Legal Ethics

Judge got baseball tickets from law firm trying case, thinking this was OK, filing says

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A Florida judge admittedly accepted baseball tickets from a law firm that was trying a civil case in his court.

But 12th Judicial Circuit Judge John Lakin thought it was OK to do so, as long as he disclosed the gifted tickets on an annual form, his lawyer says. Attorney John Weiss said Lakin was not influenced by the tickets in his handling of the law firm’s case, the Bradenton Herald reports.

“He had no wrongful intent,” Weiss wrote in a response to an ethics complaint filed against Lakin by the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission on Feb 1. “He can only offer an explanation that, as a relatively new judge, he was not familiar with the [judicial ethics] canons as he could have been and this contributed to his mistaken belief that he only had to disclose the use of the baseball tickets on his annual disclosure form.” Lakin has been on the bench since the beginning of 2013.

Last week, before the response was filed, Weiss told Sarasota Herald-Tribune. “Judge Lakin acknowledges a serious lapse of judgment but he had no wrongful motive whatsoever.”

At issue in the ethics case are Tampa Bay Rays tickets Lakin received from Kallins Little & Delgado while overseeing the trial in a slip-and-fall case brought against Wal-Mart by Sandy Wittke.

The jury rendered a defense verdict in the Manatee case in June 2015. Lakin received tickets to Rays games from Kallins Little—which represented Wittke—later in June, in August, in September and in October, the JQC says, “all while the case was pending and without ever disclosing this fact to the counsel for Wal-Mart.” The day after Lakin got the ticket gift in August, the judge overturned the jury verdict and granted Wittke a new trial.

The JQC also alleges that Lakin has received tickets from two other law firms since 2013.

Kallins Little has season tickets to the Rays and frequently gives away tickets, said Melton Little in a written statement provided to the Herald.

“To suggest that Judge Lakin would have been influenced by a couple of tickets to a Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox game and put his judicial career in jeopardy is ridiculous,” Little wrote.

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