Orange County judge suspended for misleading election campaign

By Olivia Olsen | May 23, 2017

The Florida Supreme Court recently ruled to suspend 9th Circuit Court Judge Kimberly Michele Shepard from the practice of law.

The Florida Supreme Court recently ruled to suspend Ninth Circuit Court Judge Kimberly Michele Shepard from the practice of law. 

The decision stems from the judge’s alleged misleading campaign for the position in August 2014. 

The court documents state that Shepard and her opponent, Norberto Katz, both “sought endorsement of the Orlando Sentinel newspaper.” However, the paper chose to back Shepard’s opponent due to the lengths he had gone to rebuild his reputation after a disciplinary matter in 1995, according to court records. Shepard’s campaign went forward with an advertisement before any formal endorsement was provided by the paper claiming she had been the endorsed nominee. 

The ad said “Ms. Shepard has done well. She has kept her promises. She has worked hard. She has maintained her integrity,” with the quote attributed to the Orlando Sentinel. The quote was an actual endorsement of Shepard from the paper given in 1994 during the judge’s re-election campaign for the Florida House of Representatives. Because Shepard did not provide a date for the quote, the move was viewed as intentionally misleading and deceptive.

Shepard defended her decision to exclude the date by claiming she wanted to demonstrate her previous work in public service and that she had earned the public’s trust. The hearing committee charged with investigating the issue found that Shepard had “knowingly misrepresented facts,” and therefore discipline was warranted.

The judge will be suspended for 90 days without pay 15 days from the order date, May 4. She will also be responsible for paying the investigative and court costs and will be publicly reprimanded at a to-be-determined date. 

Shepard was admitted to the Florida Bar in April 1990 and is a graduate of the University of Florida. Shepard is a member of the Orange County Bar Association and sat on Osceola Unified Family Court from 2015-16 and the Orange County Domestic Violence Court beginning in 2016. She has no prior record of discipline. 

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