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February 26, 2014

Formal charges filed against Judge Decker

Panel will determine if charges warrant Florida Supreme Court review

Live Oak —

The Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) filed a notice of formal charges Tuesday against Third Judicial Circuit Judge Andrew J. Decker III for several violations of judicial canon and misconduct prior to being elected judge in November 2012. The charges will later be brought before a six member panel to determine if Decker did indeed violate 27 provisions including judicial canons, Florida Rules of Professional Conduct and Florida Statutes. 

The bulk of the charges followed after the Florida Bar’s Third Judicial Circuit Grievance Committee found probable cause in early 2013 to support a landowner’s accusations of misconduct and conflict of interest against Decker.

The finding resulted from an eight-month investigation by the committee into Decker’s handling of a real estate foreclosure case as a private attorney before he was elected judge.

The misconduct and conflict accusations were made in spring 2012 by Daniel A. Dukes of Union County, a partner in the B.W.D. Land Trust represented by Decker in foreclosure negotiations with TD Bank. Other trust partners were Circuit Judge Paul S. Bryan of Lake City, and William E. Woodington of Union County.

Among other things, Dukes accused Decker of conspiring with Judge Bryan to transfer Duke’s one-third ownership of the foreclosed property to Judge Bryan, then withdrew as Duke’s attorney and later represented Judge Bryan in a bankruptcy filing.

He also accused Decker of representing clients before Judge Bryan without disclosing to the opposing side that Decker had served as Judge Bryan’s lawyer in other legal proceedings.

The Grievance Committee, which serves as a grand jury for complaints against Florida lawyers, found there was probable cause that Decker violated four of the Florida Bar’s rules on misconduct and conflict of interest.

The matter then went before the JQC which released its notice of formal charges Tuesday. 

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