The Jacksonville Branch NAACP has condemned what it calls the “last minute” maneuvers of attorneys Michael Kalil in a coup to win a Florida judge seat.
The unopposed candidate is calling claims that he schemed to win an election false and preconceived.
The NAACP is calling for attorney Michael Kalil to step down from the seat, and a Florida Bar investigation is underway into whether Kalil’s actions were in violation of its rules.
It began when Circuit Judge Tyrie Boyer filed to seek re-election as a judge, but documents showed two hours before the filing deadline, he withdrew from the race in a faxed letter dated the day before. An hour and a half earlier, Kalil entered the race.
The move by Kalil and Boyer left less than two hours for another person to file the necessary paperwork to join the race.
Once the deadline passed, Kalil effectively became a judge without an election.
Several attorneys have shared it’s an unofficial rule not to run against a sitting judge, especially if another seat is open.
Members of the legal community are asking who else knew about Boyer’s decision to withdraw and if everyone had a fair shot to run for the seat.
In a statement, another attorney Rhonda Peoples-Waters said she spoke with Boyer in fall 2019 to ask the judge if he was seeking re-election. Waters said Boyer told her he was seeking re-election, so she didn’t file papers to run for his seat. Peoples-Waters has sought a judge position several times.
“Had I known Judge Boyer planned to retire, I would have considered filing to run in the seat being vacated by his retirement. Unfortunately, because of the way events unfolded, I did not have the opportunity to consider switching races to the open seat,” said Peoples-Waters.
Kalil and Boyer have pushed back against claims they schemed together to rig the winner of the election.
In an email response, Kalil said: “There are some false, preconceived narratives out there right now that simply are not true. I can assure everyone there was no impropriety whatsoever with my campaign. I look forward to serving the people of Duval, Clay, and Nassau county.”
Kalil has been unresponsive to the email query of whether he discussed Boyer’s retirement with him and if he was aware Judge Boyer planned to withdraw from the race.
Boyer, 71, said he withdrew from the race to avoid running an expensive campaign for a limited time on the bench. Florida statutes show judges must retire at 75 years old.
“If anybody ran against me I was going to withdraw my candidacy. Campaigns are too hard and too stressful. I withdrew in time to get my qualifying fee returned.” Boyer told News4Jax.
Jacksonville NAACP President Isaiah Rumlin said citizens were effectively deprived of an opportunity to consider judicial candidates.
“We need to have fair elections and we hold judges in high esteem, and for judges to do this type of maneuvering, it sends the wrong message to our community,” said Rumlin.
Kalil has not announced any intention to withdraw from the race.
The Florida Bar has opened an investigation to determine if Michael Kalil’s conduct in the matter of qualifying for a judicial election constitutes violation of any of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar
The NAACP said they will continue to monitor this situation that deprives diverse candidates opportunities to serve on the bench.
“The only way to rid this county of the good old boy system is the ballot box.” said Rumlin. “we must vote.”