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Broward’s political, legal worlds in turmoil over judge elections…(From Sun-Sentinel)

July 20, 2010

Port St. Lucie legal turmoil over judge elections

Broward’s political, legal worlds in turmoil over judge elections

From Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel by Anthony Man on July 15, 2010 09:38 AM 

Judicial races are usually quiet, low-key affairs. But with an unprecedented number of candidates competing in the August election, it’s getting unpleasant out on the campaign trail. 

Most notably, this year’s Broward judicial elections feature contests in which judges actually have to face opponents – something that has the legal and political communities agitated. 

With more than 40 candidates running for judge in the Aug. 24 nonpartisan elections, it’s going to be difficult for many voters to figure out who to support. (Judicial elections, held on the same day as the Democratic and Republican primaries, are open to all registered voters.)

For months, the candidates have been in full campaign mode, heading to political clubs and participating in parades and other civic events. Often that means the judges have to sit through long political club meetings to get a minute or two to present their credentials. 

All the candidates for judge are hoping more than anything that the leaders of the county’s largest political clubs, most of which are Democratic, give them their stamps of approval and put their names on the “palm cards” that contain the instructions on who the club members are supposed to vote for.

One wrinkle this week was Broward Democratic Chairman Mitch Ceasar’s endorsing several candidates – including a Republican. He’s never before endorsed during his 14 years as party chairman.

Despite Ceasar’s endorsing a Republican, two Democrats and two no party affiliation candidates (one of whom was a Republican until recently), lots of people in the political parties are keenly aware of the political affiliations of the candidates – even though the judicial races are officially non-partisan.

And the political insiders are also keenly aware of who was appointed to the bench by former Gov. Jeb Bush (despised by most Democratic leaders) and current Gov. Charlie Crist (viewed more warmly by some of the Democrats).

Percy Johnson, former president of the Fort Lauderdale Democratic Club, said at one forum of judges and judicial candidates, some of them outed their opponents with the political kiss of death – that they were Bush appointees.

Many insiders also know, and care about, the judicial candidates’ party affiliations.

“You can’t take the politics out of politics,” Ceasar said recently – before he made his endorsement decision. “I think it [party affiliation] is relevant, but in a very minor way. Is it a major factor, and something were propagating en masse? No.”

Ed Kennedy, Broward’s state Republican committeeman, told party members at a recent meeting that they needed to band together in support of their judges.

“You know that there’s no such thing in Broward County as non-partisan,” he said. “There’s a concerted effort by Democrats to defeat each of our candidates who were appointed by Republican governors.”

“Each of our candidates was appointed by a Republican, either Jeb Bush or the other guy [a reference to Crist, who’s left the party]. Each of them was screened very properly [by a judicial nominating commission] and deserve to be on the bench and they deserve our support,” Kennedy said.

Candidates also know their party affiliations can have an impact in Broward County, where most voters are registered Democrats.

One current judge, visiting with voters at the Kings Point Democratic Club, pleaded not to have his picture posted on the Broward Politics blog with a caption identifying him as a Republican. He said it would be e-mailed among Democrats and kill him at the ballot box.

That judge is included on the list below, which includes candidates and their party affiliations. It was passed out to Democratic committeemen and committeewomen at a party meeting:

About Our Law Firm: Lawlor White & Murphey: 

Port St. Lucie FL Accident Attorney: Since 1995, Mr. Lawlor’s trial advocacy and litigation skills, as well as his wide-ranging legal expertise, have provided plaintiffs and their families with a distinct advantage when seeking financial compensation and justice for injuries caused by the negligence of others. Mr. Lawlor is an EAGLE member of the Florida Bar Association and an active member of the American Association for Justice, the Broward County Justice Association, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and several professional associations.