Legal Ethics

Lawyer Asserts First Amendment Right to Describe Judge as a Witch

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A Florida lawyer who called a judge an “evil, unfair witch” on a blog has submitted a brief with the Florida Supreme Court that contends his comments were protected by the First Amendment.

Lawyer Sean Conway submitted the legal papers after the court asked him and the Florida Bar to brief the issue, the Daily Business Review reports. Before that, Conway had agreed to a public reprimand in a conditional plea deal with the Florida Bar. The settlement was subject to approval of the Florida Supreme Court.

Writing on JAABlog, Conway had called Judge Cheryl Aleman an “evil, unfair witch,” and said she was “seemingly mentally ill.” He later said he was angry because the judge was giving defense lawyers only one week to prepare for trial.

The brief (PDF) by Conway’s lawyer, Michael Wrubel, said Conway called Aleman a witch on Halloween 2006 and the comment was an example of figurative speech, the Daily Business Review story says. Conway’s use of the word “seemingly” was a cautionary term protected by the First Amendment, Wrubel asserted.

He also said the remarks were permissible hyperbole. The ACLU supported Conway in an amicus brief (PDF).

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