St. Johns County commissioner files federal lawsuit against fellow members after censure

A St. Johns County commissioner filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday against her fellow commissioners after they accused her of unlawfully campaigning during a public meeting.

In November of last year, St. Johns County Commissioner Krista Joseph railed over things she said were going on in the county, including unchecked development, and waved a small American flag and a flyer about the county primary in August that will have three of the other commissioners up for re-election. (Watch what she said in the video above)

Joseph, who is known for going against the grain and voting opposite her commission colleagues, was cut short and called out by two commissioners who accused her of campaigning from her chair. Joseph said she was just making a public service announcement.

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The general counsel for the county told her at the time she had crossed the line of decorum and civility and she stopped.

The commission then hired outside counsel to provide an opinion on Joseph’s remarks and found that her speech constituted criminal election interference, and said it could be referred to the state attorney’s office for possible charges.

On December 5, 2023, the commission voted to censure Joseph for her speech.

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Joseph filed a federal lawsuit against the commission and State Attorney R.J. Larizza and is seeking a declaratory judgment affirming that her First Amendment rights include being able to “make her political views known to the citizens of St Johns County in connection with the primary election, including her preference that voters vote out incumbent commissioners.”

Joseph’s lawsuit says “the threat of criminal prosecution is sufficient to chill her political speech.”

There’s no response to the filing by the commission, and no court hearings have yet been scheduled.

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