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Ex-Supreme Court chief justice approves ballot petition, gets hired by firm allied with its sponsor

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Some great reporting from the Broward Bulldog: Weeks after casting the deciding vote to approve a controversial ballot petition in December 2008, former Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles T. Wells joined a law firm aligned with the petition’s sponsor.

The high court’s 4-3 ruling gave life to a push by developers and statewide business interests – led by the Florida Chamber of Commerce – to blunt a possible change in the state constitution to greatly expand citizen powers over local development.

Wells landed a senior job at GrayRobinson, an influential Orlando-based corporate firm allied with the petition’s sponsor, a political action committee called Floridians for Smarter Growth. He says he got the job because of his six-decade old friendship with the firm’s co-founder, J. Charles Gray.

GrayRobinson announced Wells’ hiring on March 3, 2009. But in an interview with Broward Bulldog, Wells said he might have accepted the job in January 2009, while the case was still before the court for a possible rehearing.

“I don’t really remember. I may have,” Wells said. “As I say, I was wrapping things up at this point.”

Gray did not respond to a request for comment.

Florida’s Code of Judicial Conduct requires judges to perform their duties impartially, and to disqualify themselves when their impartiality might reasonably be questioned. Specifically, the canons say judges negotiating for employment with a law firm are “disqualified from any matters in which that law firm appeared.” Continue reading here.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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