From The Tampa Bay Tribune, By Josh Good
A watchdog group claims a judge violated ethics rules when he talked about how many family law attorneys support him in the upcoming election.
The Hillsborough County Judicial Campaign Practices Committee issued its opinion against Hillsborough Circuit Judge Charles Bergmann on Friday. The committee has no sanctioning power, but Chairman Tom Scarritt said it will pass its findings to the Florida Judicial Qualifications committee, which can bring charges with powerful sanctions. Ultimately, the Florida Supreme Court makes the final decision.
During a candidates forum at Bell Shoals Baptist Church last week, Bergmann said he told attendees that an "overwhelming number" of family law attorneys support him. His opponent, Beth Gilmore Reineke, claims the judge said the majority of family law attorneys support him.
Bergmann says he meant he had more contributions and more endorsements from family law attorneys than Reineke.
Misleading statements are a violation of ethics rules for judicial candidates.
Bergmann has asked the ethics commission to reconsider its decision, and Scarritt said the members are willing to reconsider.
The nine-member Practices Committee was formed this year to investigate ethical violations in judicial campaigns.