BY BUDDY NEVINS
Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein is shouting “Help Me after three of his most experienced public defenders told him they want to leave his office to become a judge.
“I can’t stop my people from wanting to further their career, but it’s going to hurt. says Finkelstein, WSVN-TV “Help Me Howard” legal commentator.
The three who could be launching campaigns for the bench are Sandra Perlman, Bruce Raticoff and a third attorney I promised Finkelstein I wouldn’t identify. But her last name is the same as an Old Testament king.
Finkelstein noted that his budget is under pressure from the recession and a tight-fisted Tallahassee. He doesn’t believe he will be able to offer enough money to get veteran attorneys as replacements.
“It would be a huge loss, Finkelstein said. “They are among my most experienced public defenders.
Perlman, 48, is the only one who has gone public about running.
She hasn’t opened a campaign account yet. She says she will do so “sooner rather than later.
One of Finkelstein’s top murder defense attorneys, Perlman has 24 years of almost constant trial experience. Much of it was with the Broward County Public Defenders Office.
Talk to Perlman and you see the shape of her campaign forming.
Perlman is running against Circuit Judge Cheryl Aleman. She has a history with the judge.
She and Raticoff clashed with Aleman in court, leading to the judge’s reprimand by the Florida Supreme Court this month.
Aleman was accused of being “discourteous to lawyers. She was said to lack compassion for defendants.
Perlman can not come right out and attack Aleman. It’s not judicial and may violate the rules governing campaigns for judge.
So she hints at what’s wrong with the incumbent, while highlighting what she’ll bring to the bench.
“I don’t think experience alone qualifies somebody, Perlman says. “It’s also about caring about the community, about wanting to help people, about wanting to do what’s right.
“You want a judge that’s going to be fair. Compassionate. Compassion is a good quality.
Translation: I’ve got all these qualities and Aleman doesn’t.
Beyond Aleman, Perlman has an appealing story to tell voters.
She was born and raised in North Miami Beach. She patterned her life after an uncle who was an attorney in Chicago.
Her uncle taught her that being a lawyer meant she gets to defend our way of life through the system of law.
Went to Dade County public schools. Graduated from the University of Florida law school.
Loves work: “Every time I go into a courtroom I get to protect a person’s rights.
Perlman will now have to take it on the road, from Hallandale to Coral Springs. Broward is a daunting county to campaign in.
She’s already got Charles Lichtman, who defended the Florida Democratic Party during presidential elections, as her campaign manager.
Lichtman is at Berger Singerman in downtown Fort Lauderdale, where Democratic moneymiester Mitch Berger is a name partner. I’m sure Berger will help with the campaign financing.
In the end the race will come down to this: Perlman, who has learned to sway hundreds of jurors, will now have to try to sway thousands of voters.
She’ll have the advantage of the most politically powerful member of Broward’s legal community in her corner Finkelstein.
“This (public defenders) office should not be political, Finkelstein says. “That said, I’m voting for her. I will tell anybody who asks to vote for her. I hope everybody I know will vote for her.
Perlman is lucky. Finkelstein knows a lot of people.