CONNECT WITH:

Florida Bulldog

Like a star chamber, Supreme Court hides order used to justify ethics rule that protects lawyer/politicians like AG Moody

star chamber
England’s Court of Star Chamber was an addition to the common-law courts whose authority flowed from the king’s sovereign power, not the law. Photo: Public Domain/ WikiMedia Commons

By Noreen Marcus, FloridaBulldog.org

Florida Bar leaders used a “confidential” Supreme Court order to justify an ethics rule that would protect lawyer/politicians like Attorney General Ashley Moody from Bar scrutiny as long as they hold office.

The high court could have released the order, which was apparently issued in 1982, but chose not to. Veteran attorneys and former Supreme Court officials confided to Florida Bulldog that they’ve never heard of the high court issuing or hiding a confidential order.

The secrecy creates a problem for lawyers who oppose the rule, which the Florida Bar Board of Governors supports, and the Supreme Court may soon adopt despite objections. It would shield from ethics inquiries constitutional officers including the attorney general, state attorneys, and public defenders, as well as, possibly, other state officials.

Members of the Florida Bar Public Interest Law Section (PILS) oppose the change but are at a loss to fully argue against it because they don’t know what the unpublished order says. Still, the section produced a critique of the rule proposal and filed it with the court on Dec. 28.

Anthony Musto

The public needs to know about an unethical official in order to “properly assess the performance of the official when he or she is up for reelection or seeks other office,” Hallandale Beach lawyer Anthony Musto wrote on behalf of the section he formerly chaired.

“Yet, if the current proposal is adopted, evidence of, and claims of, misconduct will remain buried. Guilty officials may well be reelected in situations in which they would (and perhaps should) have lost their elections had the public known the truth,” he wrote.

“The current proposal is a bad one. A very bad one,” Musto concluded. “This proposal is not good for lawyers, for constitutional officers, for the public, or for justice.”

FLORIDA AG JOINED ‘INSANE’ TEXAS SUIT

Since the rules proceeding could have a personal impact on Moody, the timing may not be coincidental.

In January a Texas state court judge refused to derail an ethics lawsuit against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Lawyer regulators sued Paxton over the short-lived and widely discredited lawsuit he took to the U.S. Supreme Court in an effort to change the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Moody was one of 17 Republican attorneys general who together filed a brief that endorsed Paxton’s argument: Democrats stole the election for President Biden in the four battleground states.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody

“The integrity and resolution of the 2020 election is of paramount importance,” Moody tweeted a month after the election to explain Florida’s role in the lawsuit.

Inter-office emails show lawyers who worked for Moody questioned the validity of Paxton’s lawsuit, calling it “bat[shit] insane” and “weird,” the Tampa Bay Times reported. The emails were obtained by American Oversight, a left-leaning nonprofit that promotes government transparency.

EX-JUSTICE WELLS SLAMS MOODY

Soon after the U.S. Supreme Court tossed Paxton’s lawsuit on Dec. 11, 2020, a former Florida Supreme Court justice denounced Moody in an open letter to her published by the Orlando Sentinel.

“Joining in the patently meritless case … brought discredit to your office, and results in the loss of confidence of citizens of our state and nation in the fair and competent administration of justice in Florida,” Charles T. Wells wrote.

“It is a grave mark against your service as Attorney General which I urge you to acknowledge, and work to repair the damage you have caused,” his letter states.

“You should do that not only because you are Attorney General. You should do that because you are a member of the Florida Bar who has an ethical obligation not to join in frivolous, meritless litigation,” Wells wrote.

Around the same time lawyer Pam Keith, a South Florida political activist, collected more than 1,700 signatures on a petition calling for Moody’s disbarment for her “conduct in violation of her oath of office.” Keith said Moody’s participation “in a purely GOP maneuver is an outrage.”

The Bar took no action against Moody. She may have outraged some Floridians but that didn’t matter at the polls. The attorney general easily won reelection in November.

ONLY ONE SIDE HAS SECRET ORDER

The Florida Bar contends that the hands-off exception to ethics oversight for legal officers is a longstanding unwritten policy. And to help “clarify” the policy for the public, the Supreme Court should adopt the Bar’s proposed rule.

Once these officeholders step down, the Bar would have six years to pursue complaints against them.

Indeed, The Florida Bar has never had a reputation for going after lawyer/politicians accused of unethical behavior. Nor has the state Supreme Court been known to issue or hide orders in the manner of a star chamber, a court that uses secrecy to mask arbitrary or grossly unfair actions.

The Public Interest Law Section only found out about the secret 1982 order because it pops up in a 2021 Florida Bar Journal article about lawyer discipline that the Bar cited in its rules petition.

Footnote 8 says this document, among others, supports the idea that “the Bar does not have disciplinary authority over a sitting judge or constitutional officer”: “In re Confidential Case No. 61,293 (Fla. Feb. 1, 1982) (prohibiting Bar and grievance committee from investigating or attempting to discipline state attorney).”

In Musto’s motion to obtain the order, he wrote that he asked Bar officials for a copy and they turned him down. He also sought more time to respond.

“The Bar’s unwillingness to provide the opinion or order is completely understandable,” Musto wrote. “Given this court’s designation of it as confidential, PILS realizes that the Bar cannot provide it unless this court enters an order allowing it to do so.”

The justices gave Musto a 30-day extension. At the same time, they denied his document request without explanation.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Support Florida Bulldog

If you believe in the value of watchdog journalism please make your tax-deductible contribution today.

We are a 501(c)(3) organization. All donations are tax deductible.

Join Our Email List

Email
*

First Name

Last Name

Florida Bulldog delivers fact-based watchdog reporting as a public service that’s essential to a free and democratic society. We are nonprofit, independent, nonpartisan, experienced. No fake news here.


Comments

7 responses to “Like a star chamber, Supreme Court hides order used to justify ethics rule that protects lawyer/politicians like AG Moody”

  1. Horrifying.

    Good reporting.

  2. Those who fully understand, (by way of first hand experience), how our so-called “system of justice” works, or what is JOKINGLY referred to as “Lawyer Regulation” by the Florida Bar and “Judicial Oversight” by the Florida JQC, are NOT surprised by ANY of this! Florida is not only the scam capital of the country, but also has a long and well-documented history of prejudiced, corrupt, bought-and-paid-for judges BETRAYING the public trust. The same can be said for the greedy, dishonest, unethical, self-serving lawyers who INFEST the Florida Bar! That’s just the way it is in the 17th Judicial Circuit Court in Broward County. The Rules Regulating the Florida Bar, The Rules of Judicial Administration and The Florida Code of Judicial Conduct means NOTHING to any of them, ESPECIALLY when dealing with a Pro Se litigant! I currently have a civil rights lawsuit pending against circuit court judge, John B. Bowman for willfully violating my constitutional right of procedural due process of law and access to the court. Case No.: CACE 23-000315, if you want to review the on-line docket. And you may not believe this…but the Florida Attorney General’s Office is representing him! WTF! I always thought the AG’s Office PROSECUTED wrongdoers – NOT DEFENDED THEM! Seriously! Judge Bowman, the accused, but never properly investigated, child sexual abuser of an 11 year old boy, Charles Harper, whom Judge Bowman took home to live with, (see the public news story), failed to comply with the statutory requirement of disqualification under Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.330(l). (see the on-line docket), and even though he is now the DEFENDANT in my lawsuit, he STILL refuses to leave the underlying case! (Emphasis). And Chief Judge, Jack Tuter knows every detail of this situation, but does NOTHING to enforce the Rules of Judicial Administration and the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct…so he’s just as corrupt as the rest of them! More to come as the case against Judge Bowman goes forward….

  3. Kevin A Bolling Avatar

    WOW, the South Florida Times, writer- Al Callaway on February 3, 2022, wrote a story
    “Child Sex Case Against Broward Judge VANISHED”. My faith in the 17th Judicial district has recently been shaken. Born and raised in Broward, I may not have agreed with “the system” but, I believed in it was the best for Broward, in most cases.
    I would love to see a follow-up, with the PPD Officer and the Attorney, that looked into the case on February 9, 2011. Broward State Attorney Satz refused to have that case looked into.
    Now even more shocking that the same BSA Satz charged Reitered Deputy Scot Peterson, with a crime that he is exempt from, (NEVER MIND THE FACT THAT THE DEPUTY NEVER KNEW WHERE HE MSD SHOOTER WAS DURING THE SHOOTING).
    If smells like s**t it’s most likely wrong.
    Peterson’s Lawyer Mark Eiglarsh 954-500-0003 has over 35+ witnesses that prove Peterson never knew in real time where the shooter was or that kids were being killed. The Broward State Attorney knows that there is not one person on campus during the shooting that knew the shooter was in the 1200 building. The same FDLE Agent Ridddick signed a PC and said that he had no PC and that a crime was not committed. He is the same FDLE guy who investigated the current sheriff tony/toney
    knows he lied on State and federal documents under perjury of law, and fail to prosecute him. Even better after lying about killing a fellow drug seller, LSD use, and abusing his public trust position he is still sheriff.
    So a follow-up would be a good read.

  4. Sorry to hear that Ed. I have had my own weird experiences with the courts. It’s one thing when judges at the trial court level play fast and loose, but that’s supposedly why we have appellate courts. Problem is the appellate courts may not be as credible as most believe. I once had a case where I suspected the “lead judge” on my three-judge appellate panel got himself on the panel to “help” either the trial judge or opposing counsel or both. A “lead judge” is a big deal because that judge gets to write a summary of the briefs (a brief of the briefs) which is handed to the other judges, and that judge is the one that gets to ask the first question at oral argument. It has long been suspected that many judges in many cases only read the summary of the briefs, and not the briefs themselves. So, the summary can get all the judges off on the wrong thought process. That “lead judge” was not originally assigned to my panel (which I found out well after the opinion was written and when my suspicions arose), and I was later told by a source that the lead judge was a fairly close friend of both the trial judge and opposing counsel. What I considered to be an off-the-mark ridiculous ruling unsurprisingly was the result. So, I invoked the rules of judicial administration and the Florida Constitutional right to records of the court to find out how the lead judge ended up on my panel. My request to the appellate court was denied leading me to file a petition for mandamus before SCOFLA (the FL Supremes). SCOFLA decided that the appeal should be heard before the appellate court whose clerk (that’s who I was told by the court to direct the request to) refused to provide the records. Every judge of the 3DCA then recused themselves from the appeal which led to SCOFLA appointing the 4DCA judges as temporary judges of the 3DCA. The appellate court (4DCA judges acting as 3DCA judges) then dismissed the petition for mandamus because they said my letter to the clerk which I disclosed as being copied to the chief judge of the court was improperly directed to the clerk instead of the chief judge, and because despite what I was told by the clerk, the chief judge should have been a party to the appeal (I’m not kidding). So, I wrote basically the same letter to the chief judge and copied the clerk, but as before my request for the records was denied. So, I re-filed my petition for mandamus to SCOFLA. My SCOFLA petition was denied with the court asserting that I had “no clear right to the records.” If you were to read the SCOFLA opinion, you would have no idea what records I was referring to in my petition, you would have no idea that I was trying to find out how the “lead judge” who wasn’t originally assigned to the panel ended up on the panel, nor would you have any idea that I asserted a Florida constitutional right to those records. In fact, you would more likely get the idea that I was a felon complaining perhaps about not being told where the ham in my sandwiches come from. So, I filed a petition to SCOTUS (the US Supremes) — knowing my chances of getting hit by lightning might be greater than being heard. SCOFLA used a judge from the 3DCA to respond to my petition. That judge happened to be one of the judges that was on the panel of the underlying appeal that led to the debacle. One of the Florida court’s arguments was that the petition did not “warrant” SCOTUS review. So, the Florida Supreme Court was essentially arguing that its refusal to follow a Florida constitutional mandate did not warrant SCOTUS’s consideration. Is the court’s refusal to follow a Florida constitutional mandate not a very important matter? So, no lightning hit — just more rain to wash the mess away.

    I wish you the best, but in my opinion finding out the truth about what is really happening behind the curtain will prove to be impossible.

  5. So is it safe to say this would apply to greg (lynx) Toney/Tony? Would his ethics complaints disappear? Maybe that’s what his legal team is doing- delaying until this kicks in. Clearly God Desantis is scared stiff of Toney and now the ethics commission is about to be neutered or silenced? I always wanted to be sheriff but not sure I have enough time to be as disgusting and deviant as the current one. Lynx won, now that ethics is a thing of the past. I guess thats what that pungent smell is when you enter broward. The smell of liberal, lawless hypocrites living packed together in one county.

  6. To: Truth-N-Justice – In my appeal, the 4th DCA three judge panel DIDN’T EVEN BOTHER to issue an opinion! They simply denied my appeal per curium. My motion for rehearing or alternatively for a written opinion, was also summarily denied! The three prejudiced, corrupt 4th DCA judges are CORY CIKLIN, SPENCER LEVINE and ALAN O. FORST. I filed JQC Complaints against all three which are still pending. (When judges don’t play by the rules…neither do I, so SCREW the JQC’s confidentiality requirement!). I also filed motions to disqualify all three of them under the relevant Rules of Judicial Administration and the Canons of the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct which, of course, was summarily denied. And yes, I know the Florida Supreme Court will refuse to hear my case, but what have I got to lose by trying…right? By the way, I like your euphemistic term, “weird” when describing your experience with the court, but wouldn’t “Total Bullshit” be more accurate? The public is getting smarter every day and there WILL come a time when these bad circuit and appellate court judges while find themselves in the middle of a “shit storm” without an umbrella!

  7. No Surprise! Corruption at the 4 DCA!! Avatar
    No Surprise! Corruption at the 4 DCA!!

    ED CRESPO:
    WOW!! You too? Would love to speak to you. I’m reposting what you wrote!! Aren’t the JQC “reviewers” bound by Bar Rules to report (and not cover up) judicial misconducts??

    “The three prejudiced, corrupt 4th DCA judges are CORY CIKLIN, SPENCER LEVINE and ALAN O. FORST. I filed JQC Complaints against all three which are still pending …. I also filed motions to disqualify all three of them under the relevant Rules of Judicial Administration and the Canons of the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct which, of course, was summarily denied. . . . !”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

×

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Email
*

First Name

Last Name