War Against Free Speech

 Dr. Joseph Sansone, In an age where discrimination based on political ideology is encouraged by big government and big business, when doctors are attacked for practicing medicine, and simply speaking the truth about risks associated with mRNA shots, it may not be shocking that The Florida Bar is attacking the First Amendment. Although, it is a sad sign of the times we live in, that this is not shocking.

In the 2018 Republican primary for State Attorney for the 20th Judicial Circuit of Florida, candidates engaged in a rough political primary in a partisan race that included negative political attacks. Christopher Crowley, the loser in the race, is a former member of the 82nd Airborne Division, and is currently stationed overseas in active-duty military. He is also a former prosecutor and defense attorney and has no complaints or ethical issues regarding his law license prior to this campaign, and none actually involving the practice of law. Losing a tough political campaign was not enough, this candidate faces bar complaints and the Florida Bar is apparently seeking a one year suspension of his license.

What crimes did this candidate commit? Fraud? Embezzlement?

Nothing of the sort. In Florida Bar Case No. SC20-529 the Florida bar is going after the losing candidate in a tough partisan political race for the crime of engaging in political speech. I highlight the fact that this was the losing candidate because it is relevant for a couple reasons. It is extremely unlikely that the Florida Bar would be going after this attorney’s license if he had won his race and was a sitting state attorney. The fact that this candidate lost his race is also relevant because the Florida Bar’s attack on a member’s right to political speech appears punitive.

The political speech at issue challenged the integrity of the opposing candidate for state attorney by questioning conviction rates and labeled the candidate as corrupt. Also, claims that the opposing candidate was involved with the respondent/defendant’s arrest during the campaign are at issue. Yes, this race was that nasty. The Florida Bar also appears to be asserting that the respondent/defendant in this case was responsible for posting a negative article about the opposing candidate on social media, where part of the article questioned the candidate’s religion. This is extremely troubling because it is not uncommon for people to post articles on social media that they may or may not necessarily agree with, in whole or part. An article can be simply shared for informational purposes as well as to highlight a small portion of the article.

Although evidence was presented in support of the negative attacks in bar legal proceedings, it should be pointed out that for our purposes, it is irrelevant whether the charges of corruption or the alleged poor conviction rate and other charges made by the respondent are true or not, and we have no idea of their veracity. In politics, truth, like beauty, is often subject to the eye of the beholder. The issue is clearly whether the Florida Bar has the right to infringe upon the civil rights of its members and can censor political speech in a partisan political race.

According to its website, The Florida Bar mission states:

The Florida Bar is the organization of all lawyers licensed by the Supreme Court of Florida to practice law in the state. The Florida Bar’s core functions are to: Regulate the practice of law in Florida; ensure the highest standards of legal professionalism in Florida; and protect the public by prosecuting unethical attorneys and preventing the unlicensed practice of law.

The Florida bar is acting under the color of law on behalf of the state of Florida. Arguably a professional organization has a responsibility to protect the civil rights of its members, certainly not infringe upon them. The organization is purposed to regulate and discipline member attorneys for unethical and or illegal behavior and ensure professional conduct. It appears that in this case there are no allegations of breaking the law nor are there any charges related to the practice of law.

This is disturbing. It also appears unprecedented.

However, the initial judge acting as bar referee, ruled for the plaintiff, and after a conflict of interest was revealed, recused herself from the sentencing/sanctioning recommendation for the case. Currently, the 5th Judge assigned to serve as referee, Judge Smith, refused to have a new hearing, despite the fact Judge Ruhl who ruled on the case had an ethical conflict. As of yet, the case has not been reopened due to this conflict of interest and the respondent is awaiting the sentencing/sanctioning recommendation. The sanctioning recommendation, or potentially reopening the case, are in limbo, while the respondent is overseas on active-duty military assignment.

Once the legal process continues, assuming someone at the Florida Bar does not realize the absurdity of this case, this case will eventually go before the Florida Supreme Court. What happens there is unclear. My view is that the Florida Supreme Court should not only rule in the respondent’s favor, it should sanction the overzealous bar counsel (prosecutor) in this case, and sanction the Florida Bar by placing specific restrictions on its functions. Neither the Florida Supreme Court or the Florida Bar have the authority to legislate. They also do not have the authority to trample the First Amendment. The First Amendment places speech outside of the jurisdiction of all branches of government at all levels, especially, political speech. The chilling effect that this case would have on any attorney running for a partisan office in the state of Florida is obvious.

Censoring political speech in a partisan political race flies in the face of the ‘Free State of Florida’ narrative and is an embarrassment to the state. This incidence is a symptom of the dangerous times we are living in and the blatant disregard of human rights by government entities.

A pattern is developing of states infringing upon the free speech rights of licensed professionals for political purposes. This has clearly been demonstrated with the medical profession. Doctors that speak the truth, and are not subservient to the government and the pharmaceutical industry, are under attack. Government controlled media has even cheered efforts to disbar attorneys that litigated against the fraudulent presidential election of 2020.

This aids the case that the government should not be empowered to license professions.

The censorship in media and social media regarding early treatment options for Covid and the dangers associated with Covid gene therapy shots, as well as those that seek to ensure the veracity of elections, has had a devastating effect on our civilization. The government censoring political speech in political campaigns is an escalation in the authoritarianism sweeping the country.

The state of Florida needs to tread lightly in this case. Floridians are starting to believe they are free. When they find out they are not, major blow back will follow.

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