Attorneys Leave Trial Lawyer Group Over Mailings
Fallout from a racially offensive mailer sent by allies of the state’s trial lawyer association continues – with high-profile Orlando attorney John Morgan leading a string of departures from the Florida Justice Association.
Morgan, former Florida Justice Association president Frank Petosa of Boca Raton, and several members of Morgan’s firm, including Scott Weinstein and Scott Bates have turned in their resignations – saying punishment meted out for the mailer wasn’t enough.
“It was the mailer and the response to the mailer,” Morgan told the News Service of Florida on Monday. “They think they can slap people on the wrist, and then it’ll go away. It can’t.”
The Florida Justice Association earlier this month temporarily suspended executive director Scott Carruthers, general counsel Paul Jess and Albert Balido, director of the association’s political action committee, following an internal investigation led by former state Supreme Court Justice Gerald Kogan.
Campaign finance records show a mailing went to almost 90,000 households in Florida’s Senate District 8 that was part of an effort to blunt support for eventual winner John Thrasher, a former House speaker and Florida Medical Association lobbyist opposed by the trial lawyers.
The piece showed photos of President Barack Obama, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, Al Sharpton and Black Panthers, questioning, “Is this change you want to believe in?” The mailing also warned that “armed thugs” could meet voters at the polls.
FJA admitted the piece went through a pair of allied political committees working to defeat Thrasher – the Conservative Voters Coalition and Conservative Citizens for Justice.
FJA could not be reached for comment late Monday. But Morgan said he and others who left FJA feel the group’s credibility has been too badly damaged with the Legislature’s two-dozen black lawmakers, with Thrasher and the Republican-led Senate, where the trial lawyer organization counts several key allies.
“I love Scott Carruthers,” Morgan said. “But in his effort to win, he went too far. He’s got to go.”