Florida Judge Voluntarily Resigns Amidst Ethics Investigation
On Thursday, March 10, 2016, Florida’s Judicial Qualifications Commission filed a notice of voluntary dismissal in state court, determining Judge John F. Lakin had formally resigned from the bench as of the previous Monday. Judge Lakin had come under fire from the Commission, which investigates and prosecutes ethical violations of state judiciary members, in the latter half of 2015 after it had been revealed he had not only accepted, but also requested, tickets to Tampa Bay Rays baseball games from a law firm contemporaneously arguing a case in front of him.
According to formal charges filed by the JQC against Lakin in early February, while acting as overseer of pending litigation, he had accepted tickets to at least four Rays games from the law firm of Kallins Delgado & Little. The firm was representing a woman in a slip-and-fall case against Wal-Mart at the time of the alleged impropriety, and Lakin had never disclosed to Wal-Mart’s counsel that he was accepting/requesting the tickets. The ethics commission took serious note of the exchange when Lakin overturned a jury verdict in Wal-Mart’s favor a day after he had asked Kallins Delgado for tickets to a game in late August 2015; however, Lakin continues to state that the tickets played no role in him deciding to overturn the jury’s verdict, arguing that no reasonable jury could have found defendant Wal-Mart was not at least partially at fault for the woman’s injuries, according to the JQC’s official investigation into the matter.
Lakin continues to maintain his innocence in the entire ordeal as well, saying that his short tenure on the bench led to him being unaware that accepting the tickets was not only improper, but also that he didn’t know he needed to disclose potential ethics violations, believing he was only supposed to do so upon an annual review and disclosure to the JQC.
What is interesting to note, however, is that Lakin’s resignation effectively renders the JQC’s investigation into the matter as moot, for its jurisdiction is limited and involves only active, sitting judges. But if Lakin ever ascends to the bench again in the future, the JQC will retain its jurisdiction to open up the case if it so chooses.