William Gelin, Rabble-Rousing Attorney Behind JAA Blog, Targeted by the Florida Bar

Categories: Law & Order

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Since 2006, attorney and courthouse muckraker William "Bill" Gelin has been shaking up the judiciary on his popular site, JAA Blog. Whether sounding off about potential corruption and racism in the courthouse ruling class, or even its work habits, the 46-year-old Oakland Park attorney hasn't held back his opinions. But now it looks like his criticisms are boomeranging right back.

In the last few months, the attorney has been fielding heat from the Florida Bar. The statewide group has opened a complaint investigation into the blogger. But the organization won't tell Gelin why the complaint has been filed or at whose behest.

"They won't cite any rule that I've violated. They won't city any misconduct that I've done," he tells New Times. "They just want to poke around and ask a bunch of questions about the blog, which makes me think they want to set me up for something."

It's ironic that the muzzle is coming out now. For the last year or so, Gelin's blogging has slowed due to family duties and boredom. But when he was firing on all cylinders, JAA Blog peeled back the lid on the day-to-day mechanics of the courthouse. Besides offering opinion and insight, the blog also held judges accountable - even keeping a running count on the days they weren't working or publicizing their early exits. Obviously, putting the judiciary on blast didn't earn the blog a lot of friends.

"If you go back over the many years of it, there have been a lot of extremely powerful people that we've knocked down multiple pegs," says. "Obviously there are a lot of people with axes to grind out there." Two judges in particular were favorite targets on JAA Blog - Broward County Judge Robert Diaz and Palm Beach County Judge Marni Bryson.

Since the early months of the year, Gelin has been receiving letters from the Bar about his blogging. The latest letter - dated May 10 - asked specifically if Gelin was behind the blog, and also listed a number of specific entries in question, many dealing with Diaz. But the letters didn't say what rule he violated or what was offensive in the entries, Gelin says. At this point, the Bar just wants an admission of authorship.

In response to the Bar's questions, Gelin's own attorneys have argued the JAA Blog entries are a form of political speech. "I don't see how they can force anyone to ID themselves as the author of a political article," says Russell Cormican. "I think it's tantamount to them sending a letter asking, 'Bill, are you a member of the Communist Party?'"

The Florida Bar's Francine Walker tells New Times the organization cannot comment on ongoing investigations. She did note that the bar can open its own cases against it's members. "All of our cases do not have to be opened by swore affidavit. The bar has the ability to open cases based on information we've received or even information we've seen in the media."

Although his case file seem to indicate the Bar is the complainant in his case, Gelin still wonders if anyone from the laundry-list of people he's pissed off is responsible.

"My whole thing is they obviously have trouble with this new technology that allows lawyers to get information out to the general public that normally would be talked about in the courthouse cafeteria or an elevator," he says. "My thing is fine, if they want to further restrict the speech of lawyers, which they have the right to do, they need to pass some rules and make clear what they need to do. They just can't change the rules as they go."

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2 comments
gjeff166
gjeff166

all lawyers should be publicly executed...they are at the core of so much that is wrong with the way we all live.

amendmentone1
amendmentone1

I like Russell Cormican and have litigated against him.  But this is not at all like asking someone if he is a member of the Communist Party.  What The Bar is doing is MUCH worse than that.  This is the equivalent of asking him:  Why should we not punish you for telling the truth about an incompetent or corrupt judge?

This has nothing to do with affiliation with a subversive organization, unless The Bar's position is that telling the truth about a whacky judge is something a subversive act.  In fact, that is precisely what The Bar is saying.  I was disciplined, and ultimately disbarred, by The Florida Bar for, among other things, telling the truth about Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Ron Friedman.  What I was saying was what the Third DCA had said about him multiple times, but because I was a lawyer saying it then it was somehow "subversive" of justice.

What Gelin has done is prove that lawyers are really the best people, by virtue of their dealing with these judges, to comment on how they are doing as judges.  The Bar wants citizens in the dark about how bad some judges are because as a class of individuals The Bar wants judges answerable only to The Bar and thus beholden to (and protective of) The Bar.

The Bar owns the judiciary in this state.  The Bar has its officials serving on judicial nominating commissions deciding who gets picked by the Governor to be a judge.  They do their own rigged bar polls as to who is a good judge, and The Bar's handpicked people serve on the Judicial Qualifications Commission to protect corrupt judges whom The Bar likes and owns.

So this is not about communism, Russell and everyone else.  This is about lawyers who also have First Amendment rights.  Why?  Because the US Supreme Court has repeatedly warned that an independent lawyer is far more important to the preservation of liberty  than an independent judiciary, especially since The Bar defines independent judiciary as one dependent upon it!  Jack Thompson, Miami

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