Trending: Judicial Qualifications Commission Feeds Mediocrity to Florida Supreme Court—Circuit Judge Fulford Claiming Disability Only After JQC Investigation/Filing of Violations

Tallahassee, FL–News outlets around the world are reporting that within the four years of Rick Scott’s current governorship, Florida has executed 22 death row inmates–noting that 22 executions is the highest number of inmates to be executed under any previous Florida governor.

In a recent interview with the Marshall Project, President Obama calls the Death Penalty, “Deeply Troubling.” Thankfully, President Obama has a high volume of bipartisan support in his fight against Criminal Justice Reform.

HuffPost Politics reporter Elise Foley headline reads, “Hillary Clinton Says She’ll End Private Prisons, Stop Accepting Their Money,” the byline reads, “Her campaign says she wants to end the era of mass incarceration.”

In 2014, George C. Zoley, Chief Executive Officer of the GEO Group, Inc., hosted a $10,000-a-plate fundraiser at his home in Boca Raton, Florida. The event was headlined by Governor Rick Scott. GEO Group, Inc. is the world’s leading private prison firm—its headquarters is located in Boca Raton, Florida.

Referring to private run prisons, in an article entitled, “The ‘cannibalizing’ of Florida’s prison system,” posted by Mary Ellen Klas with the Miami Herald, under the section ‘Privatization,’ within the article, in part, states, “Unlike the state-run prisons, the contracts with the private companies guarantee them a 90 percent occupancy rate, pay them per inmate, per day, and allow them to charge more for extra services and programs.”

The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides due process of the law. The Florida’s Judicial Qualifications Commission website states, “Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission is an independent agency created by the Florida Constitution solely to investigate alleged misconduct by Florida state judges. It is not a part of the Florida Supreme Court or the state courts and operates under rules it establishes for itself.”  There are fifteen members on the JQC panel—five of the members are chosen by Governor Rick Scott. The five members chosen by Governor Rick Scott are non-lawyers and are registered voters. While the JQC is described as being “independent” and “not a part of the Florida Supreme Court,” after the investigation of a judge(s), it is the JQC who files its findings and recommendation for any discipline with the Supreme Court.”

One of the recommendations created by the JQC is “Involuntary Retirement.”  As stated on the JQC website under “‘What is Involuntary Retirement?’ The JQC can recommend that a judge be involuntarily retired due to serious illness that interferes with the ability to perform the duties of office. In these cases, the judge is not being accused of misconduct. Filings in these cases may be confidential under a state law protecting medical records of state employees.”

On April 29, 2015, Jennifer Portman with Tallahassee Democrat, reported that Florida’s Second Judicial Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford was facing charges brought by the JQC. In the article entitled, “Judge Jackie Fulford faces misconduct charges,” Portman states, “The five-page notice of formal charges filed with the Florida Supreme Court Tuesday cited several instances of alleged inappropriate misconduct in 2012 and 2013, including publicly opposing a candidate for elected office, using her position to influence attorneys and helping the son of her significant other in a domestic battery case.” The article further quotes the JQC as stating to Judge Fulford, “Your actions constitute a pattern of misconduct which raises serious questions regarding your fitness to perform the duties of the office you now hold,” said the filing by the JQC, a 15-member independent agency that investigate alleged misconduct by state judges.” In addition, the article briefly states one of the allege acts of misconduct, “In addition, the JQC alleged Fulford asked a defense attorney who had a pending case before her to represent another client without charge. The attorney said that he feared if he did not do as the judge asked it might result in an unfavorable ruling on the motion for his client, who faced up to 15 years in prison.” Another act of misconduct states, “Finally, the JQC said Fulford used her influence, friendship and position to “interject” herself into the criminal prosecution of Trey Young, the son of Fulford’s significant other, with whom she lives. Hours after Young was arrested in early 2013 on misdemeanor domestic battery charges, the filing said, Fulford contacted the prosecutor in the case who was her subordinate prior to her becoming judge. She also helped Young’s defense attorney obtain a Deferred Prosecution Agreement—which if completed would result in the charges being dropped—going so far as to personally draft the agreement and submit it to the prosecutor for approval.”  These charges are just a few of what the JQC alleged Judge Fulford of having committed.

On June 18, 2015, Jackie Fulford’s attorney, Jack E. Fernandez Jr. filed a Motion to Dismiss. On June 24, 2015, the JQC panel denied the Motion to Dismiss. Two months later, in August 2015, the JQC recommended Involuntary Retirement for Jackie Fulford. The JQC panel’s recommendation for Jackie Fulford does not fall in line with their own rules to proceed with the recommendation for Involuntary Retirement. As stated in “What is Involuntary Retirement?” the JQC states, “the judge is not being accused of misconduct.” The JQC outlined two years of alleged misconduct, and then denied Fulford’s motion to dismiss, and then found Fulford in violations followed by the filing of a five-page notice of formal charges to the Florida Supreme Court. Is the Florida Supreme Court considered to be a “joke” branch of Florida’s government? Or does the JQC operate and establish its own rules on a case by case basis—depending on the judge being investigated? The recommendation of Involuntary Retirement after documentation has been filed with the Supreme Court should not be acceptable. The violations committed by the judge are there—the judge has already been investigated. For the JQC to recommend that the Supreme Court disregard the violations is the same as recommending that the Supreme Court allow the judge to commit criminal acts. Former Florida Atlantic University and Stetson College of Law graduate, Second Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford, clearly committed the crime of obstructing government administration, when she used her influence, friendship and position to “interject” herself into the criminal prosecution of Trey Young, the son of her significant other. A few months prior to the JQC announcing their investigation of Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford, Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford was presiding over a Death Penalty case.

The Florida Supreme Court is too high of a court to allow such mediocrity from the JQC. All Death Penalty cases go to the Florida Supreme Court. The Florida Supreme Court must not allow itself to be an accessory to criminal acts committed by judges. While the JQC “operates under rules it establishes for itself,” –the citizens of Florida and abroad—expects the Florida Supreme Court to operate under laws under the United States Constitution and the Florida Constitution.