- A Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission panel requested the state Supreme Court to stay the proceedings regarding Liberty County Judge Kenneth Hosford, who was recommended for a 30-day suspension and public reprimand in October due to improper interactions with a prosecutor.
- The panel’s decision to halt the October case comes after new allegations of misconduct emerged, although details of these allegations have not been disclosed.
- The initial case involved Judge Hosford expressing bias in favor of law enforcement during a Zoom meeting, influencing a theft case investigation, and advising a detective on obtaining a search warrant.
After recommending in October that a North Florida judge receive a 30-day suspension and a public reprimand because of improper discussions with a prosecutor, a state investigative panel Tuesday said it has started an inquiry into new allegations of misconduct by the judge. The investigative panel of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission asked the state Supreme Court to put on hold the October case involving Liberty County Judge Kenneth Hosford.
The motion said “additional matters have come to the attention” of the panel. “Because these new matters may impact the resolution of this case, and to avoid prejudice to the parties, the commission respectfully requests that this (Supreme) Court stay the proceedings in the present (October) case until the investigative panel has concluded its inquiry into the new matter,” the motion said.
The panel did not disclose the nature of the new allegations. The October case involved a discussion that Hosford had June 15 with an assistant state attorney after a hearing held on Zoom. The panel’s findings said Hosford addressed “concerns over the prosecutor’s decision to decline to file charges in a theft case where Judge Hosford had, just the day before, personally approved an arrest warrant for the accused.
During the Zoom meeting, while addressing his displeasure with the way the prosecutor had declined to prosecute the case, Judge Hosford also admits to having provided investigative advice to the detective investigating the crime, including suggesting to the detective that he might get a search warrant to obtain more evidence of the crime.” The findings said Hosford also “made other comments clearly evincing a bias in favor of law enforcement.”
The investigative panel and Hosford agreed that he should receive a 30-day suspension without pay and a reprimand and recuse himself from criminal matters for three months, according to court documents.
The Supreme Court has ultimate authority to decide discipline for judges. But the Florida Public Defender Association and the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers have expressed concerns about the agreement. In a document filed at the Supreme Court, the public defender association said “the transcript indicates a clear preference for and bias towards law enforcement and prosecutors which creates a well-founded fear that defense attorneys and their clients will not receive a fair and impartial opportunity in court.”