Florida's 'Grim Reaper' lawyer Daniel Uhlfelder could face discipline over lawsuits, comments against Gov. Ron DeSantis


  • Screen capture courtesy YouTube user Austin Kellerman

A Northwest Florida attorney who drew national headlines by dressing as the Grim Reaper to criticize Gov. Ron DeSantis’ response to the coronavirus pandemic faces possible discipline after prosecutors filed a motion last week.

The motion, filed in Walton County, came after a three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal took the rare step of ordering State Attorney Ginger Bowden Madden to pursue discipline against Santa Rosa Beach Daniel Uhlfelder.

The motion asked a judge to “set proceedings in this case” according to rules that allow judges to seek discipline against lawyers. But it did not spell out what type of discipline Bowden Madden’s office is pursuing.

The issue stems from an unsuccessful lawsuit —- and a subsequent appeal —- that Uhlfelder filed last year to try to force DeSantis to close beaches amid the pandemic. A three-judge panel of the appeals court ruled that Uhlfelder’s appeal appeared to be “frivolous and/or filed in bad faith.”

The appeals court also asked The Florida Bar to consider imposing sanctions against Uhlfelder because of the appeal, which prompted the attorney to be quoted in the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper as saying, “I do find it interesting that this opinion attacking my critiques of Gov. DeSantis appeared just two days after I launched a (political) committee to remove Ron DeSantis.”

That comment caused the Tallahassee-based appeals court to direct Bowden Madden to pursue discipline. In the motion filed last week, Assistant State Attorney Anne N. Izzo accused Uhlfelder of “violating rules of professional conduct” for lawyers “as well as violating the oath of admission to The Florida Bar.”

In a status report filed Tuesday, Izzo wrote that Uhlfelder has until April 12 to respond to the charges and that an evidentiary hearing in his case had not been set. According to Walton County court records, three judges from the 1st Judicial Circuit were recused from the case, which is now assigned to Santa Rosa County Circuit Judge Scott Duncan.

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