Broward Chief Judge Election A Toss Up


A veteran Broward judge put it colorfully:

“There are 90 judges in this building and there are 90 liars in this building.

So Judges Susan Greenhawt and Peter Weinstein shouldn’t count on pledges made to them by their colleagues in next week’s secret election for chief judge.

Judges will tell them one thing to their face.  Then vote the other way.

Greenhawt and Weinstein are vying to be Broward’s next chief judge. Chief Judge Vic Tobin is stepping down.

Both sides claim to be ahead.

Campaigning isn’t easy.  Each judges’ ego must be massaged.  Some judges demand audiences in their own chambers.  Others are less formal.

Greenhawt and Weinstein tell each judge how they plan to handle the job.  Both candidates have their robed supporters rounding up votes, too.

The chief judge holds one big club over other judges — assignments.  The chief decides what courtroom judges will use and what kind of cases they will hear.

Judges listening to pitches from the two candidates want to know: Will they be left alone or be given better jobs?

Has Greenhawt or Weinstein been the most convincing?

They won’t know until Thursday, February 17.  That’s when the judges file into Courtroom 850 to vote for their next leader. Eligible to vote are 90 judges 58 circuit and 32 county.

Judges use a secret preprinted ballots to vote by marking them with a check.

Those in suburban courthouses or who don’t attend can cast absentee ballots in Court Administrator Carol Ortman’s office. About half have already voted absentee.

In the past, the ballots were placed in a basketball-sized box and counted by Ortman. Then Ortman announced the winner.

A similar procedure is expected to be followed next week.

The Candidates

Both candidates have long resumes.

Greenhawt, 58, was an emergency room nurse at Jackson Memorial Hospital before going to Nova Law School.  She formed a family law practice after graduation in 1993, handling divorces and such.

Appointed to the bench by Gov. Jeb Bush in 2003, she’s is currently the administrative judge of the county’s Family Court.

Weinstein, 64, was elected to the State Senate in 1982 after graduating from Brooklyn Law School and working as a prosecutor in Queens. He was well know in the Capitol for building a consensus among fellow lawmakers.

He quit the Senate in 1996 to run for the U. S. House.  He lost and was appointed to the bench in 1997 by Gov. Lawton Chiles.

This is one of the most turbulent times for Broward’s judicial system.

The chief judge will have to oversee construction of a new courthouse, while figuring out how to handle health scares about air quality in the existing downtown Fort Lauderdale building.  The chief will have find ways to deal with the cases with less money.

The chief also will be expected to be the voice of the courthouse in the Legislature.  This is important because judges and their staffs are worried about the move in Tallahassee to cut pensions while raising their costs.

The chief also must meet regularly with county commissioners and be a member of various committees.

Most of all, the chief has to constantly deal with 90 very independent judges and their needs.

“The job is essentially herding cats, said one long-time courthouse fixture.

“Being chief judge is not about is the law.  It is essentially a thankless political job, the observer said.  “Every decision you make ends up annoying one judge or another. You end up making enemies.

The chief judge gets no extra money.

Instead of being chief, Greenhawt or Weinstein could sit back, manage their case load and collect a pay check.  Why run?

“I’ve always liked challenges, Greenhawt said. “I’m a problem solver and I want to help the circuit with its problems.

“I’ve always been motivated to public service, Weinstein said. “I believe I have the leadership skills and experience to help the circuit.

The bottom line for me: I admire anybody who seeks this very tough  job.

17 Responses to “Broward Chief Judge Election A Toss Up”

  1. Lady Law says:

    Weinstein’s demeanor is more even. When Greenhawt is having a bad day, you don’t want to be on her calender.

  2. Broward Attorney says:

    I’d be very surprised if Weinstein lost. I think he’d do a good job.
    Buddy – Didn’t you write an article about Judge Weinstein as Chief Judge a few months ago?

    FROM BUDDY: Yes, I did.

  3. pension says:

    tobin is chief judge thru june, the legislature is voting on this now.

    FROM BUDDY: Whoever the incoming chief judge is will be expected to take a role in the pension debate. In addition, salary and benefits will be a continuing battle in Tallahassee.

  4. watcher says:

    she may make a good chief judge but she is never going to be a good person

  5. pension says:

    Greenhawt is a hard worker and a straight shooter, some people can’t handle the truth. If you want to here a bunch of back slapping, baby kissing political rhetoric vote weinstein. The guy has been building his pension along with his gov’t employed wife for years. He does not even show up for work until 9:30 when his docket is supposed to start at 8:45.

  6. Thirst for Power is Still There says:

    If I had a vote, assuming the two appear to be about equal, I would vote AGAINST the mafia which is currently out of power.
    The last thing that we need is for the thugs in robes to be legit again.
    When the Mafia couldn’t control the chief judge in the last election, they put up candidates to run against incumbents who they perceived were not future chief judge votes for the mafia.
    All you have to do is look behind most of the challengers of sitting judges in this last election. You will see that there was a connection to the mafia by almost every challenger to each incumbent who got opposition. Coincidence?
    Now, just figure out whom the Mafia is backing and there is your answer…

  7. Bob Adams says:

    Weinstein was the same way in the Senate… useless, do nothing. The Senate President also had to do the job of majority leader when he held that title. I’m sure his jusucual assistant does most of his job.

  8. knowledge says:

    The Weinsteins have been living off the public dole long enough,time for them to call it a career,with there politial indused jobs

  9. Los Olas Law says:

    Weinstein is the candidate of the big law firms. Enough said.

  10. watcher says:

    Hey “LOS” big firms want certainty too…not meanness and moodiness

  11. Broward Lawyer says:

    Hey Watcher:
    the mafiaosos post on here too!

  12. Broward Attorney says:

    @ Thirst for power

    You sound like a “Conspiracy Theorist,” but you have no clue what you are talking about.

    15 incumbent judges got opposition in 2010. The people responsible for the opposition were Kevin Kulik, Help Me Howard Finkelstein,
    former judge Lee Seidman and Bill Gelin and JAABblog.

    All 15 incumbents won, but that’s not stopping any of them. All will be promoting judge opposition in 2012 and low life bottom feeders whoe law practices are in the tank will try to take advantage

  13. Las Olas Law says:

    Broward Attorney is right. Howard “I’m not political” Finkelstein was behind most of the judicial challenges. When candidates he didn’t plan on jumped out of the workwork like Jordan Jordan, Finkelstein covered his role up by speaking against them. Phony Finkelstein is already planning with Gelin to take on judges like Terry Ann Miller, Carol-Lisa Phillips and Bob Diaz next year. It doesn’t matter some are in civil since he needs a place for his people.

  14. Julian says:

    Phillips deserves an opponent she is another political hack appointment courtesy of her husband dingbat Naugle.

  15. watcher says:

    Phillips is a straight shooter…

  16. Greta S. says:

    Julian says that Judge Phillips is a political “hack”. Here is Wikipedia:
    Political hack
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    A political hack is a negative term ascribed to a person who is part of the political party apparatus, but whose intentions are more aligned with victory than personal conviction. The term “hired gun” is often used in tandem to further describe the moral bankruptcy of the “hack”.
    Political hack may also be used by a political opponent in order to erode confidence or credentials of an opponent or his hired campaign help. Often used to demean well credentialed individuals for political purposes.
    Lisa Phillips a political “hack”?
    Wow, you are a dumbass.

  17. Kathy says:

    Thank God that Greenhawt will not serve in the Chief capacity at the 17th Circuit. If she were to have more judicial power in ANY capacity in ANY court, it would be a huge injustice to the people at large.

    Transcripts speak volumes as to why this Judge belongs on the other side of the bench as a DEFENDANT for abandoning the Canons and Rules that she vowed to comply with when she was sworn in.

    Just when I thought that the 17th Circuit Courtrooms couldn’t get any worse in terms of JQC Misconduct and the circuit’s inability to serve the people in a manner consistent with fair and impartial justice, Greenhawt was considered as a viable candidate to replace the bench of Chief Judge.

    I will say that the ONLY missed opportunity here is JOB SECURITY for journalists who cover partiality, injustice and gross misconduct in the courts.

    I have to go now and thank my lucky stars.