Florida Judge Suspended for 5 Days After Inappropriate Footnotes
Friday, April 10, 2020
Judge Van Laningham is known for his lengthy and sharply written footnotes, but he may have gone too far this time.
The News Service of Florida reported that Administrative Law Judge John Van Laningham was suspended by his agency for five days for an inappropriate footnote concerning one of his colleagues.
Mr. Laningham is a judge with the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings. Mr. Laningham is reported to be renowned for writing lengthy and sharply written orders in which he harshly rebukes various state agency officials.
The footnotes concerned John MacIver, the chief judge and division director, and his habit of reviewing judges’ opinions before they are issued. Mr. MacIver was appointed as chief judge and division director as of October 2019.
According to Daniel Bean, Van Laningham’s lawyer, MacIver issued the notice of the suspension on March 27th and Laningham plans to appeal the decision. The suspension took effect on April 1st after Administrative Law Judge Lisa “Li” Shearer Nelson recommended the suspension on March 26th.
In the footnote, Van Laningham said MacIver has been making comments and suggesting edits in judges’ opinions and questioned whether MacIver’s comments might be ex parte communications that are banned by Florida law.
The footnote stated that in one comment, MacIver said, “This is the crux of your most defensible finding.” Another comment said, “Finding the agency’s future intent as a matter of fact is troubling.”
Laningham, in his footnote, said he was “erring on the side of caution and disclosure” by placing MacIver’s comments on the record.
Any party wishing to rebut the communication may do so under Florida law, Laningham said. Laningham’s lawyer stated that “Judge Van Laningham was neither insubordinate nor committed any misconduct; rather, he refused to maintain the conspiracy of silence promoted by the director.
The director is permitted to assign himself to a case and exercise his own independent authority as an administrative law judge, but attempting to shield his substantive participation, and then punishing another when it is properly disclosed, is wrong.”
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