Florida attorneys who criticized discrimination ruling should be suspended, judge says

Jan 29, 2024, 12:54 PM | Updated: 1:08 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A judge recommended 30-day suspensions for a father-daughter pair of lawyers in Florida who spoke out after another judge overturned a jury’s $2.7 million ruling in favor of a Black doctor in a racial discrimination case.

Judge Lisa Herndon also recommended that Orlando attorney Jerry Girley, who is Black, and his daughter, Brooke Girley, complete a workshop on professionalism, according to reports she issued last week, two weeks after the judge held a hearing on the lawyers’ discipline case brought by the Florida Bar.

The Florida Supreme Court ultimately will decide what, if any, discipline the Girleys face. Punishment could go as far as disbarment or suspension of the Girleys’ law licenses.

The Girleys’ attorney, David Winker, said Monday that his clients planned to ask the judge for a rehearing.

“There are factual things that we think are inaccurate,” Winker said of the reports. “There is a long road now before anything is finalized.”

Supporters of the Girleys say disciplinary action could chill free speech for Florida lawyers.

Earlier this month, Jerry Girley had said the entire affair should be considered in the context of Florida’s political environment, where Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has removed two Democratic prosecutors, public colleges have been blocked from using taxpayer money on diversity programs and standards for teaching Black history say teachers should instruct middle-school students that enslaved people “developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”

“What is disturbing to me, as a Black man living in Florida, is I find I have to be careful about what I say, what I think about race, not just in courts, but in schools, in corporate settings,” Girley told The Associated Press. “It’s a weight.”

Jerry Girley represented a Black doctor after he was fired from AdventHealth in Orlando in 2021. A jury sided with Girley’s client on several of the counts and awarded $2.7 million, but the judge presiding over the case overruled that decision because he said the doctor had failed to prove that race was a factor in his dismissal from a radiology residency program.

Girley and his daughter, Brooke Girley — who was not involved in the case — publicly criticized the decision by Judge Kevin Weiss, according to The Florida Bar.

The organization of licensed lawyers in Florida reported that Jerry Girley said in an interview that the decision was improper and the court system doesn’t provide equal justice to all, instead providing a “back door” which is “often used to undermine Black people and their cases.” The Florida Bar said Brooke Girley wrote on social media, “Even when we win, it only takes one white judge to reverse our victory.”

Weiss said in court papers that the Girleys’ allegations “spread across the internet” and led to death threats requiring police protection at his home.

Herndon said in her reports recommending discipline that the Girleys had violated their oath of admission to the Florida Bar by, among other things, failing to maintain the respect due to judicial officers and making false statements.

Regarding the Girleys’ arguments that the First Amendment protected their criticism, the judge said their statements weren’t protected by free speech and that the lawyers had failed to show they had a factual basis for making the statements.

“The content of the statements undermines public confidence in the court system and is prejudicial to the administration of justice,” Herndon wrote in her reports.


Follow Mike Schneider on X, formerly known as Twitter: @MikeSchneiderAP.

United States News

Associated Press

Florida prepares for next round of rainfall after tropical storms swamped southern part of the state

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Forecasters warned Floridians to prepare for additional flash flooding after a tropical disturbance dumped as much as 20 inches (50 centimeters) of rainfall in the southern parts of the state, with worsening conditions expected Friday. The disorganized storm system was pushing across Florida from the Gulf of Mexico at roughly […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

1 of 2 abducted Louisiana children is found dead in Mississippi after their mother is killed

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Louisiana woman was found dead in her home Thursday, and her two young daughters were abducted and found hours later in Mississippi — one dead and the other alive, police said. A Louisiana resident who had dated the woman was arrested in Jackson, Mississippi, in connection with the deaths and […]

7 hours ago

Associated Press

Ready to renew your US passport? You can now apply online

WASHINGTON (AP) — There’s an easier way to renew your passport — online. The State Department has opened a trial run allowing a limited number of people to apply for their updated travel documents with a few clicks. You can’t just start anytime — windows will open at midday Eastern time each day and then […]

7 hours ago

Associated Press

You don’t think corn dogs are haute cuisine? These chefs, using alligator sausage, beg to differ.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Stefani De Palma, an award-winning chef and head of the a team vying to represent the Americas in a French culinary competition in January, knew she wanted her team’s work to feature flavors of her native California. The challenge at the Bocuse d’Or Americas competition this week in New Orleans was […]

8 hours ago

Associated Press

Attorney charged in voting machine tampering case announces run for Michigan Supreme Court

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — An attorney charged in connection with an effort to illegally access and tamper with voting machines in Michigan after the 2020 election said Thursday that he’s running for the state’s high court. Republican Matthew DePerno, a supporter of former President Donald Trump, made the announcement on the social platform X. “After […]

8 hours ago

Follow @ktar923...

Sponsored Content by Collins Comfort Masters

Here's how to be worry-free when your A/C goes out in the middle of summer

PHOENIX -- As Arizona approaches another hot summer, Phoenix residents are likely to spend more time indoors.

Sponsored Articles


Sanderson Ford

3 new rides for 3 new road trips in Arizona

It's time for the Sanderson Ford Memorial Day sale with the Mighty Fine 69 Anniversary, as Sanderson Ford turned 69 years old in May.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Beat the heat, ensure your AC unit is summer-ready

With temperatures starting to rise across the Valley, now is a great time to be sure your AC unit is ready to withstand the sweltering summer heat.


Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.

Florida attorneys who criticized discrimination ruling should be suspended, judge says