Another Broward Judge Facing JQC Ethics Charges
The state Judicial Qualifications Commission charged Broward Circuit Judge Ernest Kollra with ethics violations for telling a crowd while campaigning that he had received a Democratic group’s endorsement and telling the Sun Sentinel editorial board his party affiliation.
The problem is judicial races are nonpartisan and Canons 7C and 7D of the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct prohibit judges from taking partisan stances or making partisan statements.
As stated in the JQC “Notice of Formal Charges”;
On May 22, 2018 during an interview with the Sun Sentinel Editorial
Board, you impermissibly answered a question about your personal
political party affiliation. Your opponent was asked the same question, but
appropriately declined to answer. This information was not published in
the Sun Sentinel article, however, you later admitted that as soon as your
opponent declined to answer the question, you realized that you should not
have answered it.
A short time later, on June 13, 2018, you attended and spoke at a candidate
forum hosted by the “Dolphin Democrats.” The Dolphin Democrats are a
partisan political organization whose stated mission is “…to strengthen
and further the ideals and principles of the Democratic Party…”. As a
result of your appearance at the forum, you received the official
endorsement of the Dolphin Democrats in your judicial campaign.
Subsequently, on or about June 24, 2018, you attended a judicial candidate
forum hosted by the “Hills Democratic Club.” While speaking to the
attendees at this forum, you inappropriately announced that you had
recently received the endorsement of the Dolphin Democrats, a partisan
Your actions constitute inappropriate conduct in violation of Canons 1, 2,
7C(3), and 7D of the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct.
JQC FORMAL CHARGES
This is a big deal. In Broward county, Democrats outnumber Republicans more than 2-1.
Judicial races are nonpartisan in Florida and for the judge to state in public he has the endorsement of two different Democratic organizations, while his opponent Alan Schneider, followed the rules and declined to answer any questions about party affiliations, probably guaranteed his election in this heavily Democratic county.
Campaign and election laws are strictly enforced and if a candidate for any other public office were to pull a stunt like that, they would face some pretty serious consequences and even possible removal from public office.
However, Earnest Kollra is a sitting Florida Judge and because of that, the jurisdiction is vested in the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission, (JQC), and as usual, they are doing very little about it.
1. Under Rule 6(k), the Commission may reach agreement with a judge on discipline or disability, and such stipulation shall be transmitted directly to the Supreme Court.
4. Judge Kollra has expressed remorse and regrets that his use of the partisan political endorsements called into question the impartiality and integrity of the non-partisan judicial elections.
5. In light of the facts, the Judge’s responses to the Panel’s inquiries, and Judge Kollra’s lack of prior disciplinary history, the Investigative Panel and Judge Kollra respectfully submit that the interest of justice and sound judicial administration is best served by entering into this Stipulation regarding the matters at issue and by the Findings and Recommendations which accompany this Stipulation.
Looks like the Florida JQC is saying sitting judges in Florida get one free pass at violating even the most serious of Canons.
Chapter 105.071 of the Florida Statutes prohibits judicial candidates participating in partisan political activities. This statute provides that a candidate for judicial office may register to vote as a member of any political party, and may vote in any party primary… however, a judicial candidate shall not “campaign as a member of any political party,” or “publicly represent or advertise herself or himself as a member of any political party.” See §105.071(1)-(3) Florida Statutes. A violation of this statute is subject to a fine, up to $1,000, as determined by the Florida Elections Commission.
Broward County, the seventeenth circuit, is the most disciplined judicial circuit in the state by far, and both the Florida Supreme Court and Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission are doing very little about it.
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION OF DISCIPLINE
According to the commission’s recommendations;
Judge Kollra admitted to two violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct which are very clearly and unambiguously delineated by the Canons. In spite of his being a new to the bench, and new to elections, it is incumbent upon him to follow the Canons. The Commission believes that a public reprimand of Judge Kollra will be sufficient to deter similar misconduct by the Respondent in the future, and will also serve as a reminder to future candidates for judicial office that they must protect the integrity of non-partisan judicial elections by refraining from using or advertising partisan endorsements.
Accordingly, the Commission finds and recommends that the interests of justice, the public welfare, and sound juridical administration will be well served by a public reprimand of Judge Ernest Kollra.
That’s it. You read all that correct, only a public reprimand. He’s not even being required to pay the cost of prosecution.
Now of course The Florida Supreme Court will have to approve this stipulation, but their past actions in these matters show they more than likely will.
There is very little doubt that the number of judges in Broward that will be in trouble this year, will grow.
South Florida Corruption.com