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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Apr. 29, 202012:10 PM EST

‘No impropriety whatsoever,’ Kalil says of candidacy for bench

The Florida Bar investigation circumstances that led to attorney unopposed on ballot after withdrawal of Judge Tyrie Boyer.
by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

The Florida Bar has opened an investigation into circumstances related to 4th Circuit Judge Tyrie Boyer withdrawing his candidacy for re-election on the final day of qualifying for the Aug. 18 primary election after Jacksonville attorney Michael Kalil filed as a candidate for Boyer’s seat on the bench.

Kalil will be unopposed on the ballot. 

“The Florida Bar has jurisdiction over lawyers and we have opened an investigation to determine if Michael Kalil’s conduct in the matter of qualifying for a judicial election constitutes violation of any of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar,” said spokeswoman Francine Walker in an email April 28.

“At this stage, intake counsel conducts a preliminary investigation, including notifying the lawyer and requesting a response. After receiving a response, intake counsel may close the file or refer it to one of The Florida Bar’s branch offices for further investigation,” Walker said.

Kalil provided a comment by email.

“There are some false, preconceived narratives out there right now that simply are not true. I can assure everyone there was no impropriety whatsoever with my campaign. I look forward to serving the people of Duval, Clay and Nassau county,” Kalil said.

The Florida Bar’s initial investigation can take up to 60 days. No other information will be available publicly until the file either is closed by staff for no apparent rule violation or if a decision is made by a grievance committee, Walker said.

The Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission, an independent state agency, has jurisdiction over the bench and investigates complaints filed against sitting judges.

“Complaints are confidential. We can’t confirm or deny there has been a complaint,” said commission General Counsel Alex Williams on April 28.

Boyer did not respond to requests for comment.

The Florida Times-Union and WJXT TV-4, a Jacksonville Daily Record news partner, first reported the story.

They said that at 9:04 a.m. April 24, the Division of Elections in Tallahassee received Kalil’s letter changing the office he was seeking from another judicial seat to Circuit Judge for Group 8, the seat held by Boyer, who was running for re-election. 

About two hours after Kalil filed his candidate documents and paid the filing fee, the division received via fax a letter from Boyer withdrawing his candidacy for the race.

There are no other candidates for the seat. Attorneys will usually not run against a seated judge.

In response to the news reports, Isaiah Rumlin, president of the Jacksonville Branch of the NAACP, issued a news release that describes Boyer’s and Kalil’s actions as a “scheme.”

“The Jacksonville Branch NAACP strongly condemns the ‘last-minute’ maneuvers that have resulted in the automatic election of Michael Kalil to the Fourth Judicial Circuit Court,” Rumlin said in the release.

Rumlin did not respond to a request for additional comment.

In the release, Rumlin says that Kalil and Rhonda Peoples-Waters, a black woman lawyer, previously had filed to run for an open Circuit Court seat formerly held by Judge Gregg McCaulie.

McCaulie resigned before the end of his term and Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed his successor.

Peoples-Waters applied for the seat and was one of six nominees, but not appointed.

Rumlin says Boyer had openly indicated he did not intend to retire, and with no Circuit bench seats open for election, Peoples-Waters on April 17 transferred her candidacy to seek election to the seat on the Duval County Court currently held by Judge Erin Perry, who was appointed in January 2019 by former Gov. Rick Scott.

Rumlin contends that what he describes as “last-minute maneuvers” resulted in the citizens being deprived of the opportunity to consider judicial candidates and DeSantis was deprived of the opportunity to appoint Boyer’s successor.

“Essentially, two people (and likely a few others) took it upon themselves to decide who would be the next judge for nearly a million people,” Rumlin said in the release.

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