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Black caucus wants trial lawyers to unfold their wallets

by Dara Kam | October 7th, 2009

A racially-charged mail piece targeting former House Speaker John Thrasher will cost the state’s trial lawyer association more than embarassment.

The Florida Justice Association has hired former Florida Supreme Court Justice Gerald Kogan to conduct an investigation into the flier that elicited outrage from the legislature’s black caucus.

“It was the most blatant display of racism I’ve seen in 27 years,” Senate Democratic Leader Al Lawson, who is black, said at the legislature’s black caucus meeting last night.

The mailer was especially offensive to black lawmakers because they have historically sided with the trial lawyers in votes and considered them their friends, Lawson said.

“This experience really threw me for a loop,” Lawson, D-Tallahassee, said.

FJA’s executive director Scott Carruthers apologized for his organization’s involvement in the flier depicting President Barack Obama, Al Sharpton, the Black Panthers, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and others and captioned “Is this the change you want to believe in?”

But hiring Kogan to investigate and saying they’re sorry isn’t enough to win back black lawmakers’ support, some said at a meeting last night.

They want campaign cash, too.

The trial lawyers have contributed five times more to Republicans than to Democrats, complained Rep. Joe Gibbons, D-Fort Lauderdale. He called the race-baiting flier an example of a “systematic problem” within the association.

The mailer went to absentee voters in the Jacksonville area preceding a special GOP primary election last month to replace the late Sen. Jim King. The ad targeted Thrasher, a trial lawyer nemesis who won the election today.

Carruthers admitted that his group bankrolled the political committee that paid for the flier.

But that didn’t go far enough for Sen. Gary Siplin, the head of the black caucus who’s got his own axe to grind with the trial lawyers. They targeted him in a Democratic primary for reelection last year.

Siplin, a lawyer, last week sent a letter to FJA President Michael Haggard demanding that he clean house and fire anyone involved with the mailer. The flier was “deplorable” and represents “the very worst nature of political campaigning,” Siplin wrote

“While FJA has already stated that it believes the content of the absentee mail piece was unconscionable and has apologized for the organization’s contribution to the third party group that produced the material, FJA believes it is imperative that a respected party of impeccable credentials, like Justice Kogan, conduct an outside, independent review to make sure that such an event never happens again,” FJA President MIchael Haggard wrote in a letter to Siplin yesterday.

Haggard also agreed to Siplin’s request for a meeting.

Siplin called Haggard’s response “a good faith effort” to restoring the mutually beneficial relationship the groups shared in the past.

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6 Responses to “Black caucus wants trial lawyers to unfold their wallets”

  1. luckydog Says:

    Where is the racism? Sounds like reality to me

  2. Paola Says:


    It’s about time someone stood up for other races. I am white, but most of my friends are of other races. It disturbs me greatly that this country has gone back at least 40 years (maybe 200 yrs.) just because a significant majority of Americans voted for a bi-racial man to be our President. And to be honest, he’s a heck of a lot smarter than most of America and is trying to straighten out a mess that someone with a less than average IQ created. There is so much “Un-Americanism” going around these days.

    Again I say “AMEN”.

  3. Sean T Wright Says:

    Mr. Lawson & Mr. Siplin,

    Funny how politics works!

    Want to talk about making unfounded allegations.

    Mr. Siplin, you voted against the people in your own District in Orlando on Public Transportation because a Lakeland state senator told you to. Most would define that as being a puppet. You straight up lied & used copyright information to build a false case against Tri-Rail & Sunrail.

    Why not disclose how you dealt with Chris Smith in April. Then let’s see how well you make a argument as a lawyer that you have a “ax to grind”. You’ve been more racist by harming & lying to the people in your own district then the Lawyer’s Association ever has!

    Mr. Lawson, you too, used copyrighted material to build a fraudulent argument against Sunrail & Tri-Rail. Material that involved my history. Did you really think she would continue to back you up? Ask David Aronberg how his ratings been since May. There’s a reason why Tampa papers are writing about him. His political career is over here!

    Mr. Lawson you were “offended”? How’d you treat Chris Smith in April?

    Mr. Lawson I say publicly in this forum that you sir are lying as to your motive here. You are upset with the Trial Lawyers because they changed their position on several issues in the lawmaking session this year. This is your way of getting the pay back.

    Mr. Lawson, I’ve caught you lying in OS blogs, so I know well when your lying to the public. Sir you made it personal for me with the lying you did about Sunrail. I could care less about the trial lawyers, I’m in Tax Law. I do care about someone lying to all of us. Believe me, everyone soon will know exactly who you are.

    I’d resign soon.

  4. LA in the know Says:

    I can’t defend the trial lawyer’s mail piece, especially in light of the fact that there was no legitimate black candidate, however, I’m not sure if I would use Sen. Siplin as the model of progressive thinking and honesty. Anytime you present a bill in front of a committee he is in, if it has anything to do with crime or punishment, he makes a race issue out of it. Last time I checked, racism works both ways. Further, he was convicted of felony theft. The fact that he got off on a felony appeal, doesnt change the fact that what he did was wrong. I wont attack Sen Lawson, he has always been fair with me and I admire he is one of the few D’s in Tallahassee to have a brain and balls. Sen. Siplin shouldn’t even BE a lawyer to be offended by the trial lawyer piece. He should have been disbarred and removed from the Senate. Further, as public transportation is used by more minorities than whites, I can’t believe these guys felt it was in their constitutents best interests to vote against it…You know what Jay-Z said..When the grass is cut, the snakes will show…

  5. Paola Says:

    WOW…Mr. Lawson and Mr. Siplin, you guys need to resign if what Sean T. Wright and LA in the know say is correct! You are a bad reflection on your race, and my friends of other races.

    SHAME ON BOTH OF YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Trial lawyers behind Thrasher’s chairmanship of Ethics and Elections | Post on Politics Says:

    [...] only will the trial lawyers have Thrasher to contend with, they’re also trying to make up with black lawmakers outraged by what Senate Democratic Leader Al Lawson called the “most blatant display of [...]

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