Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Putnam Judge Used Doctor's Note to Sidestep Deposition; Woman, Sued in Disputed Election, Able to Resume Courtroom Duties

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Putnam Judge Used Doctor's Note to Sidestep Deposition; Woman, Sued in Disputed Election, Able to Resume Courtroom Duties

Article excerpt

Byline: Eileen Kelley

A Putnam County Court judge being sued for her role in the contested sheriff's election used a note from her physician to duck out of a deposition, although she later continued her duties when it came to her own courtroom.

Republican sheriff's candidate Jonathan Kinney is challenging the outcome of the sheriff's race and cites misconduct by the Putnam County Canvassing Board, of which Judge Elizabeth Morris is a member. Sheriff Gator DeLoach III is also named as a defendant.

The November race came under scrutiny when unofficial results showed Kinney ahead by 18 votes. The nail bitter-results prompted an automatic recount. But before the recount, elections supervisor Charlers Overturf - also a defendant in Kinney's lawsuit - disclosed that an audit found 428 ballots were counted but not reported among election night results. The result put DeLaoch in the lead by nine votes.

A week later the canvassing board certified the results with DeLoach ahead by 16 votes. The lawsuit, which was filed in late November, says the canvassing board's processes were flawed and that the board mishandled ballots, included invalid ones cast by ineligible voters and skirted the state's public meetings laws.

When Morris was informed that she was being deposed in late January, she offered up a doctor's excuse that said she was "unable to participate in all legal activity at this time" because of her December knee surgery, according to court documents.

The delay effectively pushed back the February trial in the lawsuit by two months.

Then on Feb. 8 when Morris had a follow-up appointment to check on her post-knee replacement progress, her medical absence was extended.

Morris' attorney, John LaVilla, said as much in an email to Overturf: "Judge Morris had her follow-up with her physician today and she told me the following: She remains under her physician's care until her next scheduled appointment March 1. At that time her physician expects to release her from his care and not impose any other limits on participating in this proceeding. (Judge Morris has a physician's note if anybody needs to see it.) Judge Morris checked her calendar and she is free on March 21 for her deposition if that works for counsel. …

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