Judge Jackie Fulford Stirs Mixed Opinions in Florida Politics, Legal Circles

By: Joe Saunders | Posted: March 1, 2012 3:55 AM
Wakulla County Courthouse and Jackie Fulford

Wakulla County Courthouse and Judge Jackie Fulford | Credit: Calvin Beale - ers.usda.gov - Rick Flagg - bbn.frn.com

Jackie Fulford, the judge who ruled unconstitutional the prison privatization measure approved by the Legislature last year and is now deciding whether state employees can be forced to contribute to their retirement, stirs strong feelings in Florida legal and political circles.

To some she's a hard-working judge who keeps politics out of her opinions.

To others, though, -- such as Senate President Mike Haridopolos and Gov. Rick Scott -- her privatization ruling was an example of overreach by Florida's judiciary.

Appointed to the bench in 2009 by then-Gov. Charlie Crist, Fulford, 46, earned her bachelor's degree at Florida Atlantic University and her law degree at Stetson College of Law.

After four years in private practice, she became chief prosecutor in the 2nd Judicial Circuit in 1998.

She was out of her office in the Wakulla County Courthouse this week recuperating from bicycling injuries, her office said.

"She's probably the hardest-working judge I've ever met," said Kelly Overstreet Johnson, who successfully argued the Florida Police Benevolent Association's challenge to prison privatization.

"When you walk in the courtroom, she already has questions" Johnson said. "She's read everything."

While Johnson's praise could be expected, given Fulford's September decision in her favor -- a decision Attorney General Pam Bondi is appealing -- she also acknowledges disagreeing with the judge sometimes. But Johnson, who was on the Judicial Nominating Commission when Fulford was appointed, said she always understands her legal reasoning.

"I think she's an excellent judge."

Not everyone's a fan.

“We disagree with the ruling and we’re currently evaluating our options before moving forward,” Jackie Schutz, deputy press secretary for the governor's office said, immediately after Fulford's privatization ruling.

And the governor himself is on record as objecting to the kind of rulings that include Fulford's tossing of the privatization provision.

"It's disappointing when the judiciary thinks they're the Legislature and the governor, when we pass a bill that's clearly constitutional, and they declare it unconstitutional," Scott said in an interview with the News Service of Florida.

Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, couldn't be reached for comment, but said after the ruling that political motives are behind such cases more than legal niceties. In other words, that judicial challenges are just a way to subvert the legislative process.

"What have liberals historically done?" Haridopolos asked rhetorically in an interview late last year. "When they can't win elections, they go to the courts."

Bob Sanchez, policy director for the James Madison Institute, a Tallahassee-based conservative think tank, said with the privatization and pension cases, Fulford just got caught in the spotlight.

While court challenges to legislation, he said, are "opportunities for people who want judicial activism to bring in lawsuits," that's not always the case.

"In the case of Judge Fulford," he said, "these cases were dumped in her lap."

Joe Saunders can be reached at jsaunders@sunshinestatenews.com or (850) 727-0859.

Comments (30)

Ray W Mofford
12:27PM MAR 21ST 2012
I agree with judge Fulford, because the Florida & Federal Constitutions have delegated the authority of public figures & our Constitutions can only be amended by the "we the people" vote.....:-)
Al Moncrief
6:48PM MAR 9TH 2012

Fact #1: Hickenlooper signs bill to give a raise to state legislators. Fact #2: State of Colorado steals contracted, earned, fully-vested, and accrued retirement benefits from elderly in the state (SB 10-001, COLA theft bill.)

We are warped.

Thank God the courts are beginning to correct the outright, unabashed theft of public pension benefits that has occurred in a number of states across the U.S. Read below the clarity that this Florida judge brings to the matter, it is breathtaking.


The Florida Legislature attempted pension reforms that were not nearly as aggressive, in terms of risk of unconstitutionality, as those adopted by the Colorado General Assembly. Nevertheless, the Florida Legislature has been smacked down by the courts.
Here are some noteworthy portions of the Florida ruling:
“This court cannot set aside its constitutional obligations because a budget crisis exists in the state of Florida. To do so would be in direct contravention of this court’s oath to follow the law.”
“To find otherwise would mean that a contract with our state government has no meaning.”
“There was certainly a lawful means by which they could have achieved the same result.”
“Florida law is clear that a legislature can, as part of its power to contract, authorize a contract that grants vested rights which a future legislature cannot impair.”
“The elimination of the future COLA adjustment alone will result in a 4 to 24% reduction in the plaintiffs total retirement income. These costs are substantial as a matter of law.”
“Where the state violates its own contract, complete deference to a legislative assessment of reasonableness and necessity is not appropriate because the state’s self-interest is at stake.”
“All indications are that the Florida Legislature chose to effectuate the challenged provisions of SB 2100 in order to make funds available for other purposes.”
“If a state could reduce its financial obligations whenever it wanted to spend the money for what it regarded as an important public purpose, the Contract Clause would provide no protection at all.”
“The Takings Clause is intended to prevent the government from forcing some people alone to bear public burdens, which in all fairness and justice should be borne by the public as a whole.”
“Defendants are further ordered to reimburse with interest the funds deducted or withheld . . . from the compensation or cost-of-living adjustments of employees who were members of the FRS prior to July 1, 2011.”
Here’s hoping that one day Justus will prevail in Colorado. Read all about it and support the lawsuit at saveperacola.com.
9:02AM MAR 7TH 2012
What hateful people repubelincans are.
L. B. Drinkovic
8:41AM MAR 7TH 2012
Thanks a plenty for standing up to Governor Voldemort
and his greedy creepy cohorts in Tallahassee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
7:09PM MAR 5TH 2012

It's disappointing when the judiciary thinks they're the Legislature and the governor, when we pass a bill that's clearly constitutional, and they declare it unconstitutional," Scott said in an interview with the News Service of Florida.

Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, couldn't be reached for comment, but said after the ruling that political motives are behind such cases more than legal niceties. In other words, that judicial challenges are just a way to subvert the legislative process
Robert DeSabatino
1:19PM MAR 9TH 2012
The bill had nothing to do with the Constitution. This was a strictly contractual issue. When the Florida Legislature passed the Florida Pension Plan bill in 1974, it clearly stated that public employees did not have to pay into it. This was contractually agreed to by the Legislature and the Unions. The Legislature cannot now go and change the rules to balance a state budget which public employees had nothing to do with screwing up. The Florida Pension Plan is in great health and is considered one of the best run in the country in spite of what Rick Scott says.
7:32AM MAR 3RD 2012
Judge Fulford has an excellent reputation as a judge. She is highly respected by other judges and by the legal community for making very tough decisions.
10:02PM MAR 5TH 2012
Agreed!!! i watched the rerun of the hearing she was fantasic!!!
Mr. Bob
6:31PM MAR 2ND 2012
How do we get rid of her and the institutional incompetence of people who think they are entitled to continually be supported by taxpayers? What we need is for those people who have never generated real $$$ to understand that the only $$ they ever make comes from creating goods.
Bob Jones
3:54PM MAR 7TH 2012
Hey you stupid, ignorant fool. Ever been to D.C.? Ever walked by the IRS Headquarters Office, where the inscription above the main entry reads: "The Price of Civilization is Taxation". Get a clue you wonderless donkey's ass. The goods that a policman produces is in the form of a service offered as the protection you enjoy as you walk down a dark street at night or the EMT who responds to you when your heart stops beating. Ass! Take your goods and sell them. Don't, however, criticize those who provide a valuable service for the benefit of the general public. If you wanted to illustrate an example of a useless government employee, point to the governor. He's pretty useless. And he tries to say he has nothing to do with legislating. The Bill that passed into law requiring state employee contributions to the FRS was fostered by the governor himself. I have personally seen written correspondence evidencing this fact. This judge is to be commended for dissallowing this crooked nobhead from tromping on the rights of Floridians afforded to them by their State Constitution. Get over yourself. Concede when you've been conquered.
4:22PM MAR 3RD 2012
Bob how much state income tax are you paying? Police anx cire and teachers dont do there jobs to get rich they do it because it used to be a stable job before your buddy Dicky got into office and decide to take money out of the pockets of the people who do the jobs you don't have the nerve to do.
11:45AM MAR 6TH 2012
Don't forget about correctional officers
7:30AM MAR 3RD 2012
It's not her. It's the elected crooks in Tallahassee. Amazing how our voting population elected a man who had to use his constitutional rights to avoid jail. Amazing how people defend Norman for what he did.

People like you, Bob, make the Chinese form of government look fabulous. Voters here aren't smart enough to elect honest politicians. Judges, then, are the only barrier to total chaos.

Readers need to understand that politicians maintain large staffs to post false comments on sites like this to promote their agenda. I know Bob, and he is on the campaign staff of a high elected official. Keep that in mind.
6:36PM MAR 6TH 2012
Bob is stupid as well as disgusting. The only politicians here are the politicians in Tallahassee, too many of whom are crooks.

Courts interpret laws. If you don't like that, then move to China as Ted notes.

Her legal statements are masterpieces. Very well written and carefully argued.
Mr. Jones' Conscience
12:10PM MAR 2ND 2012
Governor Sleazebag appointed her because she was the best of a top-flight field of candidates, and now she's somehow no good? Huh?

The Legislature is full of dirtbags who stole enough money to have a campaign. No one evaluates their honesty or integrity, and so they have none.

Judges, and lawyers, are all that protect us from the worst of society in our elected offices. Criminals, thieves, and near-criminals like Scott who had to exercise his constitutional right against sending himself to jail something like 100 times.

The legislative dirtbags who post here know Judge Fulford is highly respected. Good for her and for all the other judges who stop the criminals in our capitol.
Mr Jones
12:24AM MAR 2ND 2012
She doesn't have a reputation as being a particularly good judge. Her ruling on removing Jim Norman was terrible law. And attorneys know that. It was unanimously reversed with a terse opinion. She lacks essential understanding of separation of powers.

I don't care about her prison rulings, nor do I know that much about Jim Norman, but judges have to follow the law. Not make it. I realize she's a hero to state workers, but as s judge she commands little respect.
6:39PM MAR 6TH 2012
She's an authority to someone who believes in the trust of the state, which must honor contractual obligations.

Mr. Jones admits to not knowing much of anything yet thinks her a judge who commands little respect. Who's legislative office pays Mr. Jones to be posting these stupid, troll-like comments.
11:27PM MAR 1ST 2012
I think she's an excellent judge.Haridopolous is mad because he tried to scum through the prison thing without a lawful vote because he didnt have the votes. And looky! When he did it the right way...he didnt have the votes. Wow. Shocker! Hey, Harry Doofolous! Do us all a favor and do our work the legal way and judges with titanium spines won't have anything to call you out on.
5:00PM MAR 1ST 2012
Looks like the union lard bricks are blogging on state work time.
6:43PM MAR 6TH 2012
Gary, you are hate-mongerer. Go off and sip you tea with the other dirt-bags. At this point, the entire planet thinks people like you are absolute fools.
CO Sergeant
3:53PM MAR 1ST 2012
I am a correctional officer sergeant who would have lost my job if the politcos had their way. I was also one of the people who held up signs in Tallahassee that said "Pink Slip Dick" when Gov Scott was in some parade in Tallahassee last year. People hate him. Dont worry,, he will not bne in office a second term.
Tamper Resistant Cap
3:55PM MAR 1ST 2012
I was there too. RIght on. Everybody was shouting at the govenror at what a crook he is. You go through Tallahassee and all you see is bumper stickers saying "Scott Is A Crook." he is a terrible man.

thank GOD for judges who stand up to crooks.
6:40PM MAR 6TH 2012
I suspect Sick Rott and his cronies like J. D. Alexander think themselves Gods above the law. They can get away with murder if they want to and then cry when someone holds them accountable.
Pete In St. pete
3:31PM MAR 1ST 2012
Judge Fulford is a hero in legal circles. Dont let anyone tell you different. She called it like it needed to be called. Thats why we have judges.
3:30PM MAR 1ST 2012
I agree with Conservative Voice etc. This judge isn't liked by Governor Dirtbag and other slimy folks who wound up in office because she calls them out on their dirty tactics.

Haridopolous is mad because he tried to scum through the prison thing without a lawful vote because he didnt have the votes. And looky! When he did it the right way...he didnt have the votes. Wow. Shocker! Hey, Harry Doofolous! Do us all a favor and do our work the legal way and judges with titanium spines won't have anything to call you out on.

Fasano had it right. Harry Doofalous is a dirtbag, first degree. Too bad just being scummy isn't a crime.
10:00PM MAR 6TH 2012
Your forgot the scum bucket Alexander. Who voted for these crooks?
A Conservative Voice Of Reason
3:25PM MAR 1ST 2012
Loser lawyers always complain about the judge who rules against them. Ken? I'm talking to you.

The "candidate" she removed is now up on ethics charges. Probably a good friend of Loser Ken The Lawyer, whose ethics, I imagine, are much like his buttbuddy Norman.

The Governor? Really? The sleazebag who pled the Fifth Amendment like 80 times because of the risk he'd go to prison?

Anything you notice in common here? Norman, the ethically-challenged sleazebag politician? Scott, the ethically-challenged sleazebag politician? And Loser Ken?

Come on.
1:53PM MAR 1ST 2012
This is also the judge who was unanimously reversed by the appellate court when she removed someone from the ballot in an election dispute and appointed a replacement. How anyone could support this activist - and incompetent judge is astounding to me. A Stetson Law grad who didn't even graduate with honors whose main accomplishment was that she worked for Willie Meggs and pled out 98 percent of her cases. Wow. Such a high bar. Who is next, Brian Pitts?

Thank goodness my practice in front her has been limited to 2 appearances where she appeared to be fumbling through and disorganized throughout most of the hearing.

Notice Mrs Overstreet Johnson indicates she is "hard working". As is my yardman. But I don't want him being a judge.
6:46PM MAR 6TH 2012
I most certainly do not want Ken to be my lawyer. The man is here as on an anonymous website trashing a judge. Speaks volumes about the trash in this state and who this judge has to work with.

Shame on you. You lack integrity.
3:25PM MAR 1ST 2012
"The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

Ken sounds like someone angry with a verdict or jealous....

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