Judge Michael E. Allen of the 1st District Court of Appeals will be reprimanded for his violation of three canons of the judicial code, the St. Petersburg Times reports. Allen is being punished for writing an opinion that accused a fellow judge of having poor ethics. This marks the first time the Florida Supreme Court has punished a judge for something written in an opinion.
The controversy arose from Allen’s 2006 opinion in which he criticized Judge Charles J. Kahn Jr. for trying to overturn the bribery conviction of former Senate President W.D. Childers of Pensacola, despite having personal and professional associations with the defendant. According to the Times:
Kahn once practiced law with Pensacola lawyer Fred Levin, a longtime friend of Childers who helped the former senator and then-Gov. Lawton Chiles craft the law that allowed the state to sue tobacco companies.
In a 2006 opinion, Allen said Kahn’s attempt to overturn Childers’ bribery conviction might be misconstrued by Floridians familiar with newspaper stories describing the relationship between Kahn, Levin and Chiles.
The high court was especially critical of Allen for using newspaper accounts, though the court then went on to take note of newspaper stories written about Allen’s opinion, saying they did not promote public confidence in the judiciary.
As the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments in Caperton v. Massey, issues of recusal are at the forefront of judicial news coverage. To learn more about recusal, see this 2008 report by the Brennan Center for Justice, or these postings in Gavel Grab.