Florida gun control coalition questions judges' neutrality

Published Sept. 27, 2017|Updated Sept. 27, 2017

A statewide gun control advocacy group is criticizing a decision by two judges to buy tickets to a fundraiser for a group affiliated with the National Rifle Association.

The Times/Herald reported that judges Clay Roberts and Kemmerly Thomas of the First District Court of Appeal confirmed they bought tables at the Sept. 15 event, a dinner and auction organized by “Friends of the NRA” that benefited the NRA Foundation, a public charity.

In a news release, the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence said Wednesday that it “questions the ability of these judges to remain impartial on any future gun-related case brought before them based on their involvement in this fundraiser.”

“This event was not related to court or legal matters. It was a fundraiser for a special interest group. It is of the utmost importance that members of the bench show no sign as to what could be taken as a lack of neutrality,” said Patti Brigham, co-chair of the coalition.

The coalition includes about 100 groups across the state, including theLeague of Women Voters, Florida PTA, Florida Immigrant Coalition,churches and local health organizations.

The two judges were listed as “supporters and sponsors” in the event program. They said they did not authorize organizers to list them by their title of “Judge” in the program and that they had no role in helping the foundation raise money.

NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer said the program content was her decision and that it was a gesture of respect to the two judges.

Any legal challenge to state gun laws filed in Tallahassee’s Second Judicial Circuit would be heard on appeal by the First District Court of Appeal, also based in Tallahassee.