Judge reprimanded for dissuading a candidate from running against an incumbent judge and, instead, to run against another
The Supreme Court has ordered Fifth Judicial Circuit Administrative Judge Richard Howard to receive a public reprimand after he acknowledged, among other things, improperly discouraging a Citrus County judicial candidate from running against an incumbent judge.
In a stipulation reached with the Judicial Qualifications Commission, Judge Howard admitted that his actions in private meetings with the candidate and her husband in 2019 “failed to uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary,” “created the appearance of impropriety,” and “failed to promote public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary.”
According to the JQC, Judge Howard acknowledged dissuading the candidate from running against one incumbent judge and encouraging her instead to run against another incumbent judge or, barring that, to drop out of the race and seek an appointment through the Judicial Nominating Commission process.
The candidate ultimately did not take Judge Howard’s advice, according to the JQC.
The justices noted in the May 20 ruling that Judge Howard took full responsibility for his actions, had no history of violations since his appointment to the bench in 2002, and had no disciplinary history with the Bar.
The justices disagreed with JQC that Judge Howard violated Judicial Canon 7A(1)(b), ruling that he did not “publicly” endorse, or “publicly” oppose a candidate.