Battling brewing in Grossman v. Bryson PBC county court race

In what could be a harbinger of a particularly contentious judicial election season, the Palm Beach County Bar Association has already logged its first ethics complaint against a candidate.

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A supporter of incumbent Judge Marni Bryson (above) has filed a complaint against challenger Lisa Grossman.

“We’ve never had a complaint filed this early before,” bar association CEO Patience Burns said of the complaint filed last week against county court judge candidate Lisa Grossman. “We’re not prepared to accept it.”

The Judicial Campaign Practices Commission, which reviews complaints of unethical behavior and issues advisory opinions, won’t be formed until after the election qualifying period ends at noon on May 6, Burns said.

That means the complaint, accusing Grossman of improperly converting her personal Facebook page into a campaign advertisement and dragging her nearly 300 “friends” along for an unplanned political ride, will be put on hold, she said.

Attorney Alka Sharma, co-chair of the campaign committee for incumbent Judge Marni Bryson,  said several people called her upset that Grossman was using their Facebook friendship to shore up her judicial campaign. Some of those “friends” are supporting Bryson in the Aug. 30 election, she said.

The page titled, “Lisa Grossman for Judge,” shows pictures of people holding Grossman campaign signs. Before the March 15 presidential primary, the North Palm Beach lawyer posted this: “Anyone interested in holding a sign at an early voting site between 10-6 this weekend please contact me!!”

Sharma said her research showed that the converting a personal Facebook page into one for a campaign is improper under rules that dictate what is and isn’t allowed in Florida judicial races. While such sites can be created by an election committee, they can’t be established or maintained by the candidate themselves, she wrote in the complaint. Even then, she said, the committees can’t control who counts themselves among the candidates’ supporters.

The rules for judicial candidates differ wildly from those seeking other offices. Grossman should bone up on them, Sharma said. “She seems to be kind of doing it Wild West style,” she said.

Gross declined comment. “At this point it’s all unsubstantiated hearsay,” she said.