NATIONAL NEWS

Lawyers may face discipline for criticizing a judge’s ruling in discrimination case

Jan 9, 2024, 12:53 PM | Updated: 6:12 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A father-daughter pair of lawyers in Florida may face disciplinary action for speaking out against a judge’s ruling that overturned a jury decision awarding $2.7 million to a Black doctor who alleged he was subjected to racial discrimination.

Civil rights attorney Jerry Girley represented the doctor after he was fired from AdventHealth in Orlando in 2021. A jury sided with Girley’s client, but the judge presiding over the case reversed that decision because he said the plaintiff failed to prove unlawful racial discrimination had taken place.

Girley and his daughter, Brooke Girley — who was not involved in the case — publicly criticized the judge’s decision, according to The Florida Bar. The organization of licensed lawyers in Florida says Jerry Girley gave an interview in which he said the decision was improper and that the court system doesn’t provide equal justice to all. The Florida Bar said Brooke Girley wrote on social media that “Even when we win, it only takes one white judge to reverse our victory.”

The state judge in the case, Kevin Weiss, said in court papers that the Girleys’ allegations “spread across the internet” and led to death threats requiring police protection at his home.

The Florida Bar says the criticism leveled at Weiss amounted to the Girleys violating an oath they took promising to respect the courts and judicial officers.

The Girleys and their attorney, David Winker, argue that disciplining them could chill free speech for Florida lawyers.

In a series of hearings this week, The Florida Bar asked Circuit Judge Lisa Herndon to find that the Girleys had violated their oaths and recommend disciplinary action. Punishment could go as far as disbarment or suspension of the Girleys’ law licenses.

On Tuesday, Herndon said Jerry Girley had indeed violated his oath, according to Winker. The judge is scheduled to rule in Brooke Girley’s case on Wednesday and hear disciplinary recommendations Thursday. Ultimately, the Florida Supreme Court will make any final decision.

Jerry Girley, who is Black, said the entire affair should be considered in the context of Florida’s political environment, where Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has removed two Democratic prosecutors, public colleges have been blocked from using taxpayer money on diversity programs and standards for teaching Black history say teachers should instruct middle-school students that enslaved people “developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”

“What is disturbing to me, as a Black man living in Florida, is I find I have to be careful about what I say, what I think about race, not just in courts, but in schools, in corporate settings,” Girley said. “It’s a weight.”

___

Follow Mike Schneider on X, formerly known as Twitter: @MikeSchneiderAP.

National News

Associated Press

A judge temporarily blocks Iowa law that allows authorities to charge people facing deportation

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A federal judge on Monday temporarily blocked an Iowa law that allowed law enforcement in the state to file criminal charges against people with outstanding deportation orders or who previously had been denied entry to the U.S. U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Locher issued a preliminary injunction because he said […]

40 minutes ago

Associated Press

Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear a challenge to governor’s 400-year school funding veto

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear a challenge to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ partial veto that locked in a school funding increase for the next 400 years, the justices announced Monday. The Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce Litigation Center filed a lawsuit in April arguing the governor exceeded his authority. The group […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Retired AP reporter Hoyt Harwell dies at 93. He covered key events in the American South

HOOVER, Ala. (AP) — Hoyt Garland Harwell, a longtime reporter for The Associated Press who covered key events in the American South and was a mentor to young reporters, has died. He was 93. Harwell died at home June 12 following a brief illness, according to his obituary. Harwell worked for the AP for 42 […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Federal appellate panel sends Michigan pipeline challenge to state court

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s lawsuit seeking to shut down part of a petroleum pipeline that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac belongs in state court, a federal appellate panel ruled Monday. The pipeline’s operator, Enbridge Inc., moved the case from state court to federal court more than two years past the deadline for changing […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Small plane with 1 aboard crashes into a Massachusetts river

LAWRENCE, Massachusetts (AP) — A small plane with one pilot aboard crashed into a Massachusetts river on Monday, according to authorities. It wasn’t immediately clear if the pilot survived the crash or was injured. The Federal Aviation Administration said the single-engine Van’s Aircraft RV-6A crashed into the Merrimack River in the town of Lawrence at […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

No lie: Perfectly preserved centuries-old cherries unearthed at George Washington’s Mount Vernon

MOUNT VERNON, Va. (AP) — George Washington never did cut down the cherry tree, despite the famous story to the contrary, but he did pack away quite a few bottles of the fruit at his Mount Vernon home. Dozens of bottles of cherries and berries — impossibly preserved in storage pits uncovered from the cellar […]

3 hours ago

Lawyers may face discipline for criticizing a judge’s ruling in discrimination case