On Tuesday, November 14, 2023, the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (FACDL) filed a motion for leave to appear as an amicus curiae, or friend of the court, in the Florida Supreme Court case concerning Liberty County Judge Kenneth Hosford.
The case is entitled “In the Matter of Judge Kenneth Hosford,” with case number SC2023-1478.
The case stems from a Notice of Investigation issued against Judge Hosford on August 15, 2023, by the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC). According to a stipulation filed on October 25, 2023, between Judge Hosford and the JQC, Judge Hosford had an inappropriate ex parte communication with a prosecutor where he discussed a pending case and made comments that could suggest bias.
In the stipulation, Judge Hosford admitted his conduct violated the Code of Judicial Conduct. As part of the stipulation, Judge Hosford agreed to a public reprimand, a 30-day suspension without pay, a $2,000 fine, temporarily recusing himself from certain case types, and taking additional ethics training.
The FACDL, a statewide organization of over 1,300 criminal defense attorneys, is seeking to file an amicus brief in the case. In their motion, the FACDL expressed concern over comments made by Judge Hosford during the ex parte communication that purportedly showed bias in favor of law enforcement and against criminal defendants, especially immigrant defendants.
The FACDL argues Judge Hosford’s comments during the recorded conversation evidence he views his role as a political “boss” of the county when it comes to law enforcement. They are also troubled that Judge Hosford’s views on immigration appear to impact his decisions in criminal cases.
Given Judge Hosford is the only judge in Liberty County who hears criminal cases, the FACDL believes the stipulated sanctions will not sufficiently address their concerns. They want to remind the Court that judicial disciplinary actions send a signal beyond just the individual involved.
It remains to be seen if the Florida Supreme Court will grant the FACDL’s motion. The organization has asked for 15 days to file an amicus brief if permitted. They reached out to counsel for Judge Hosford and the JQC regarding their position on the motion but have not received a response. The Court will now consider the FACDL’s request to provide further perspective on this matter of judicial ethics and conduct.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.