At this time of the year, I get lots of people calling me or asking me, “what can you tell me about these judicial races?”
Judicial races are very important because people’s lives are greatly affected by the judge who handles their divorce, the adoption of their child, the probate of an estate or a dispute over a personal injury suffered or with a business associate over the future of their employment or ownership of a company.
Responsible people who want to fulfill their civic duty and vote the whole ballot don’t really have any opportunity to learn about judicial candidates, and that is not their fault. First, the Cannons of Judicial Conduct severely limit what a judge or judicial candidate can say on the campaign trail. A judge may not comment on a case to say if she would rule differently than how it was decided. Second, most people don’t have a lot of exposure to lawyers and the courthouse where lawyers can be met, observed and known. Third, judicial races are non-partisan, so you don’t get that R or D or I next to the candidate’s name which can give you
some indication of their leanings, and finally, judges are voted on in the primary, not the general election, which are typically low voter turn-out affairs.
So that is why I, and other lawyers I know, get lots of calls at election time. Those who know a lawyer usually call asking for information. Those who don’t either ‘Christmas tree’ the ballot or don’t vote at all. And that is too bad because the judicial races are at the bottom of the ballot and oftentimes judicial races are decided by less than 1,000 vote differences in most cases.
There are two types of candidates in these races: incumbents who are up for re-election every six years and declared candidates who run in open seats, that is seats not occupied by sitting judges. I tend to support the incumbents unless they have done something to lose my confidence because they have to go through a rigorous screening process to be appointed to the bench. They also have experience on the bench, which is very helpful, which those running against them or for open seats may not have. I support open seat candidates with a broad range of experience because I think the experiences they take with them to the bench help them to understand the disputes and parties that come before them.
So that is why I am writing, to help those of you who may not be very familiar with the current crop of judicial candidates, and there are quite a few of them, to have some input on who I am supporting which might help you decide who you want to support.
Here are my picks for the judicial races, most of whom will be decided in the August 28 primary:
Fourth District Court of Appeal: Burton Connor, Jeffrey Kuntz and Carole Taylor (she is one of my favorite judges; I wish we could clone her!
17th Judicial Circuit Judges: Earnest Kollra in Seat 8; Kristen Padowitz in Seat 36; Stephanie Moon in Seat 38; Camille Coolidge-Shotwell in Seat 39; Michael Usan in Seat 42; Dan Casey in Seat 43; and James Curry in Seat 46.
Broward County Court Judges: Tanner Demmery in Seat 9; Robert Diaz in Seat 10; Michael Davis in Seat 17; Jackie Powell in Seat 19, and Robert Lee in Seat 25.
Feel free to contact me with any questions, and you may go to the thefloridabar.org website and see Voluntary Self-Disclosure Statements filed by the candidates themselves.
Thank you for taking the time to consider these political candidates and for participating in the electoral process. It is the bedrock of our Republic and of free people everywhere. We who are believers should vote, because as Edmund Burke said, “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.” May God guide you in this and in all other decisions you make as his servant here on earth.
Collins, as his friends call him, is a second generation Florida native who has been a practicing attorney for 32 years. He concentrates mainly on commercial real estate transactions and real estate related litigation. He has served on the Broward County Bar Association Bench/Bar Committee for the past ten years.