TAMPA — The Florida Bar will file a formal complaint with the state Supreme Court against a judicial candidate accused of violating attorney conduct rules with her campaign tactics.
Lanell Williams-Yulee, a private defense lawyer, is challenging Hillsborough County Judge Dick Greco Jr. in her first run for office.
In March, a bar grievance committee found probable cause that Williams-Yulee violated five rules during her campaign.
The violations stemmed from a pair of missteps brought to light by the St. Petersburg Times.
In the first instance, Williams-Yulee signed a letter in which she appeared to personally solicit campaign contributions, something judicial candidates are not allowed to do. The letter appeared on her website.
Later, her campaign used the phrase "judge elect" to describe the candidate. That term, however, refers to candidates who have already been elected and are waiting to take office.
In written responses to the allegations, Williams-Yulee's attorneys said she took responsibility for the mistakes and addressed them quickly after a reporter brought them to her attention.
She instructed her campaign manager to rewrite the letter, and she closed down her original website. She also had the term "judge elect" removed from her revised website.
"Mrs. Yulee never had any intention whatsoever to approach the line of even the appearance of impropriety," wrote attorney Ernest J. Myers, who is based in Orlando.
Myers blamed the early oversights partly on Williams-Yulee's frequent travels to Pensacola to care for her mother and sister, who fell ill after she declared her candidacy. He said she did not review her campaign materials as closely as she should have.
In another letter, attorney Monica Strickland asked that the totality of circumstances be considered. She noted that Williams-Yulee was a first-time candidate, married with three children and busy representing a student in the high-profile Walker Middle School sex case.
"With all the different hats that Ms. Williams-Yulee wears, she is certainly subject to inadvertence during the course of her campaign," Strickland wrote.
Those explanations failed to dissuade the grievance committee from finding probable cause.
On Thursday, Myers stressed that the committee's decision is not a finding of guilt. That will be determined by the judge appointed to hear the case.
Ultimately, it will be up to the Florida Supreme Court to decide whether disciplinary action is warranted.
Colleen Jenkins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3337.