A St. Johns County judge could face a public reprimand after an investigation into whether she improperly injected partisanship into her election campaign and made a misleading statement about fundraising.
Judge Casey Woolsey “admitted that her conduct was inappropriate” and violated judicial canons, according to a document filed Monday at the Florida Supreme Court by an investigative panel of the state Judicial Qualifications Commission.
The panel recommended a public reprimand, though the Supreme Court has final say about disciplining judges. Woolsey, who was first elected in 2022, was accused of describing herself as a “conservative” in recorded phone messages to voters, violating a prohibition on partisanship in judicial races. She also was accused of a misleading Facebook post about how much money she had raised for her campaign, according to filings at the Supreme Court.
“Distilled down, Judge Woolsey made representations about her candidacy that were improper and misleading,” Judicial Qualifications Commission findings said. “Judge Woolsey admitted these violations should not have happened and addressed how she would handle campaigns differently in the future. Judge Woolsey admitted that it was incumbent upon her to know the canons and follow the canons, and that being in her first campaign was not an excuse for the failures at issue.
The commission believes that a public reprimand of Judge Woolsey will be sufficient to deter similar misconduct by Judge Woolsey in the future and will also serve as a reminder to future candidates for judicial office that they must protect the integrity of non-partisan judicial elections by refraining from using, advertising, or implying partisan endorsements.”
St. Johns County is part of the Seventh Judicial Circuit, which includes Flagler, Putnam and Volusia counties. There are 27 circuit judges and 16 county judges currently serving, with one vacancy in Volusia County court. Circuit judges may be assigned across county lines within the district and are elected circuit-wide. County judges are elected to serve in their own county, and are elected only by that county’s electorate. Circuit Judge Leah Case is currently the chief judge of the circuit.
–News Service of Florida and FlaglerLive