On Wednesday, October 25, 2023, the Investigative Panel of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission and Liberty County Judge Kenneth L. Hosford submitted a stipulation to the Supreme Court of Florida in the matter of an inquiry concerning Judge Hosford’s conduct. The stipulation admitted that Judge Hosford had violated the Code of Judicial Conduct by engaging in an inappropriate ex parte communication with an attorney and making other inappropriate comments that could suggest a bias.
The case is entitled “In the Matter of Kenneth L. Hosford,” with case no. SC23-539.
The Investigative Panel of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission issued a Notice of Formal Charges against Judge Hosford. The charges against Judge Hosford stem from an inappropriate ex-parte conversation he had with an Assistant State Attorney on June 15, 2023, which was recorded by the Digital Court Reporter’s Office for the Second Judicial Circuit.
During the conversation, Judge Hosford discussed a pending case, State v. Reece Forehand, which he had previously presided over. He also discussed giving investigative advice to the law enforcement investigator in the case and made statements suggesting that he had erred on the side of supporting law enforcement in cases that the community was upset about. Additionally, Judge Hosford discussed a case that was still pending before him, State v. Carlos De Castro, and mused that the Public Defender’s Office would be looking for a final order from him so that they could file an appeal.
The Notice of Formal Charges states that Judge Hosford’s actions constitute inappropriate conduct in violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct. The Investigative Panel has ordered Judge Hosford to file a written answer to the charges within 20 days of service of the notice. It was alleged that the charges against Judge Hosford are a serious matter, as they implicate the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.
Following the charges, the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission (FJQC) issued a report and recommendation concerning Hosford. It was stated that Judge Hosford admitted to the misconduct and cooperated with the FJQC during their inquiry. He voluntarily recused himself from all criminal matters and treatment hearings while the judicial discipline matter was pending.
Based on the foregoing matters, Judge Hosford agreed to a public reprimand, a 30-day suspension without pay, a $2,000 fine, a recusal period from presiding over certain cases, six additional CLE ethics credits, written apologies to persons involved, and the institution of additional safeguards to prevent future reoccurrences.
The parties agreed that oral argument before the Supreme Court is not necessary and that the stipulation findings and recommendations of discipline were subject to the Court’s review and approval.
Judge Hosford attended the University of Florida, graduating in 1982.
Judge Hosford’s courtroom is located at Liberty County Courthouse, Briston, Florida 32321, and can be reached at 850-643-2272. His info can be found on 2ndcircuit.leoncountyfl.gov.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.