement as saying.

(Id.).  This is also really weak.  I sure hope someone is parsing through First Amendment law on this one.  I could not locate a copy of the complaint online, but “double dibbed” should be fair game, even if it was descriptive.

First Amendment rights have their fullest and most urgent application precisely to the conduct of campaigns for political office.

Brown v. Hartlage, 456 U.S. 45, 53 (1982).

Lawyers need to be able to express themselves during campaigns in order to elucidate issues.  They need to be able to tell the public why they would be a better choice than the current judge in office.

This is the post-White era, and it’s time to let lawyers speak.