TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Legal Newsline) - The Florida Supreme Court has sanctioned a $25,000 fine against a Seminole County judge who admitted to violating the state's campaign finance laws.
On Thursday, the high court approved the Judicial Qualifications Commission's findings that Judge Debra Krause wrongly reported an $82,000 gift to her campaign from her husband, Longwood divorce attorney Mitchel Krause, as a loan.
In December 2013, the commission and Krause agreed to the $25,000 fine and a public reprimand for her campaign missteps during the 2012 election.
In addition to the loan, the commission found Krause wrongly paid $250 to speak at a county GOP gathering in spite of a ban on politicking and published campaign material that falsely suggested she was an incumbent.
The high court concurred with all of the commission's findings and discipline actions.
"Judge Krause accepts full responsibility for the conduct set forth above, admits that it should not have occurred and regrets and apologizes for such conduct," the Supreme Court's per curiam opinion states.
"Judge Krause denies that she intended to violate the applicable campaign laws ... and contends that at the time she acted in the good faith belief that such conduct was appropriate."
Justice Fred Lewis dissented, opposing the court's utilization of large fines to punish serious violations of the code of judicial conduct.
"Faith and confidence in our judicial system is rooted in the ability to rely upon the integrity and independence of our judges," Lewis wrote. "That confidence is severely undermined when an ethical transgression of a judge or judicial candidate is so severe that it justifies the imposition of a fine of this magnitude."
Lewis concluded his dissent by quoting an opinion from a similar case, In re Kinsey, which states: "Selecting an enormous fine as discipline only sends the message that 'anything goes' in judicial elections if a candidate has the financial ability to pay the monetary consequences."
Gainesville attorney Larry Gibbs Turner represented Krause.
Case No. SC13-2263
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