Court Dismisses Suit Challenging Candidacy Based on False Financial Disclosures

 The Miami-Dade Circuit Court recently dismissed with prejudice a suit challenging  a candidate for judicial office based upon alleged false financial disclosures contained on qualifying forms.  In Rodolfo Pedraza v. Frank Hernandez et al, Case No. 12-19392-CA-27, the  plaintiff is the husband of  incumbent County Court Judge Patricia Pedraza.  The defendant Hernandez filed to run against Judge Pedraza. Mr.  Pedraza alleged in his suit that Hernandez was ineligible to run against his wife due to false financial disclosures  in qualifying forms filed by Hernandez.  Without  ruling on the substance of Pedraza’s allegations, the court dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice based upon a finding that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case.    The court found that Art. II, § 8(f) of the Florida Constitution requires that an independent commission conduct investigations of breaches of public trust of judicial candidates who are not within the jurisdiction of the Judicial Qualifications Commission.  The court therefore concluded that the Florida Commission on Ethics had exclusive jurisdiction to investigate and take action, if appropriate, concerning Mr. Pedraza’s allegations.

Thomas D. Shults, Esq.

About Thomas D. Shults, Esq.

Tom Shults is a Florida Bar Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer. He has represented clients in election and sunshine law issues, complex business and commercial disputes and probate and trust suits. He was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1983 and has maintained an active trial practice in state and federal courts for over 35 years. Mr. Shults successfully represented the Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections in Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections et al. v. Browning et al. , where the Florida Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of Sarasota County’s charter election law amendments. Mr. Shults has served on the Professional Ethics Committee of The Florida Bar and is the past Chairman of the Code and Rules of Evidence Committee of The Florida Bar. He is a recipient of the Distinguished Community Service Award of the Sarasota County Bar Association for his work with the Sarasota Mental Health Community Centers. In 2013 he was nominated for circuit court judge by the 12th Circuit Judicial Nominating Committee. Mr. Shults has served on the faculty of the Kessler-Eidson Program for Trial Techniques at Emory University School of Law and on the faculty of the National Institute for Trial Advocacy Program for Practicing Lawyers at Nova Southeastern University School of Law. Mr. Shults grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida and is a graduate of St. Petersburg High School (1973), Florida State University (B.S. 1977) and Washburn University School of Law (J.D. cum laude 1982). He is veteran of the United States Army.
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