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Harsher penalties discussed for ethical breaches by judges, lawyers

Judges, lawyers facing tougher sanctions from state Supreme Court

But according to Billy J. Williams, the acting U.S. attorney in Oregon, the Hammonds were rightfully convicted after setting fire to about 130 acres of public land in an attempt to cover up poaching. In an opinion piece for the Burns Times Herald,
But according to Billy J. Williams, the acting U.S. attorney in Oregon, the Hammonds were rightfully convicted after setting fire to about 130 acres of public land in an attempt to cover up poaching. In an opinion piece for the Burns Times Herald, (creationc/FreeImages)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Lawyers and judges who commit ethical breaches are facing tougher sanctions from the state Supreme Court.

In a Thursday case, there was evidence against two lawyers accused of setting up an opposing counsel for a DUI.

In many cases, judges opt to retire rather than face sanctions. Jackie Fulford, a former judge, was ordered to take early retirement after facing several ethics inquiries.

"If you want to fight, let's go out back and duke it out," Judge John Murphy once said.

Judicial watchdogs recommended a fine and a suspension for a judge who challenged a public defender to a fight. The Supreme Court fired him instead.

The current court seems to be taking a harder line than past courts when it comes to punishment. Six judges are currently being investigated. Complaints against judges are up 15 percent, and from 2012 to 2014 the number of probable cause hearings against judges went from six to 13.

Lawyers are not faring better with the current court.

"He choose to participation a totally unethical scheme," said Florida Supreme Court Justice Peggy Quince.

Two Tampa lawyers were on the hot seat Thursday for allegedly setting up the DUI arrest of an attorney in an opposing case.

"I’ve never encountered behavior like this and calculated and planned behavior," said Florida Supreme Court Justice Fred Lewis.

"I mean, quit your job, whatever," said Chief Justice Jorge LaBarga. "I’m out too here. I’m not doing this. What ever happened to that?"

Originally, the bar recommended a suspension. Now the recommendation is for a permanent disbarment.

"Their conduct shows they have bad character and they should not be allowed, ever, to practice law again," said Jodi A. Thompson, with the Florida Bar.

A permanent disbarment is the harshest penalty the court can impose. The justices seemed in no mood to offer any mercy.