CNN’s embrace of attorney Daniel Uhlfelder has ended in embarrassment, exactly as we said it would. CNN and other media hyped Uhlfelder last year when he dressed as the Grim Reaper and scolded unsuspecting Florida beachgoers for supposed COVID-19 social distancing violations. CNN devoted both an on-air report and social media posts to him, repeatedly treating him as a heroic figure rather than a habitual, liberal attention-seeker who earlier had joined a Black Lives Matter protest without apparent social distancing.
Now, though, an appeals court has recommended that the Florida Bar take disciplinary action against Uhlfelder. The recommendation is a response specifically to Uhlfelder’s attempt to appeal a ruling against his idiotic case demanding that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis close the beaches amid the pandemic, Florida Politics reports.
Uhlfelder and his lawyers “knew or should have known that their ‘demands’ that the Governor ‘close the beaches’ were not validly asserted below (in the circuit court) or on appeal,” the 1st District Court of Appeal panel said in an order written by Judge Brad Thomas and Judge Adam Tanenbaum.
It adds, “There was no good-faith legal argument to support a claim for such relief in the trial court, and there was certainly no good faith basis to argue legal error on appeal. [Uhlfelder] and his counsel undoubtedly used this court merely as a stage from which to act out their version of political theater. This was unprofessional and an abuse of the judicial process.”
The order also came close to imposing financial sanctions on Uhlfelder and his legal team. However, it stopped just short of that.
Judge Susan Kelsey said in her concurring opinion that she “would also impose significant monetary sanctions.”
Uhlfelder’s original lawsuit against DeSantis, which he filed in March of last year, said that the governor should be required to close beaches. The lawsuit also said the GOP governor should be required to issue a “safer at home” order. DeSantis did the latter but declined to do the former.
Leon County Circuit Judge Kevin Carroll ruled against Uhlfelder in April 2020, arguing that the governor does indeed have broad authority when it comes to public health crises.
“I believe that what I’m being asked to do is substitute my judgment for that of the governor on how to respond to this COVID crisis, which has been somewhat of a moving target,” Carroll said at the time. “There are 599 circuit judges in Florida at last count, and I don’t think we need to have 599 governors-in-waiting.”
After Carroll’s ruling, Uhlfelder and his attorneys took the case to the 1st District Court of Appeal, which obviously did not work out too well for the showboat lawyer.
The panel not only rejected Uhlfelder’s appeal, but it also demanded that he “show cause … why this court should not impose sanctions, including attorney fees and costs, on him and counsel for filing this appeal, the initial brief, and the request for oral argument, which appear to be frivolous and/or filed in bad faith.”
The panel then referred Uhlfelder to the bar “for its consideration of whether Appellant and his counsel violated the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar. We encourage the Bar to take appropriate action to ensure that Appellant and his counsel understand their ethical obligations and proper roles as officers of the court.”
“To the extent determined necessary, we also encourage The Florida Bar to require Appellant and his counsel to undertake additional educational training the Bar may deem appropriate to ensure that Appellant and counsel comply with their ethical and professionalism obligations,” the order added.
For the record, this is all slightly unusual, particularly the appeals court panel’s angry tone and its recommendation that disciplinary action be taken against the idiot Grim Reaper lawyer. But it just goes to show how annoyed the judges are with Uhlfelder’s shenanigans. And the panel is right. Uhlfelder is an embarrassment. He clearly abused his position as an attorney for political purposes, cheered on all the while by a news media that are too stupid and too ratings-obsessed to learn from their past missteps.
Sure, the press’s embrace of Uhlfelder isn’t quite as embarrassing as their embrace of convicted felon Michael Avenatti. But it’s close. Elevating an obvious clown because he has the “right” politics and he attacks the “right” targets is embarrassing, and unethical, regardless of whether a felony conviction is involved somewhere along the way. The difference is just a matter of degrees.