On Tuesday, October 17, 2023, the Florida Judicial Qualification Commission (JQC) recommended that Polk County Judge John B. Flynn be publicly reprimanded for inappropriate statements made during his 2022 judicial campaign.
The case is entitled “In the Matter of John B. Flynn.”
According to the filing, Judge John B. Flynn violated Canons 7A(3)(a), 7A(3)(b), 7A(3)(c), 7A(3)(e)(i), and 7C(3) of the Code of Judicial Conduct.
According to the JQC’s Findings and Recommendation of Discipline, Judge Flynn made repeated use of words and phrases signaling support for law enforcement agencies during his campaign that could undermine perceptions of his impartiality. His social media posts and advertisements touted “Support Law Enforcement” and said “Criminals won’t be happy to see me on the bench. I am tough if someone is found guilty the punishment should sting enough for the person to learn criminal behavior won’t be tolerated.”
The JQC found that such statements are inconsistent with the impartiality required of judges and imply bias in favor of the prosecution. It noted that stating support for law enforcement is similar to stating support for personal injury lawyers or insurance defense attorneys.
In addition, on August 16, 2022, Judge Flynn attended a meeting of the Patriot Club of Lakeland to promote his candidacy but did not invite his opponent. The JQC determined this group’s principal purpose was to further the election of candidates, and under judicial ethics rules, Judge Flynn should not have attended without his opponent or advertised their subsequent endorsement.
Judge Flynn admitted to the JQC that his comments and attendance at the event were inappropriate. As mitigation, he immediately accepted responsibility, expressed regret, and cooperated fully with the investigation. However, the JQC still found his actions violated judicial conduct rules requiring impartiality and independence.
In its October 17 recommendation, the JQC proposed Judge Flynn receive a public reprimand and 30-day suspension without pay. It noted this type of campaign misconduct has resulted in the removal of other judges but believed a suspension would appropriately remind Judge Flynn of his constitutional duty of impartiality going forward. The case will now go before the Florida Supreme Court for final discipline.
Judge Flynn attended the Loyola University School of Law, graduating in 2002.
Judge Flynn’s courtroom is located at Bartow, FL 33831-9000, and can be reached at (863) 534-4628. His bio can be found on ju10.flcourts.org.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.