The mere fact that a judge refers a lawyer to a local professionalism panel doesn’t automatically disqualify the trial court judge from presiding over the case in question, according to the Second District Court of Appeal.

The three-judge panel acted May 27 in Case No. 2D21-3577.

In short, a litigant asserted that he would not receive a fair trial because the judge stated during a discovery hearing that the litigant’s counsel “seemed unnecessarily angry” and subsequently referred the lawyer to the Hillsborough County Local Professionalism Panel for assistance in anger management and counseling in professionalism. According to litigant, the referral has resulted in a “well-founded fear” that the judge does not trust his counsel and will now look “with suspicion” on every position that counsel takes.