170 So.3d 802 (Fla.App. 5 Dist. 2014), 5D13-4449, Chace v. Loisel

Docket Nº:5D13-4449
Citation:170 So.3d 802, 39 Fla.L.Weekly D 221
Opinion Judge:COHEN, J.
Party Name:SANDRA CHACE, Petitioner, v. ROBERT LOISEL, JR., Respondent
Attorney:Damon A. Chase of Chase Freeman, P.A., Lake Mary, for Petitioner. Christopher M. Sprysenski of Salfi Sprysenski, P.A., Altamonte Springs, for Respondent.
Judge Panel:COHEN, J. SAWAYA and PALMER, JJ., concur. SAWAYA and PALMER, JJ., concur.
Case Date:January 24, 2014
Court:Florida Court of Appeals, Fifth District
 
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Page 802

170 So.3d 802 (Fla.App. 5 Dist. 2014)

39 Fla.L.Weekly D 221

SANDRA CHACE, Petitioner,

v.

ROBERT LOISEL, JR., Respondent

No. 5D13-4449

Florida Court of Appeals, Fifth District

January 24, 2014

Petition for Writ of Prohibition, Linda D. Schoonover, Respondent Judge.

Damon A. Chase of Chase Freeman, P.A., Lake Mary, for Petitioner.

Christopher M. Sprysenski of Salfi Sprysenski, P.A., Altamonte Springs, for Respondent.

COHEN, J. SAWAYA and PALMER, JJ., concur.

OPINION

COHEN, J.

Petitioner, Sandra Chace, seeks a writ of prohibition to quash the trial court's order denying her motion to disqualify the trial judge presiding over her and Respondent

Page 803

Robert Loisel, Jr.'s dissolution of marriage case. Upon review, we conclude that the trial court erred in denying Petitioner's motion.

The following allegations formed the basis for Petitioner's motion to disqualify. Prior to entry of final judgment, the trial judge reached out to Petitioner, ex parte, in the form of a Facebook " friend" request. Upon advice of counsel, Petitioner decided not to respond to that invitation. Thereafter, the trial court entered a final judgment of dissolution, allegedly attributing most of the marital debt to Petitioner and providing Respondent with a disproportionately excessive alimony award. Following entry of the final judgment, Petitioner filed a formal complaint against the trial judge, alleging that the judge sent her a Facebook " friend" request and then retaliated against Petitioner after she did not accept the request. Respondent later filed a motion for clarification of certain provisions in the final judgment, which is currently pending below. In the meantime, Petitioner had learned of other cases involving similar ex parte social media communications by the judge that resulted in her disqualification. Subsequently, the subject motion to disqualify was filed, a hearing was held on that motion, and the motion was denied as legally insufficient. The instant petition was then filed in this Court.1

If the grounds asserted in a motion for disqualification are legally sufficient to create a well-founded fear in the mind of a party that he or she will not receive a fair trial, it is incumbent upon a judge to disqualify herself. See Fischer v. Knuck, 497 So.2d 240, 242 (Fla. 1986). To determine whether the motion is " legally...

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