Orlando, FL — In late May 2021, a Florida jury awarded Kenyan native, Dr. Baiywo Rop, $2.75 million in his racial discrimination suit against AdventHealth, formally known as Florida Hospital. The verdict was a historic civil rights victory in the central Florida area.
Then one week later, late on a Friday afternoon, Judge Kevin Weiss overturned the jury’s verdict and declared AdventHealth the winner.
Unbeknownst to Dr. Rop at the time was that prior to serving on the bench, Judge Weiss represented the hospital and/or its affiliates in multiple cases. Both he and the hospital failed to disclose this fact during the entire litigation.
One month after the verdict was reversed, Jerry Girley, the outspoken civil rights attorney representing Dr. Rop, received a Florida Bar complaint alleging that he “impugned the integrity of the judiciary.” Not stopping with Attorney Girley, the Bar also lodged the same allegation at his daughter, Brooke Girley. Ms. Girley was not involved in the case in any capacity, however. In fact, she works in a different industry and uses her law license primarily to provide pro bono services to children in foster care.
When the Girley’s asked the Bar repeatedly for more information about the basis of the complaint and the identity of the complaining party, the Bar initially refused to provide additional information.
It would be nearly four months later, only days before both Jerry and Brooke were scheduled to give sworn statements, that they would learn the facts surrounding their complaints.
In nearly 300 pages of evidence, the Girley’s discovered that Judge Weiss, from his social media and email accounts, took hundreds of screenshots of the social media pages of the Girley’s, their extended family members, their law firm, Dr. Rop and others.
This was also the first time that they learned that their social media posts as well as two post-trial interviews Attorney Jerry Girley conducted, were the basis of the discipline. In other words, the father and daughter are facing discipline not for any inappropriate courtroom conduct, but for pure speech. And not just any speech, but speech that called out injustice in the system.
For example, in its formal Complaint, one of the pieces of evidence the Bar used against Attorney Brooke Girley is her Facebook post where she wrote, “The Dre[d] Scott Rule still applies in 2021: ‘A black man has no rights which a white man is bound to respect.’”
Likewise, the Bar’s Complaint against Attorney Jerry Girley cited his comment stating that “Litigating civil rights for black people and for brown people in a majority white culture is like climbing up a hundred-foot cliff with a hundred-pound boulder on your back.”
Absent from these comments are statements that impugn the integrity of Judge Weiss. Nevertheless, the FL Bar seeks to sanction/discipline the Girleys for speaking about their observation and experiences as civil rights attorneys. The Bar has labeled these comments as essentially untruthful, a violation of the oath of office, and possibly “prejudicial” to the judicial system.
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