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Former Chief Justice Wells failed to file required financial disclosure forms

Charles T. Wells

Charles T. Wells

By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org

When former Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles T. Wells retired in March 2009 he did not file final financial disclosure forms required by state law and judicial canons.

He belatedly did so this week after Broward Bulldog inquired about that omission.

Supreme Court justices, like lower court judges and other officeholders, must annually disclose for public inspection their sources of income, business interests, assets, liabilities and net worth.

Florida’s Code of Judicial Conduct, the ethical standard for the state’s judges, says judges “shall file a final disclosure statement within 60 days after leaving office.”

Failure to disclose “constitutes grounds” for the imposition of steep penalties – impeachment, reprimand or a civil penalty up to $10,000, according to disclosure forms used by state officeholders.

Wells was supposed to have filed financial and gift disclosure forms last year for both 2008 and 2009, but did not. Florida law requires state officeholders to file annual disclosure reports for the preceding year by July 1.

Last week, Wells told Broward Bulldog he filed those disclosure forms last year. He later called back to say he’d been mistaken.

“I should’ve filed something. I will go ahead and submit it,” he said last week.

Wells retired March 2, 2009 and went to work as an attorney for the large Orlando-based law firm GrayRobinson.

Weeks earlier, he’d cast the deciding vote to approve a controversial ballot petition sought by Floridians for Smarter Growth, a political action committee the firm was aligned with.

Wells told Broward Bulldog he may have accepted the GrayRobinson job in January 2009 while he and his fellow justices were deciding whether to conduct a rehearing sought by Smarter Growth’s political opponents at Florida Hometown Democracy. You can read Wednesday’s story about it here.

Wells filed his final financial disclosure report covering 2008 and his time in office in 2009 with the state ethics commission on Tuesday.

His reported income during that approximately 14-month period was $185,594 in salary, $30,327 from Social Security, nearly $15,000 in dividends and interest and $95,601 from the sale of SunTrust stock.

Justices are paid $161,200 annually.

His assets included a $1.5 million home in Central Florida, $2.8 million in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, CDs and cash. His sole liability was a $42,000 mortgage.

His net worth as of March 2009 was $4.2 million – a $457,000 decline since his previous report in 2007.

The drop was the latest in a string of declines Wells has suffered. Between 2005 and 2009, his net worth fell more than $920,000.

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  • The decision on the Smarter Growth amendment needs to be re-reviewed by the Court due to undue influence on Judge Wells’ decision by his upcoming employment opportunity.

  • Justice Wells is an honest man…..a scholar of the law…was an outstanding justice whose opinions demonstrated knowledge of the law and common sense…..best wishes Justice Wells.for very long, healthy and happy retirement…the court will miss you….the State of Florida misses you…………….

  • It would take a ‘Dick’ to honor this guy. Wells presents another example (if the subject allegations are true) of a judge that does not shy from avoiding recusal where his own personal interests (or preferences) in a pending case clash with the ‘cold neutrality’ justice is supposed to be dispensed of a Court. To paraphrase Wells at a certain oral argument, ‘you don’t have to respect [a party’s position in a case] but you must respect the office of judge when confronting it.’ Ah, the ‘office.’ This Wells character announced this notion (as a sitting justice) when he admonished a lawyer for allegedly mistreating a judge in a trial. (Wells pretended to know what a criminal defense trial lawyer is confronted with in a felony trial and was aghast at the disrespect the lawyer displayed to a judge in a trial). Apparently, however, his own personal prospective interests prevail over any noted respect for the office of judging in Florida, when he easily entangles himself in a dispute where one of the parties’ supporters is going to ‘hire’ him upon retirement – if the allegations I just read are true in their implication. (When did he know he was going to be hired by that entity?}. The poor old fellow is thus – maybe – just a typical hypocrite, and a decrepit one, but then he too is simply a self-interested soul who never was a particularly good judge of anything where rights of others are concerned, so I excuse him and blame those that put him there to impose his perceptions in the reporters. Remember, men (women too) fear injustice being inflicted upon themselves and they conjure grand platitudes to pretend against it, but they do not shy from inflicting it upon others when a benefit is smelled for themselves. [Plato]. Read the guy’s opinions. He is no statesman, no libertarian, no protector of the individual, nor of the constitution. He is a company man..LOL… i.e. ‘mere politician.’ Pretty pathetic. Anyone with honor would not want to be like this guy, or rule like him. (I personally chuckle when people like this appear, content with my own commonness). I would say ‘good riddance’ (and just did actually) but they simply appointed another one in his stead. It will not end for awhile, methinks, this dishonoring of the fine and DIFFICULT art of ‘judging’ so long as mediocre minds prevail in government and ascend to the ‘office’ – somehow. Though Wells is not anything to be emulated in the profession of lawyering and judging, I still hope the bloke is well-fed until he passes – like crap out of a flea – to ‘judge heaven.’ May I suggest he not be punished until then for ANY transgressions he commits. Just let him go. Forget he broke the rules (if he ever did). He is a former ‘justice’ for crying out loud! A position of HONOR! Certainly he is above the mere rules the rest of us (e.g. mere trial lawyers) must abide by. Also, maybe he did not know the rules. Maybe. Maybe he thought he could do or not do these things. Maybe. Of course that should enter into any fair consideration if its true, unless of course rigid compliance is called for – if harsh justice sans mercy is to be the rule of law – as many of Wells’ criminal law opinions suggest. Excuse me while I vomit. Okay, I am back. So, to conclude, it is probably appropriate that he is honored by a ‘Dick.’

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