Thursday, June 26, 2008

Florida allows blogs to criticize judges

A Miami Florida newspaper reports:
The Florida Supreme Court has intervened in a proposed settlement between The Florida Bar and a Fort Lauderdale defense attorney facing discipline for calling a Broward judge an "evil, unfair witch" on a courthouse blog.

Accused of violating Bar rules by impugning the judge's qualifications or integrity, Sean Conway, 37, had agreed to resolve the case by accepting a public reprimand.

The state's high court on Monday ordered the two sides to submit briefs on whether Conway's comments are "protected speech under the First Amendment."

It cited a case that says an attorney's comments "play an important role in exposing valid problems within the judicial system" and gave both sides until July 14 to provide additional information.

"It reassures my faith in the system to know that the Supreme Court would take time out of its busy schedule to protect the First Amendment when The Florida Bar doesn't appear to find it as important," Conway said Tuesday.
It is extremely rare for the court to intervene in a settlement like this. The Florida Supreme Court must have felt very strongly that attorneys have a First Amendment right to criticize judges on their blogs, no matter what Bar Assn rules say.

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