Bar Won't File Ethics Charges Against Blogger Bill Gelin
The announcement that The Florida Bar was closing its investigation of JAABlog editor Bill Gelin without filing ethics charges came as a relief to the journalist-lawyer.
It also was good news to South Florida attorneys who in one way or another have supported the Broward County Courthouse blogger, or at least his right to publicly scrutinize judges.
Thomas Julin, a First Amendment attorney with Hunton & Williams in Miami, called the result good news.
"The takeaway is that a lawyer can be pretty bold in criticizing judges," Julin said.
Bar rules prohibit attorneys from making false statements. But Julin said the norm was a tendency to hold one's tongue. A lesson of the Gelin investigation, which began in May, was that lawyers who are brave enough to criticize judges will not be subject to Bar discipline, Julin said.
The grievance committee found no probable cause to proceed on either of two complaints they considered. The exact violation of bar rules never was spelled out.
"While the case was pending, the way it came to us, The Bar would say respond to us and give us your position on all these articles," said Gelin's attorney, Russell Cormican of Kent & Cormican in Fort Lauderdale.
About a dozen JAABlog articles were referenced, all having to do with Broward County Court Judge Robert Diaz or Palm Beach County Court Judge Marni Bryson.
Cormican said he repeatedly asked The Bar "what's the specific complaint? And they would never say what it was."
Gelin has often been critical of Diaz for his work hours, which he said left other county court judges to add to their own dockets. Gelin came out against Diaz in his last election.