The Miami Herald has endorsed its first three Broward Circuit Court candidates, deliving a blow to former Chief Judge Dale Ross.
The newspaper also endorsed Julio Gonzalez for an open circuit court seats over three other opponents, stating his “experience as a judge is the crucial factor in this race.” The paper called Gonzalez “smart, fair and respectful.”
Gonzalez was voted out of office in 2008 simply because his name was Spanish.
The paper gave Michael Rothschild the nod over Julie Shapiro-Harris for another open circuit seat, writing that his “experience gives him the edge in this race.” It added that Rothschild, the son of Judge Ron Rothschild, has some interesting ideas about using technology to cut down on the backlog at the courthouse.
But it was the snub of Ross that was most interesting.
The Herald said:
“Broward voters should consider whether Judge Ross has been around too long already.
Judge Ross served as chief judge for 17 years but was forced to step down in 2007 after a series of scandals during his tenure and allegations of improper behavior on the bench, including allegedly disparaging remarks toward defendants. The scandals involved, among others, a pot-smoking judge and another judge openly weeping on the bench and displaying inappropriate behavior.
The Fourth Court of Appeal has cited Judge Ross numerous times for abuse of discretion and being pro-prosecution. In one instance, he was admonished for giving advice to a young prosecutor on how to obtain a stronger sentence. The appellate court said he “crossed the line of ostensible neutrality and impartiality.
One such instance would not be significant, but repeated controversy during his decades on the bench suggest it’s time for Judge Ross to step down.”
It only mentioned Ross’s opponent Mickey Rocque as an alternative to Ross in passing. It telegraphed that it was only choosing Rocque because it disliked Ross.
Surveys have found that voters believe that newspaper endorsements are the only ones that are totally independent. The Herald has nothing to gain from who becomes judge.
In this day when newspaper readership is dying off, the endorsements would be losing their clout if they were confined to print alone. They are not.
Smart candidates reproduce the endorsements and distribute them in flyers and in e-mail blasts. They are send out part of campaign mailings. The attacks on Ross could be sent out by someone other than Rocque, who can’t openly attack him without the potential of trouble from the Bar.
The endorsements, which used to be worth several percentage points, probably still are. They are just distributed different ways. And that’s too bad for Ross.
Read the Herald endorsements here.