Voters will have the opportunity to decide whether to choose Attorney John P. Contini or incumbent Judge Steven B. Feren for Broward Circuit Court Judge on August 26th. This election will determine who decides cases related to family court and juveniles, so there are many factors to consider.
These cases require care and wisdom to avoid rashness or the sway of persuasion that comes through outward impressions, being able to discern right and wrong with utmost caution as those deliberating over the lives of those under their responsibility. It also means managing a full docket of cases without getting bogged down.
With less than an hour left to run for the seat, attorney John Contini, a self-proclaimed Christian who attends Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, put in his lot for the challenge as a last-minute opponent.
Contini explained, “We need somebody on the bench who cares about people, who has compassion, somebody with the right judicial temperament to bring back civility and decency to the proceedings and not interrupt litigants and lawyers.”
Elected in 2008, current Judge Feren is a former mayor of the City of Sunrise who divided his time as a practicing attorney while simultaneously filling a wide range of public service roles.
Contini has spent the past 30 years practicing law as a defense attorney, prosecutor and public defender. He argues, “There is no substitute for experience. These are not just ‘files’ and ‘case numbers;’ these are people’s lives, families – your family. A judge should not be in a hurry to make impulsive decisions.”
Since 1987, defending those accused of crimes has consisted of Contini’s main stream of work. Nevertheless, he has also offered legal services to those involved in personal injury, wrote two books, become an avid blogger, speaks at events, and was awarded Pro Bono Attorney of the Year in 2010 by the American-Arab Discrimination Committee in Washington D.C. for his representation of a wrongful death shooting case in Miami Beach.
Speaking of his work, Contini writes: “Few experiences in life are more rewarding than those occasions when we, as criminal defense lawyers, are successful in helping our clients receive second chances. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that you’ve been used instrumentally in the process of reuniting families and assisting them as we secure the right treatment, rehabilitation and help they desperately need.”
While Contini’s passion to defend and assist those who are criminally accused (regardless of guilt) has brought encouragement and praise from some, there are others who have often brought the reproving question, ‘How can you defend someone when you know they are guilty?’
Contini without reserve responds, “For me, the answer is easy: I believe in condemning the act, not the person (John 8:11). This is consistent with my faith. In Matt. 9:12, Jesus essentially answers the same question by saying, ‘It’s not the healthy who need a physician, but the sick. I desire mercy, not sacrifice…’ Because of this, I unapologetically enjoy helping someone who is otherwise shunned and condemned by others.”
Although Contini’s recent move to gain a seat as circuit court judge might have surprised some, in an interview with Sun Sentinel, Contini revealed his career long expectation that he would eventually be “lead to the bench as a calling.”
Contini’s rival incumbent Judge Steven B. Feren has served the Broward Circuit Court for almost six years presiding initially in the Delinquency Division and in more recent years in the United Family Court, Domestic Relations Division.
Early voting for this election begins August 15th up to the final August 26th Election Day.
Alexander Suarez is an English graduate from Florida International University and a member at Palm Vista Community Church in Miami Lakes. He can be reached at [email protected]