*“I got the horse right here, the name is Paul Revere, and here’s a guy who says if the weather’s clear….”
Wow! To hear all the judicial candidates speak at all of the events they are invited to one would think that they are all the embodiment of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Learned Hand and Benjamin Cardozo combined, even the ones who are running for basically what is Traffic Court. Frankly, it’s demeaning and embarrassing to see the incumbents have to pander for votes from various civic groups, and its equally bad form for them to be opposed. There should be a better system in place, but that’s for another time and another place and definitely another column.
Unless a judge screws up or is criticized publicly nobody really knows who they are or what their record is. That’s astonishing because judges can affect you and your family more directly than most other elected officials including the President, yet they are the stealth candidates that continually run under the radar. In circuit court races this is really important because very elderly voters in one county can make the difference in retaining judges who deal with youth in another county. Elderly citizens vote-youthful ones don’t. It’s that simple. The Ninth Circuit is a classic example of how the system works. Take a look at the 66 judges currently on the bench and you’ll see very little diversity. A large percentage of them come from the powerful and influential law firms in the area and were initially appointed by one governor or another to fill in a vacancy. They were recommended by selection panels consisting of and vetted by lawyers from these very same law firms. Once in office they rarely lose elections because these same law firms throw tons of money at their campaigns. It is public record but few people bother to check. Over a period of time the bench gets top heavy with corporate litigators, whom through their practices have forgotten the human touch. It’s not apparent until the little businessman or average citizen is up against a Chamber of Commerce member. Guess who is going to lose? The trial attorney who represents the common man has a most difficult time getting equal justice from that kind of judge, even though that particular judge feels that he or she is being fair. It’s a rigged system that needs to be changed.
Now, before we get into the actual handicapping I must admit full disclosure-I am working with a candidate for Ninth Circuit, Group 27. His name is Jose Torroella and of course I am endorsing him. I’ll explain later. I’ve gotten to know almost every candidate and their families over the last six weeks and they are all good people and fine attorneys. They are all people I’d like to have as neighbors, so this is a difficult choice. Right now let’s look at the field in the Ninth Circuit which also covers Osceola County and I’ll handicap the way those tipsters do at the race track:
Group 3. This is a one horse race. Belvin Perry is the class of the field. Scratch Dan.
Group 7. This is an open seat which is being hotly contested by three good attorneys, Eric DuBois, Leticia (Letty) Marques and Joel Wilson. Any of them will make a fine judge, however, based on the Orlando Sentinel interview Ms. Marques is clearly the leader. The other two still need some more training. Letty Marques by three lengths.
Group 27. A green incumbent against an experienced trial attorney. Appointed less than two years ago by Charlie Crist, White has come under fire for not protecting battered women properly. Based on his Orlando Sentinel deer-in-the-headlights performance he offered no real explanations. His performance at the Puerto Rican Hob Nob last week offered more evidence that he had no clue to whom he was talking when he tried to equate Mel Martinez with the Puerto Rican Community. Obviously he wasn’t following the redistricting battles. If he weren’t in the Domestic Violence division it might not make a difference, but he is in it and innocent people have suffered and may suffer because of it. Torroella on the other hand knows what it is like on the other side and handles himself with gentle yet passionate wit and humor- something sorely lacking on the bench. Jose Torroella by a nose.
Group 42. Incumbent Tim Shea has gotten himself into a passel of trouble recently and has been reprimanded by the Florida Supreme Court for acting most unlike a judge. Pedro Malaret, his challenger is still awfully young. It seems here that anyone who claims to be Puerto Rican and doesn’t know the lyrics to The Jet Song from “West Side Story”, or doesn’t even know “West Side Story” still has a lot to learn. Malaret can still learn. Tim Shea won’t even try. Pedro Malaret by a furlong. Disqualify Shea.
Okay, let’s look at the county races. County judges rarely handle anything but misdemeanors, traffic violations and lawsuits involving very little money. It’s probably a good training ground for those who want to advance through the judicial ranks. County court is where the useless trials of Occupy Orlando took place costing the taxpayers time and money. Here are my picks:
Plogstedt v McGinnes- Antoinette Plogstedt has the experience that Adam McGinnes lacks. Give him a few more years in practice and someday he’ll make a fine judge. Plogstedt by a length.
Cheek v Cameron- Leon Cheek has been on the bench for over 14 years. Most of that time he was an excellent judge, but recently he’s been losing it. His age might have something to do with it. Andrew Cameron has been a practicing attorney for 26 years and brings a fresh perspective and gentle demeanor to the bench. Figuring weight for age its Cameron in a Photo finish. Time for Cheek to retire and be put out to pasture.
*“I tell you Paul Revere, now this is no bum steer, it’s from a handicapper that’s real sincere.”
I’m not psychic. I don’t have ESP. These are my picks on who should win, not who is going to win. It’s up to you dear reader to accomplish that.
Next Part Two- the Countywide Races.
* Excerpts from “Fugue For Tinhorns” from “Guys and Dolls” by Frank Loesser