Florida Bar Judge Recommends 60-Day Suspension for Conservative Attorney Exercising His Free Speech During Political Campaign

A referee judge for the Florida State Bar recommended suspending decorated Gulf War veteran Chris Crowley’s law license for 60 days over his criticism of an opponent he ran against for the Office of the State Attorney in Florida’s 20th Judicial Circuit.

During the 2018 race, Crowley referred to Amira D. Fox, who eventually won, as “corrupt” and “swampy” and observed that she had “close family ties to the PLO terrorist organization.” The Florida Bar had requested a 91-day suspension for allegedly violating the bar’s ethics rule prohibiting criticism of judges, election officials, and candidates running for office.

Crowley’s attorney, Scott Tozian, warned during his closing argument that the Florida Bar assisted with the “thought police” and noted that this was the first free speech bar disciplinary case of its kind involving partisan political speech. “This is the first case anywhere, I would submit to you, since the bar not only failed to bring you a Florida Bar case talking about partisan political speech, but for many of the other 49 jurisdictions in the United States,” he said.

He added that the original referee, 12th Judicial Circuit Judge Maria Ruhl, found, “The parties in this matter have not presented any case in Florida that specifically considers the political speech of lawyers during a nonjudicial campaign.”

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