Legal Ethics

Despite Seeming Attorney Grudge, Florida Judge is Now on Appeals Bench

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It all started with a routine recusal by a Florida judge on May 23, 2007.

Palm Beach Circuit Judge Jorge Labarga said he would step down because a former law partner was counsel for one of the co-defendants in a criminal case. But when Fort Lauderdale attorney Gary Kollin then asked Labarga not to give instructions to a court clerk about the case, sparks flew, reports the Miami Herald.

Labarga sarcastically thanked the lawyer for educating him about the law, according to a transcript, and Kollin said he didn’t appreciate the remark. Then, about an hour later, some time after Kollin had left the courtroom, Labarga had more to say.

“(Y)ou know, five years from now, he may have an attorney’s fees hearing in front of me, he may have this in front of me then. And you are always going to remember those guys,” Labarga said of Kollin. “He’s very combative. I have to be honest with you. I kind of wish I would have kept that case ‘cause he would have been fun.”

Kollin complained about the judge to the governor’s office in early December, providing a transcript of the hearing. About a week later, Labarga, 55, who has been on the circuit court bench since 1996, was appointed to the Fourth District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach, the newspaper writes. The appointment eliminates the possibility that the judge, who was one of five finalists for a seat on the state’s supreme court, will be elevated to Florida’s top court at this time.

Additional coverage:

Palm Beach Politics (Sun-Sentinel): “Crist puts Labarga, Ciklin on 4th District Court of Appeal”

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