BY BUDDY NEVINS
Judges facing opponents traditionally get a little extra help by being allowed to swear-in thousands of jurors in the weeks leading up to the election.
It is time to end that tradition.
It is a tradition that is unfair. It is a tradition that’s wrong.
Because the incumbent judges are being given a forum where their challengers can’t appear — the swearing-in of jurors. Hundreds are sworn-in for jury duty at a time. Thousands will be sworn-in between now and the August primary.
This year three judges facing challengers — County Judge Ian Richards, along with Circuit Judges Lynn Rosenthal and Steve Feren — have been handed the job of swearing-in the jurors. The swearing-in is usually accompanied by a little speech.
So essentially Richards, Rosenthal and Feren are campaigning in front of a captive audience in the courthouse. Richards traveled from his Hollywood courtroom to downtown Fort Lauderdale for this campaign opportunity.
I’m not the only one who thinks this is wrong. Attorney Bill Gelin at JAABlog raised the question, too. Here is his post.
“It’s really a shame,” Gelin writes. “It’s so transparently unfair to all those hoping for an election on the merits, while reinforcing the 17th Circuit’s image of a judiciary primarily driven by political concerns.”
I’m told that Clerk of the Courts Howard Forman controls the jury room. If Forman is responsible, he should make sure that Richards, Rosenthal and Feren would be the last justices to swear-in jurors until after the election.
That would be the fair way to play it.
Judge Steve Feren (right) and his opponent John Contini (left) at one of the forums where both can appear. Democratic activist Percy Johnson (in hat) is in the background.