Tallahassee, FL—Last week, several news media outlets, such as the Gainesville Sun and The Orlando Sentinel, published articles about The Florida Bar suspending Gainesville Attorney Christopher Chestnut. The Chestnut Law Firm is owned by Mr. Chestnut, a prominent Black male. Mr. Chestnut is most recently involved in the case of former FAMU drum major, Robert Champion. The parents of Robert Champion retained Mr. Chestnut to represent them, after their son, Robert Champion died during a hazing ritual. Robert Champions parents are suing Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University for their role in their son’s death.
In 2014, Tallahassee based Attorney Charles “Chuck” Hobbs was suspended for thirty-days by the Florida Bar. Mr. Hobbs, a prominent Black male, had teamed up with the NAACP and called for disciplinary action to be taken against a protégé of the Jim Crow South and Second Judicial Circuit State Attorney Willie Meggs. Mr. Hobbs has also sought out intervention from Second Circuit Judges in regards to cases where his clients were being held in the Leon County Jail. In the years past, Mr. Hobbs’ clients who were in the Leon County Jail overseen by Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell were at the same time being prosecuted by State Prosecutor Jack Campbell, the son of Sheriff Larry Campbell. Mr. Hobbs informed Second Judicial Circuit Judges of the complaints of harassment and unfair treatment by his clients in the Leon County Jail, but judges did not act on Mr. Hobbs’ clients behalf.
Currently, Mr. Hobbs is representing Henry Segura on a Pro Bono basis. Mr. Segura is a thirty-something year-old Black male facing the Death Penalty. Due to brutality of the murders, Mr. Segura case is one of many Tallahassee high-profile cases. Mr. Segura is charged with the November 2010 quadruple murders of a young mother, her toddler son and her six-year-old twin daughters. Mr. Segura is the father of the little boy. Mr. Segura entered a Not Guilty plea. State Attorney Willie Meggs assigned Mr. Segura case to Jack Campbell to prosecute. Mr. Segura has been in the Leon County Jail for nearly four years awaiting trial. In the past Mr. Hobbs brought it to the courts attention that Mr. Segura was being harassed in the Leon County jail by jail officials. Mr. Hobbs asked the courts to relocate Mr. Segura to another jail in a nearby county—to no avail. Just recently, on the eve of Mr. Segura’s trial date, a DNA analyst with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement came forward and admitted to withholding evidence that she received from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The evidence, which could prove to be exculpatory, caused Mr. Hobbs to file a Motion to Dismiss the charges. Mr. Hobbs’ motion was dismissed by Circuit Judge Terry Lewis.
Early this year, Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford was presiding over Mr. Segura’s case. Mr. Hobbs went before the court seeking permission to have a prison inmate submit to DNA testing. That crucial decision, whether the DNA testing is allowed, was left up to Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford. In April 2015, the Judicial Qualifications Commission charged Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford with three counts of judicial misconduct for misconduct that occurred before she began presiding over Mr. Segura’s case. Soon thereafter, Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford removed herself from the bench to address the charges.
In the case against seventeen-year-old, DeShon Thomas, a Black male, who relied heavily on the support of his single mother to help him understand the judicial process, prior to DeShon’s trial date, DeShon’s mother filed a complaint with The Florida Bar against State Prosecutor Jack Campbell. In the complaint, DeShon’s mother alleges that State Prosecutor Jack Campbell violated numerous Bar rules, including selecting and making financial arrangements for other court appointed attorneys to be paid. DeShon’s mother also filed a complaint with The Florida Bar against defense attorney Greg Cummings.
Over the course of sixteen months, DeShon’s mother paid Greg Cummings nearly $30,000 to represent DeShon in the January 2011 double murder case. DeShon, a freshman at Tallahassee Community College, entered a Not Guilty plea to all charges. DeShon’s case was one of many high-profile cases in Tallahassee. The victims were DeShon’s pregnant ex-girlfriend and her 17-year-old brother. DeShon’s judicial process was stagnant. State Prosecutor Jack Campbell had filed at least five motions for pre-trial continuance. All of State Prosecutor Jack Campbell’s motions were granted by Circuit Judge James C. Hankinson. For sixteen months, defense attorney Greg Cummings played “patty cake” with State Prosecutor Jack Campbell. And for sixteen months, it was State Prosecutor Jack Campbell telling Circuit Judge James C. Hankinson how to run the courtroom.
State Prosecutor Jack Campbell and Defense Attorney Greg Cummings are White males who are members of the same Florida Bar Association as Christopher Chestnut and Chuck Hobbs. DeShon’s mother sought out counsel from other attorneys who confirmed the “Stink” coming from The Florida Bar. DeShon’s mother provided The Florida Bar with emails and other documentation to support her complaints, both of DeShon’s mother’s complaints fell flat. When DeShon, himself, filed a complaint against Greg Cummings, in Greg Cummings’ response, Greg Cummings did not deny all of DeShon’s allegations. It was The Florida Bar that to this day has left DeShon’s complaint in limbo.
Many Bar Associations in other states along with their local State Attorney/District Attorney Offices are making a lot of changes and forming groups to review cases where prosecutors intentionally withheld exculpatory evidence. Not Florida.
To date, both Mr. Chestnut and Mr. Hobbs are back representing their clients. For how long? Has yet to be determined.
As many people in this nation so desperately want to move forward—into a brighter future—it’s organizations like The Florida Bar, who protect its White members and hastily disciplines it Black members, as to why more and more Civil Rights organizations, like the “Black Lives Matter” are forced to spring up and fight for the rights of Black people.