Florida Family Policy Council v. Freeman
The conservative Florida Family Policy Council filed a federal lawsuit challenging the “recusal canon,” which requires judges to disqualify themselves from deciding cases where they have or appear to have a bias on an issue. The Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) submitted a motion to dismiss, which the trial court subsequently granted. Lambda Legal supported the JQC with an amicus brief arguing that there is a compelling need to have fair and impartial judges decide cases. Florida Family Policy Council has appealed the trial court’s order to the Eleventh Circuit. Lambda Legal will be supporting the JQC again by submitting another amicus brief.
The First Amendment protects a judge’s right to express opinions. The recusal canon provides a mechanism to make sure that people get a fair hearing from judges who haven’t already made up their mind because of a personal opinions or beliefs. Previous attempts to strike down recusal canons in such states as Alaska, Kansas, Kentucky and North Dakota were rejected.
Lambda Legal's Impact
This case highlights Lambda Legal’s Courting Justice campaign, which stresses the importance of preserving fair courts for all parties. Because LGBT people and those with HIV often rely on the courts to uphold their individual rights, it is essential that judges are not biased against them. This case, if successful, will help ensure that biased judges in Florida remove themselves from matters where they cannot be impartial.
- September 2007: Judge grants the Judicial Qualifications Commission’s motion to dismiss.
- December 2006 Lambda Legal files amicus brief in support of motion to dismiss the case.
Gregory R. Nevins