Unopposed judge candidate calls claim he schemed to win false; NAACP calls for him to step down

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An unopposed candidate for a Florida judge seat is calling claims that he schemed to win an election false and preconceived.

The Jacksonville NAACP is calling for attorney Michael Kalil to step down from the judge seat, and a Florida Bar investigation is underway into whether Kalil’s actions were in violation of its rules.

The controversy centers around the actions of Florida Circuit Court Judge Tyrie Boyer and Kalil on Friday.

Boyer filed to seek re-election as a judge, but documents show two hours before the filing deadline on Friday, he withdrew from the race in a faxed letter dated the day before. An hour and a half earlier, Kalil entered the race.

The move by Kalil and Boyer on Friday left less than two hours for another person to file the necessary paperwork to join the race.

Once the deadline passed, Kalil effectively became a judge without an election.

It’s important to note several attorneys say it’s an unofficial rule not to run against a sitting judge, especially if another seat is open.

Members of the legal community are asking who else knew about Boyer’s decision to withdraw and if everyone had a fair shot to run for the seat.

In a statement, another attorney Rhonda Peoples-Waters said she spoke with Boyer in fall 2019 to ask the judge if he was seeking re-election. Waters said Boyer told her he was seeking re-election, so she didn’t file papers to run for his seat.

“Had I known Judge Boyer planned to retire, I would have considered filing to run in the seat being vacated by his retirement. Unfortunately, because of the way events unfolded last Friday, I did not have the opportunity to consider switching races to the open seat,” said Peoples-Waters.

Kalil and Boyer have pushed back against claims they schemed together to rig the winner of the election.

In an email response, Kalil said: “There are some false, preconceived narratives out there right now that simply are not true. I can assure everyone there was no impropriety whatsoever with my campaign. I look forward to serving the people of Duval, Clay, and Nassau county.”

News4Jax asked Kalil in a follow-up email whether he discussed Boyer’s retirement with him and if he was aware Judge Boyer planned to withdraw from the race on Friday. At the time of publication, the News4Jax I-TEAM had not received a response to its questions from Kalil.

Monday, Boyer, 71, said he withdrew from the race to avoid running an expensive campaign for a limited time on the bench. Florida statutes show judges must retire at 75 years old.

On a phone call with the I-TEAM, he said: “If anybody ran against me I was going to withdraw my candidacy. Campaigns are too hard and too stressful. I withdrew in time to get my qualifying fee returned.”

Jacksonville NAACP President Isaiah Rumlin said citizens were effectively deprived of an opportunity to consider judicial candidates.

“We need to have fair elections and we hold judges in high esteem, and for judges to do this type of maneuvering, it sends the wrong message to our community,” said Rumlin.

Kalil has not announced any intention to withdraw from the race. The I-TEAM reached out to the Florida Division of Elections to see what would happen if he did, but did not receive a response at the time of publication.

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