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Irresponsible to Criticize Judge Who Ruled Correctly

12/16/2015
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BY

As lawyers, we frequently disagree with the decisions of judges. The federal and state constitutions protect our right to express our disagreement and provide a mechanism to appeal decisions. Judges have no control over which cases come before them, but they must decide every case.

Judges must follow the law. Because of their position, judges are not wholly free to defend themselves, and it is not appropriate for them to personally answer charges against them or their decisions. One of the cornerstones of our organization is to respond to unjust criticism of judges.

On Dec. 3 and Dec. 6 (“Order censoring the press and public records must not stand,” editorial), The Post unjustly criticized Judge Jack Cox for entering an order on Nov. 30 in which he decided against disclosure of excerpts of recorded telephone conversations — between an inmate and his attorney — because they violated the inmate’s right to privacy.

The order expressly acknowledged that “an inmate does not have an absolute expectation of privacy in recorded jailhouse telephone conversations,” citing Florida Supreme Court precedent, but nevertheless acknowledged “that there is an expectation of privacy as to certain matters.”

In reaching this conclusion, Cox relied on established judicial precedent from the 4th District Court of Appeal, finding that “the expectation that a deputy or state attorney may listen to a call is very different from an expectation that anyone and everyone could listen to the calls.”

Since The Post did not cite the judge’s three-page written ruling, or the legal precedent he relied upon, the public was unknowingly misled into thinking his ruling was misguided. Furthermore, the public was not informed of Cox’s finding that The Post obtained the information through the government’s violation of the inmate’s right to privacy.

Indeed, Cox expressed grave concern over just how the Office of the Public Defender came into possession of the recorded calls between the inmate and his friends, family and attorney. The fact that these conversations were ultimately made public doesn’t make it right.

The Post has availed itself of the right to appeal, and should await the outcome of that review process. In the meantime, criticisms of Cox are unwarranted, and the suggestion that his tenure should come to an end is irresponsible.

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