The Florida Bar’s War Against Free Speech

In an age where discrimination based on political ideology is encouraged by big government and big business, when doctors are attacked for practicing medicine, and simply speaking the truth about risks associated with mRNA shots, it may not be shocking that The Florida Bar is attacking the First Amendment. Although, it is a sad sign of the times we live in, that this is not shocking.

In the 2018 Republican primary for State Attorney for the 20th Judicial Circuit of Florida, candidates engaged in a rough political primary in a partisan race that included negative political attacks. Christopher Crowley, the loser in the race, is a former member of the 82nd Airborne Division, and is currently stationed overseas in active-duty military. He is also a former prosecutor and defense attorney and has no complaints or ethical issues regarding his law license prior to this campaign, and none actually involving the practice of law. Losing a tough political campaign was not enough, this candidate faces bar complaints and the Florida Bar is apparently seeking a one year suspension of his license.

What crimes did this candidate commit? Fraud? Embezzlement?

Nothing of the sort. In Florida Bar Case No. SC20-529 the Florida bar is going after the losing candidate in a tough partisan political race for the crime of engaging in political speech. I highlight the fact that this was the losing candidate because it is relevant for a couple reasons. It is extremely unlikely that the Florida Bar would be going after this attorney’s license if he had won his race and was a sitting state attorney. The fact that this candidate lost his race is also relevant because the Florida Bar’s attack on a member’s right to political speech appears punitive.

The political speech at issue challenged the integrity of the opposing candidate for state attorney by questioning conviction rates and labeled the candidate as corrupt. Also, claims that the opposing candidate was involved with the respondent/defendant’s arrest during the campaign are at issue. Yes, this race was that nasty. The Florida Bar also appears to be asserting that the respondent/defendant in this case was responsible for posting a negative article about the opposing candidate on social media, where part of the article questioned the candidate’s religion. This is extremely troubling because it is not uncommon for people to post articles on social media that they may or may not necessarily agree with, in whole or part. An article can be simply shared for informational purposes as well as to highlight a small portion of the article.

Although evidence was presented in support of the negative attacks in bar legal proceedings, it should be pointed out that for our purposes, it is irrelevant whether the charges of corruption or the alleged poor conviction rate and other charges made by the respondent are true or not, and we have no idea of their veracity. In politics, truth, like beauty, is often subject to the eye of the beholder. The issue is clearly whether the Florida Bar has the right to infringe upon the civil rights of its members and can censor political speech in a partisan political race.

According to its website, The Florida Bar mission states:

The Florida Bar is the organization of all lawyers licensed by the Supreme Court of Florida to practice law in the state. The Florida Bar’s core functions are to: Regulate the practice of law in Florida; ensure the highest standards of legal professionalism in Florida; and protect the public by prosecuting unethical attorneys and preventing the unlicensed practice of law.

The Florida bar is acting under the color of law on behalf of the state of Florida. Arguably a professional organization has a responsibility to protect the civil rights of its members, certainly not infringe upon them. The organization is purposed to regulate and discipline member attorneys for unethical and or illegal behavior and ensure professional conduct. It appears that in this case there are no allegations of breaking the law nor are there any charges related to the practice of law.

This is disturbing. It also appears unprecedented.

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