Cole Scott & Kissane, Florida’s largest insurance defense firm, has filed 38 motions to disqualify Judge David C. Miller from it cases after one of its attorneys filed to run against him in the November general election.
The move has prompted claims the firm is using its deep pockets to strategically throw a sitting judge off its litigation by pitting one of its lawyers against him in the political arena. It also caused an uproar among plaintiff lawyers, who say they’d have to start over before new judges in dozens of cases if Cole Scott succeeds.
The firm filed 33 motions to disqualify Miller and five sua sponte recusal requests, which ask the judge to remove himself without a motion.
Cole Scott partner Elisabeth M. Espinosa filed on April 5 to challenge Miller for his seat in Division 8.
Now, questions are swirling about why Espinosa chose to run against a judge handling dozens of the firm’s cases.
“We’re the largest insurance defense firm in the state of Florida, so to have 30 cases in front of any judge is not surprising. That would be rather standard,” law firm managing partner Richard Cole said Friday. “I have no way to control where Ms. Espinosa runs for judge. … That’s her decision.”
The firm’s website listed Espinosa an associate earlier this month, but it now describes her as a partner. Cole said Espinosa became a nonequity partner “recently,” but “not this week,” and declined to elaborate.
Critics say Cole Scott & Kissane promoted Espinosa to bolster its bid for Miller’s removal by arguing that a firm with a partner—not an associate— running against a judge would likely be a victim of unfair rulings.
“This has much broader implications. The motions for recusal have very little to do with the actions of Judge Miller,” said plaintiffs lawyer Victor M. Diaz Jr. “It’s scary. It’s an attack on the independence of the judiciary, and an attempt to intimidate state court judges that are subject to election or reelection. It should be offensive to every member of the bar, of concern to all lawyers and every sitting circuit court judge.”
This is a developing story and will be updated.