Florida Bar Association investigates blogging attorney

Bill Gelin blogged criticisms of Broward Judge Robert Diaz

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – An attorney who blogged criticisms of two judges now faces a Florida Bar Association investigation for it -- and some courthouse watchers are crying foul.

The Bar is focusing its investigation of defense attorney Bill Gelin on his blog criticism of Broward County Judge Robert Diaz and Palm Beach County Judge Marni Bryson.

Gelin, who runs the courthouse blog JAABlog, has been hit with a complaint and written questionnaires from Bar investigators but says he's been told little of what it's all about.

"They won't say who filed the complaints," said Gelin. "They won't cite a single rule of misconduct I may have violated."

Gelin has some well-known defenders on his side. Broward County Property Appraiser Lori Parrish said the public was largely in the dark about the antics of judges at the courthouse before he began blogging about it.

"We've all known which judges go to work and which don't, which ones drink too much and sleep at their desk," said Parrish. "What Bill Gelin did was expose what we all knew. The Florida Bar should congratulate him."

Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein said the investigation runs counter to the Bar's responsibility. "Maybe the Bar should be more concerned with lawyers who are ripping off the public than lawyers that are calling judges who are behaving badly out on the carpet," he said.

"I think we can criticize judges if in fact they are deserving of valid criticism," said Gelin.

Judge Diaz refused comment on the investigation and wouldn't say if he is a complainant in the case. Bryson didn't return a call for comment. Gelin criticized Diaz's work habits and blogged about Bryson's past controversies after he and a client had a bad experience in her courtroom.

"Truth is the ultimate defense," said Gelin. "There's been no calls for retractions or any calls for corrections."

The Florida Bar hasn't responded to a request for comment on the investigation.

"They ought to write Bill Gelin a thank-you note," said Parrish, "because they didn't clean up the courthouse, Bill Gelin did."