Policy change allows Orange, Osceola prosecutors to run for office while employed by state

Updated:

Loading

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Four prosecutors are jumping at a chance to run for judge. It's something they couldn't do before.
 

Some defense attorneys are raising concerns about the reversal of a decades-long policy at the Orange-Osceola State Attorney's Office.
 
When Lawson Lamar was the state attorney, prosecutors who worked for him had to quit their jobs if they wanted to run for elected office. But in January, State Attorney Jeff Ashton changed that policy.
 
As a result, four assistant state attorneys launched campaigns for judge, all while continuing to prosecute cases.
 
The only restriction imposed by Ashton is that prosecutors cannot argue cases before judges they're trying to unseat.
 
"It sends the wrong message to the community," said former Chief Assistant State Attorney William Vose
 
Vose was second-in-command to Lamar, but lost his job when Ashton took office.
 
"Mr. Ashton disagreed with many of the policies we had," said Vose.
 
Vose said campaigning employees were forced to step down for many reasons, mainly out of ethical concerns.
 
"Can they actually get up and argue the state's position as vehemently as they could have if they weren't a judicial candidate?" said Vose.
 
Ashton declined talk about the issue with Channel 9's Mario Boone, but his office sent a statement which read, in part, "The State Attorney believes it is unfair that private attorneys can continue to (earn a living) while campaigning but prosecutors have to resign their jobs to seek higher office."
 
Boone checked with surrounding state attorneys' offices and found that in Seminole and Brevard counties, prosecutors can keep their jobs but they have to take leave while running for office.
 
In Lake and Marion counties, prosecutors don't have to resign their jobs to run.