Florida Lawyer May be Disbarred for Criticizing Judge in Blog — While the Judge Stands Trial for Judicial Misconduct

There is a bizarre fight brewing in Florida between a lawyer and judge over their respective alleged misconduct.  Lawyer Sean Conway faces discipline for attacking Judge Cheryl Alemán is facing possible discipline before the Judicial Qualifications Commission.  At issue are not just standards of professional and judicial conduct, but the first amendment.

Conway’s problems began with an entry on his blog on Halloween 2006 where he described Alemán’s  “ugly, condescending attitude” and questioned her mental stability.  He described how she made lawyers choose between unreasonable trial dates or waiving their clients’ rights to a speedy trial.  He also described her an “evil, unfair witch.”  He also added: “She is clearly unfit for her position and knows not what it means to be a neutral arbiter.” 

The posting was made on Jaablog, a courthouse weblog.

Conway is accused of five bar violations, including impugning the judge’s qualifications or integrity. That standard has always raised serious constitutional questions since lawyers have a right to speak out against judges.  This is particularly the case when judges run for office.  While it is clear that a judge has considerable power to regulate the conduct and statements of lawyers in court, the punishing of statements made in the public forum about a judge can threaten free speech.  

Courts have long viewed the issue differently.  Although lawyers have free speech rights, they insist that the privilege of serving as an attorney requires compliance with professional standards of civility, decorum, and respect.  Yet, this should not immunize judges from attacks over their own conduct. While the witch comment was unnecessary, Conway was raising serious questions about the judge’s conduct.<

He also filed formal charges against  Alemán with the Judicial Qualifications Commission.  She is currently waiting the outcome of her three-day trial for allegedly threatening to hold defense attorneys in contempt and refusing to remove herself from cases in which she had an acrimonious relationship with the defense attorney.

Conway appears to have a constitutional case and is expected to rely on recent challenges to such rules in other states. The most recent involved controversial attorney Geoffrey Fieger who successfully challenged a formal reprimand by the Michigan state courts.  Fieger called specific Michigan judges “three jackass court of appeals judges” and referred to them as “Nazis”. Nevertheless, this year, U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Tarnow found that the are unconstitutional as both overly broad and vague under the First Amendment (free speech)  as well as violative of the due process requirements of the Fourteenth Amendment.

“As interpreted by the Michigan Supreme Court, the State of Michigan’s effort to regulate unprotected speech through the courtesy provisions causes a substantial amount of protected speech to be regulated as well. 

In addition, the courtesy provisions are so imprecise that persons of ordinary intelligence must guess at their meaning. Although it has long been recognized that states have legitimate interests in restricting attorney speech both to protect the fair public’s perception of it, these interests do not extinguish a Michigan attorney’s First and Fourteenth Amendment constitutional rights to free speech and due process.

Limiting an attorney’s extrajudicial criticism of a branch of government in the name of preserving the judiciary’s integrity is likely to have an unintended, deleterious effect upon the public’s perception, since attorneys are often best suited to assess the performance of judges. Political speech– speech about government issues or government officials–is “at the core of what the First Amendment is designed to protect.”

Conway’s discipline would trigger another such challenge and could well add to the cases limiting the ability of the courts to restrict public criticism of their records or conduct.

For the Florida story, click here

5 thoughts on “Florida Lawyer May be Disbarred for Criticizing Judge in Blog — While the Judge Stands Trial for Judicial Misconduct”

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  2. “GOD BLESS YOU” SEAN CONWAY U SAW THE SAME ACTIONS I SAW BY THIS JUDGE UNFAIR JUDICIAL PRACTICES SHE SHOULD BE REPRIMANDED AND REMOVED COMPLETELY ,NOT U CAUSE YOUR A EXCELLENT LAWYER WHO IS HONERABLE HONERING YOUR CODE OF ETHICS AS YOUR EDUCATION ON BEING A LAWYER TAUGHT U TO BE YOU SHOULD NOT BE REPRIMANDED BECAUSE U
    WERE TRYING TO HONOR “OUR CONSTITUTION” AND WERE DOING THE HONERABLE THING ABOUT BEING HONEST OF WHAT IS TAKING PLACE I AM NOT A LAWYER BUT A TAX PAYING CITIZEN WHO WILL CONTINUE EXERCIZING MY RIGHT TO
    “FREEDOM OF SPEECH ” AS A TAX PAYER AND MY 75 YEAR OLD FATHER WITH A HEART COND. A “HONERABLE KOREAN WAR VETERAN WHO FOUGHT FOR THIS COUNTRY AND ITS SAFETY “SAID I DID NOT FIGHT FOR MY COUNTRY FOR MY ONLY GRANDSON TO SIT IN PRISON FOR 8 YEARS OVER THIS REDICOULOUS INCIDENT (OVERKILL)FOR 2 FALSE CHARGES ,AND NOT GIVEN HIS DAY IN COURT TO PROVE THAT HE IS INNOCENT HIS LIFE SHOULD NOT BE PUT IN DANGER IN YOUR PRISON SYSTEM U CANT GET THE REAL CRIMINALS ? SO GET A YOUNG BOY AND SEND HIM TO PRISON WITHOUT A TRIAL JUDGE CHERYL ALEMAN IN THE ONE TIME I WAS IN HER COURT ROOM WAS THREATENING TO ARREST PEOPLE ? BECAUSE THERE THE MOTHER OF THE PERSON I AM SORRY BUT THIS LADY IS “MENTALLY INCAPABLE” FOR ANY JUDICIAL PROCEDURES WHAT SHE DID TO MY SOM WAS VERY CRUEL,AND VERY EVIL PERSON PLEASE REMOVE HER SHE IS NOT A GOOD JUDGE SEAN CONWAY WAS ONLY WITNESSING WHAT HE SAW AND I NEVER MET HIM BUT GOD BLESS U SIR YOUR A EXCELLENT LAWYER WHO CARES ABOUT HONERING OUR CONSTITUTION AND U DESERVE A AWARD FOR EXPOSING THIS CAUSE I AM A CITIZEN AND I CAN GO TO THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT WITH MY SONS CASE THAT I HAVE GATHERED TOGETHER TO SHOW THIS WAS A FALSE CHARGE AND HE NEVER GOT HIS DAY IN COURT ,NO TRIAL TO SEE IF MS.ALEMAN IS SUPPOSE TO LOOK AT EACH INDIVIDUAL CHARGE NOT GO BY HER FEELING I KNOW SHE IS A MENTALLY INCOMPETENT WHEN SHE THREATENED TO ARREST PEOPLE WHO ARE JUST SITTING ON THE BENCH THIS JUDGE ALEMAN IS CRAZY `TOTAL UNFAIRNESS. THANK YOU,ELIZABETH HARRITON CONCERNING WRONGFULLY CONVICTED,AND 2FALSE CHARGES PLACED UPON HIM WITHOUT ANY EVIDENCE BUT HIS DAY TO A FAIR TRIAL AND RIGHTS WERE VIOLATED AND TRAMPLED ON BY JUDGE CHERYL ALEMAN WHO IS SUPPOSE TO GIVE MY SON A TRIAL TO SEE IF ITS ACCURATE AND THAT SHE IS NOT PUNISHING SOMEONE AND MAKING THEM SUFFER IN A PRISON ENDANGERING THERE LIFE WHEN THEY SHOULD NOT BE THERE ANYWAY
    IF THEY ARE INNOCENT WHICH COULD BE PROVEN INSTANTLY WITH A FAIR TRIAL,WE WERE ALLREADY ROBBED BY A LAWYER WHO NEVER SHOWED UP BUT IF SOMEONE CAN HELP CALL ME THIS CAN BE A VALUABLE CASE FOR U AS A CIVAL RIGHTS VIOLATION WHICH INCLUDES A VERY LARGE SETTLEMENT SENDING SOMEONE TO PRISON WITHOUT A TRIAL ?????? IS THIS WHAT OUR CONSTITUTION STATES? WE HAVE TH RIGHT MY NEXT STEP IS JUSTICE DEPT. washington d.c. i will not let my son go through life with a false charge if u read her complaint and pick up order it makes no sense from ms.singley a dishonest worker or shwe made a mistake but i cant rest as a mother till my son gets his day in court he will be set free cause they have no -evidence just a laughing aleged victim this is not a “joke” ms aleman is not the one suffering in a prison my poor son is and for something so piddley ??WHATS WRONG U CANT GET THE GUY WHO REALLY WAS ARMED AND DANGEROUS SHOT A BROWARD SHERIFF HE`S STILL ON THE LOOSE THATS A REAL BAD GUY NOT MY SON . BUT HES FREE AND MY SON WHO IS MORE OF A VICTIM OF TRUMPED UP FLASE CHARGES THEN A PERPATRAITOR. IF THERE IS A LAWYER WHO CAN WORK WITH ME I CAN APPEAL BY NOVEMBER 2008. thank u Elizabeth Mother of aaron harriton
    wrongfull conviction never given his day in court or allowed a fair trial handled by judge ale`man hwo should be removed from the bench.

  3. I read this in the sun-sentinal and i knew my intuition was accurate
    i am the mother of a young man who was wrongfully convictied by judge cheryl aleman for a crime he never committed falsely charged
    by the hollywood police department a incompetent employee going by the name detective singley who now earned a promotion by placeing false charges on young boys to earn a promotion, my son was only a passenger in his girlfriends car all young people at the time she 17 he 20 and they went to the movies that nite, when a arab american young man there age started throwing pennies at there car ,then struck the car my son was driving in he get out and began to engage in a fight with him jumping on him, when his friend sleeping in the back seat hit him to get him off my small son,who was bitten in the hand requiring stitches this was a simple fender bender with a small fight all engaged and the alleged victim is the same age. my son aaron called police seminole responded and issued a police report of incident detailing what happened and that they wanted to obtain the insurance info for the alleged victim who left the scene of a accident the officer drove my son home the alleged victim went to hollywood police dept. of hollywood florida with only hear say evidence saying my son tried to take his jewelery ,when you fight with people things may fly off your body in the pitch of nite time
    my son took nothing from him this detective lady 6 months down the
    road places a false charge of strong armed robbery when this was only a car accident, and not a armed robbery case the alleged victim was in the court room laughing and pointing at aaron like it was a big joke except my son cival rights were violated when he gave power of attorney to lee arman cohen who has been disbarred for robbing people and not showing up for there cases, left my son unable to defend himself against this false trumped up charge they have no evidence and violated his cival rights to a fair trial made him lay in jail punishing him for his lawyer not showing up made him lay in the jail for 4 years total in broward “HE SAIS NOT GUILTY ” to move the case out of the way she placed amy young who never made any effort to get info or a discovery on the case just did waht the judge wanted too violating my sons cival right and our code of constitution wore him down he was crying young unable to speak try to intimidate him to take a plea bargain he did not know what was going on hes only 20 years old and looks 16 and does not even know what he was charged with a ethical judge are suppose to follow are laws and sent my son to prison without any trial after the kid suffered for 4 years awaiting a trial that never came they have no evidence of the charge of strong armed robbery and i obtained ,i became the investigator, got the police report that never even made it into court showing this was a small fender bender,and small fight and my son is not the one who hit him he was hitting them too the other guy did and his lawyer showed up to properly defend him .there suppose to give my son a fair trial and look at each charge to make sure there not making someone a young boy suffer in a prison for something he did not do putting his life in danger when he never robbed anyone,or had any weapons in his life he would risk his life to save any human being out there including a police officer willing to give up his life to save him it was totally, cruel and inhumane the way this lady cheryl aleman handles cases she should be removed as a judge she is in competent and possibly mentally impaired,this lawyer was tought in law school to uphold our constitution and to expose wrong doing on any human being no matter what your job is,they have no evidence on my son and within 2 mins he would be released he needs a appeal filed to fight the 2 false charges this department placed upon him they have no evidence except what they call hear say evidence of a young man who who works at the sahara cafe
    hollywood beach who probably furnishes them with free food she also placed a armed and dangerous charge on our home which had broward sheriff on my fathers property who is a )honerable korean war veteran fought for this country`s freedom and said he did not fight for this country for his grand son to not get a trial judge cheryl aleman should be removed for violating our constitution for the many newspaper articles about her arrogant ,thinks she`s god also cruel inhumane actions on case handlings my son aaron harriton L49845 was falsely charged with 2 charges that are innaccurate and i have evidence that never made it into court cause no-one cared if there prosecuting someone on something written up that is un-true i can not rest till my son gets a appeal we were robbed by a lawyer so this is a cival rights matter and i can find a lawyer to help not let this lady get away with sending a person to prison without a trial and being vindictive postphoning the case for 4 years making the kid suffer dont think u dont suffer in jail u do some really belong there but some were not treated fairly they are suppose to give him a trial not ware him down when he said not guilty my son said mom what did they charge me with ??? a honerable well educated in there field would know the laws of our land the judge is suppose to read off what the person is charged with a total injustice was done to him i wrote the state attorneys office showing all evidence i obtained that this was not a armed robbery case and a false trumped up-charge was placed upon him, my son did not take anyhting from this young man ,and does not deserve a false charge i obtained his photo he was alive happy working at his familys cafe i made believe i was a tourist and i got his pics u can clearly see all his jewelery on his person ,and his face was in perfect condition not a mark and this ms.singley said my son disfigureded his face when they can go investigate that is a lie and my son AARON HARRITON L49845
    Was driven home my first officer so i know the accusations are a lie
    and his day in court was never given violating what our country of the united states say we have a right to a fair trial this ms.aleman tramples and is unethical to a fair tiral gave him none my son is more of a victim of getting charges then a perpatraitor i have a lot of evidence that my son is innocent how dare this lady getting free food who works for the hollywood police department is not suffering
    in a prison he is young person taken away 5 years ago for nothing placing armed and dangerous on our address placing innocent people to be shot who are law abiding citizens, i will continue my fight to get my som a fair trial so he has his chance to prove his innocense or guilt THAT IS THE LAW FOR ALL AMERICAN CITIZENS THAT IS THERE RIGHT PROTECTED BY THE FIRST AMMENDMENT OF FREEDOM OF SPEECH ~

  4. Fieger’s, noteworthy for being outspoken and a local legend in Southfield, MI – was surely striking a sharp blow with his comments – since the area is home to one of the Nation’s largest communities of Orthodox Jews. Clearly, Judge Tarnow used less imagination in interpreting the Constitution and quite successfully landed closer to the intention of the Amendment. Furthermore, Fieger has been an outspoken critic in MI and has a bent towards sensationalism. He’s ruffled a fair share of feathers – yet – that didn’t give the State Courts authority to officially reprimand him. No one said they couldn’t write an opinion column or letter to the editor, or have a screaming match with him in the parking lot.

    Our Constitution shouldn’t be disregarded because someone got called a Nazi, regardless of how badly their feelings were hurt.

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