FL Charges Judge for Selling Religious Items in Court

Here’s a really interesting situation. A state judge in Florida has had formal charges filed against her by an investigative body of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission for selling religious items in the courthouse, often to lawyers appearing before her. The judge has a side business called Gaza Road Ministries

The Investigate Panel of the, Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission, at its meeting of October 4,2012, by a vote of the majority of its members, pursuant to Rule 6(f) of the Rules of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission and Article V, Section 12(b) of the Constitution of the State of Florida, finds that probable cause exists for formal proceedings to be instituted against you…

2. On the slideshow page of the website, the first picture is of you in judicial robes sitting on the Leon County Court bench. Two other pictures in the slideshow also show you in judicial robes.

3. In addition you have sold or attempted to sell your books, study guides, and other publications in the Leon County courthouse, in the parking garage of the courthouse, in your Chambers, and even in the Courtroom in which you preside.

The purchasers of your books and other publications include attorneys who regularly appear before you and court staff. There is a disparity in authority between your position and those to whom you have sold within the courthouse.

4. You use your Leon County email account, your Judicial Assistant, and your office spaces and equipment within the Leon County Courthouse to create, edit and promote the products you have for sale through Gaza Road Ministries…

6. Your involvement with Gaza Road Ministries has caused you to devote less than your full time and full attention to your judicial duties. You have explained that as a judge, you and your Judicial Assistant have a great deal of free time, so you feel free to use your judicial chambers and out-of-court free time to conduct your for profit private business, and schedule business appointments. You often take time away from your judicial duties to promote your business to the detriment of the prompt and efficient administration of justice.

These are just charges at this point, but it sounds pretty obvious to me.

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  • jnorris

    Use whiny Deputy Barney Fife voice :

    Missy, you gotta get right with the Lord and stop ruling over menfolk. You gotta close the ministry, resign from the bench, and sell Avon and Tupperware and such like a good True Christian housewife.

  • Sastra

    “Judge not lest ye be judged…”

    Heh — I wondered if the “religious items” she was selling in court included special talismans and holy water blessed by the Lord for savvy lawyers, but a quick look at the website doesn’t seem to show this kind of article. Looks like a standard boilerplate Christian ministry to me. I was hoping for something about Spiritual Warfare being waged in courtrooms. Not that this isn’t bad enough, mind you — but the entertainment factor would be greater.

  • eric

    I bet she actually thinks the lawyers who buy her products do so because they are interested in it, too.

  • Michael Heath

    JNorris writes:

    Missy, you gotta get right with the Lord and stop ruling over menfolk. You gotta close the ministry, resign from the bench, and sell Avon and Tupperware and such like a good True Christian housewife.

    Don’t forget Amway and Mary Kay. And if you fail it’s because you lack faith in God.

  • Even if the items were not religious in nature, how could this possibly be ethical? Any attorney appearing before her would feel pressured to buy her swag or she might be less inclined to rule in their favor.

  • Alverant

    It’s not the religious part that worries me it’s how she’s using her judicial power for personal monitary gain and how it would influence her sense of fairness. Would she value the testimony of a customer more than a non-customer? Even without posing for pictures in her robes, it would still be a conflict of intrests.

    I wonder if she reports all her sales to the IRS.

  • tubi

    What if both the prosecuter and the defense attorney both bought icons designed to bestow God’s favor? How would she decide whom to rule for, whichever one paid the most?

  • bksea

    The layers of wrongness here are incredible.

    First of all, she should not be using her public office to run a business (I am a state employee and have very strict restrictions against using any state facilities in the process of personal business endeavors). That alone should be enough to get her fired.

    second, there is a clear conflict of interest in selling to the people appearing before her. That should be enough to get her disbarred.

    Only then do we get to any religious implications.


  • Artor

    Funny, I bet if one were to run a statistical analysis, the Honorable Judge Judy’s trinkets would prove to be more efficacious than most Xtian swag. At least the charms for success in the courtroom. I bet those who refuse to buy her crap do significantly worse than those who pay up.

  • Wow, fractal wrongness in the wild!

    Side business in your off-time? Fine.

    Using your position as a judge to push your side business? Using your workplace to hawk your other wares? Pushing your wares on the people who are required to appear before you? On those whom you’ve got to pass judgement? Um. No. NOT of The Good, and quite unethical, as well as being illegal — especially if you’re a fucking JUDGE.

    Ed, do you plan on following this case? If not, can you point me to where I can follow it? I have a feeling this one is going to be interesting.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    We like to have fun here in Florida.

    What do you have against fun?