Legal Ethics

Did a judge-to-be unethically help a jurist in a real estate matter?

After investigating a landowner’s complaint, a grievance committee of the state bar has recommended that Florida Circuit Judge Andrew J. Decker III should face legal ethics charges concerning his handling of a foreclosure matter, as a private attorney, before he became a judge.

The complainant, Daniel A. Dukes, was a partner in a land trust represented by Decker in negotiations with TD Bank. He contends, among other allegations, that Decker conspired with another judge who was also a partner in the trust to transfer the one-third Dukes ownership share to the other judge. Afterward, Dukes says, Decker withdrew from representing him and represented the judge in a bankruptcy case, reports the Suwannee Democrat.

The Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission will now decide whether actually to pursue a legal ethics case against Decker. The Third Judicial Circuit Grievance Committee of the state bar last month found probable cause to support contentions that Decker violated attorney ethics rules concerning conflicts of interest and misconduct, the newspaper says.

Dukes also complained about the judge who was his partner, but the JQC found no probable cause to pursue a legal ethics case, recounts the Lake City Reporter.

In a written statement emailed to the newspaper in response to the grievance committee’s finding, Decker said, in part:

“I strongly disagree with the Committee’s decision and note that a finding of probable cause is not, however, a determination that any rule was actually violated but only that further proceedings will be conducted.

“This matter will now be reviewed through further proceedings, and I welcome the opportunity to participate in that process. When this matter has been properly and fully considered, I will have the opportunity for further comment at that time”

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