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From left to right: Attorney Jerry Girley and his daughter, Attorney Brooke Girley (Photos courtesy of NNPA)
Stacy M. Brown NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
Published: 02 February 2024

An African American father-daughter pair of lawyers, Jerry, and Brooke Girley are in the eye of Florida’s ongoing racist storm after a judge recommended 30-day suspensions for their vocal criticism following the overturning of a $2.7 million jury ruling in a racial discrimination case.

In addition to suggesting suspension, Judge Lisa Herndon, presiding over the Florida Bar’s disciplinary case against the Girleys, also ordered the duo to attend a professionalism workshop. However, the Florida Supreme Court holds the key to the final decision, with potential penalties ranging from suspension to disbarment.

The Girleys’ attorney, David Winker, said his clients planned to request a rehearing, pointing out factual inaccuracies in the reports. 

Advocates for the Girleys argue that the looming disciplinary action could have a chilling effect on free speech for lawyers in Florida, where Republicans control the governor’s office and both chambers of the state legislature. Jerry Girley previously cited concerns about racial discourse and expression within the state.

The controversy originated from Jerry Girley’s representation of a Black doctor dismissed from AdventHealth in Orlando in 2021. Despite a jury ruling in favor of Girley’s client, the presiding judge overruled the decision, contending a lack of evidence establishing racial discrimination in the dismissal.

The Florida Bar reported that Jerry and Brooke Girley publicly criticized the judge’s decision, accusing improper conduct within the court system. The Bar argued that their statements, both in interviews and on social media, undermined public confidence in the judiciary and were prejudicial to the administration of justice.

In her reports recommending disciplinary measures, Herndon asserted that the Girleys had violated their oath of admission to the Florida Bar by failing to show respect to judicial officers and making false statements. She argued that the Girleys’ claims were not First Amendment-protected free speech, in opposition to their arguments.

Founded in 2007, The Girley Law Firm P.A. focuses on civil rights, criminal defense, and social security cases. Described as a community trust, the firm advocates for justice and equality for all, irrespective of race, color, or creed.

Brooke Girley, an accomplished attorney and media executive, has contributed to significant victories in civil rights cases alongside her father. Passionate about racial equality, she has served in various capacities, including as an adjunct professor and a media executive in the religious space.

Jerry Girley’s background includes service in the United States Navy, civilian employment with the Orlando Police Department, and a dedication to civil rights issues. He is the President and Managing Attorney of the Girley Law Firm and serves as General Counsel for Freedom Ministries Church.

“The state of Florida has a shameful history of discrimination and bias against racial minorities,” the ACLU of Florida noted on its website. “Though great strides have been made for equality during and since the Civil Rights Movement, racial minorities still face challenges and discrimination in our state.”

The ACLU’s statement continued:

“Because so many of Florida’s voting problems, particularly those that became apparent during and since the 2000 Presidential election, fell most heavily on African Americans and language minority communities, much of the ACLU of Florida work is directed toward correcting voting irregularities that have a disproportionate impact on those groups. The ACLU of Florida also actively supports reforms such as the creation of effective civilian review boards for law enforcement that would bring changes in police policies and practices.”

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