St. Johns County Commissioner Files Federal Lawsuit Against Fellow Commissioners Over Alleged Unlawful Campaigning

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – A St. Johns County commissioner has filed a federal lawsuit against her fellow commissioners, alleging that they wrongly accused her of campaigning during a public meeting. The commissioner in question, Krista Joseph, raised concerns about unchecked development and distributed a flyer about the upcoming county primary, which would involve three of her fellow commissioners. While Joseph argued that she was making a public service announcement, two commissioners interrupted her, claiming she was campaigning.

After the incident, the county’s general counsel warned Joseph that she had crossed a line of decorum and civility. The commission then sought an outside legal opinion, which determined that Joseph’s speech constituted criminal election interference. The matter could potentially be referred to the state attorney’s office for further action. As a result, on December 5, 2023, the commission voted to censure Joseph for her remarks.

In response to these actions, Joseph has filed a federal lawsuit against the commission and State Attorney R.J. Larizza. Her lawsuit seeks a declaratory judgment affirming her First Amendment rights to express her political views and preference for voters to oust the incumbent commissioners. Joseph argues that the threat of criminal prosecution hampers her ability to engage in political speech.

At present, there has been no response from the commission regarding the lawsuit, and no court hearings have been scheduled.

In summary, a St. Johns County commissioner has taken legal action against her colleagues and the State Attorney, claiming that they infringed upon her First Amendment rights. The commissioner’s speech during a public meeting allegedly constituted criminal election interference, leading to her censure by the commission. The lawsuit seeks to clarify the extent of her political expression rights and challenges the potential consequences she could face for her actions.