Broward Has Three Times More Judicial Challengers


Something is amiss in Broward County’s courthouse.

Across the state, three incumbent circuit judges have opponents for re-election….with the exception of Broward.  

In Broward, nine circuit judges have opponents.

That’s three for the entire state of Florida excluding Broward.  And nine for Broward.*

Broward is always different. In this case, that’s not a good thing.

Broward’s judiciary is in turmoil.  There is plenty of blame to go around, according to numerous courthouse regulars.

(1)  Public Defender Howard Finkelstein is accused by many of trying to refashion the judiciary to make it more friendly to defendants. A number of those campaigning against sitting judges are assistant public defenders working for Finkelstein.

Finkelstein vehemently denies encouraging his employees or anybody else to challenge incument judges.

(2)  JAAblog, the courthouse blog, has made it permissible and even fashionable to attack judges. The blog has rightfully pointed out that some judges are deeply flawed. 

One problem with JAAblog is that it represents only a sliver of the Bar and the courthouse crowd.  It is a tool for criminal defense attorneys and aims its bits and bytes at those on the criminal bench. The civil judiciary largely escapes its ire.

(3)  Broward has sharply divided ethnic politics.  Thus, private lawyers believe they can defeat Hispanic and black judges just because they are white and have Jewish-sounding names.  The belief is that Jewish voters make up a big portion of those casting ballots in a primary when judicial candidates run.

Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but this cynical and objectional political game seldom provides Broward with better judges.  

(4)  Lawyers are making less in private practice, giving them an  incentive to run for the mid-six figure jobs as circuit judges.

Take Alan B. Schneider, Fort Lauderdale lawyer who is running against Circuit Judge Elijah Williams. Schneider’s financial disclosure forms indicate he is well-off: $762,321 in assets.  Not great for a 20-year lawyer, but he won’t be starving, either.

He’s got a condo in Aspen and a 2006 Hummer. But $210,000 of those assets is the value of his law practice and his title business, so it isn’t as good as it looks.

His primary salary on the forms is $84,000, way above average for a Broward resident.  

Bottom line: What Schneider is making now is much less than he will make if he wins a seat on the bench.

I believe Schneider picked Williams to run against for one reason Williams is black and his name is non-Jewish. His first name is a tipoff for some voters that he is African-America.  Schneider cynically played the race and name card.

Shame on him.

Williams is a good judge.  He deserves re-election.

This year in Broward, too many lawyers needed better paying work and their eyes fell on the bench.


*The number of circuit judges facing re-election challengers as of April 19, at 8 a.m. This can change and will.

15 Responses to “Broward Has Three Times More Judicial Challengers”

  1. Schmuley says:

    Florida state court judges are elected positions. The idea that once a judge is elected, he should never face an opponent for re-election is anti-democratic. For too long, Broward County has suffered because of judges who apparently believe they have lifetime appointments and become , if they weren’t to begin with, arrogant, complacent, and sometimes abusive and corrupt. Democracy is healthy, having incumbent judges face actual election challenges is a sign of good health, not a sign that something is wrong. There should be more turnover in the state court judiciary, not less.

    Broward is the only circuit where this many judicial elections are taking place.

    My belief is that once on the bench, judges should face merit retention elections. That would eliminate much of the ethnic politics which generates votes for judicial candidates based solely on their name.

    Judges could still be voted out of office under merit retention. Voters would decide whether the judge is doing a good job. If they are not and are voted out of office, an election or appointment would take place to fill the opening.

  2. 5 and 6 says:

    5) The Pension and good health insurance

    No where in the private sector can someone vest at rate the Judges do after only 10 years. You can get up to 80% of your last 3 years salary. If you are 50 yrs of age or below its a nice way to wrap up a career.

    6) Dont forget the insurance. I hear there is at least one challenger to an incumbent out there who is a little older who had a major cardiac issue in the last couple of years and cant get insured now. It is not easy getting health insurance as a sole practitioner and if you can its not cheap.

  3. Kevin says:

    I get what you are saying here, Buddy, and agree with most of it (there are statistics to prove this with the Hispanic judges from 2008).

    But how is the name “Elijah” a tip-off that someone is black? Elijah Wood played a Hobbit in three films, and Elijah, if I recall my Old Testament, was a Jewish prophet.

    I asked three people what they could tell me about a person named Elijah Williams. All three said, “He’s black.” One was a teacher, who for more than three decades in the classroom never came in contact with a white child named Elijah.

    Surely, not statistically meaningful in any way. Just interesting.

    You won’t find many non-Orthodox Jews today named Elijah, unless they are senior citizens.

    Nevertheless, I changed the wording at your suggestion. Thanks, as always, for your contribution.

  4. Veteran says:

    You are correct that there are currently nine circuit races versus incumbents (with Judge Aleman still not filing). But there are also five county courts judges who have opposition (Judges Hurley, Seidman, Skolnick, Merrigan and Pratt). That makes 14 races, although much can happen between now and noon on April 30th.

    FROM BUDDY: I was only dealing with circuit court.

  5. Kevin says:

    Buddy, ok, I give up, based on your sample!!

    Names are funny things, though. Remember Ian Richards who beat Judge Avalos? Anecdotal evidence suggests that many Jewish condo dwellers assumed he was Jewish, when of course Judge Richards is black.

    My grandfather’s name is Benjamin Levi Reitlehuber (Jr!!). And he is a Baptist preacher.



    Don’t forget Alfred Rosenberg, one of the architects of the Nazi’s racial theories and a buddy of Hitler, who was hanged at Nuremberg.

    If Alfred Rosenberg — no doubt, his name on the ballot would be Alfred “Al” Rosenberg — ran as a judicial candidate in Broward, he would have a good chance of winning…based on his Jewish-sounding name.

  6. Kevin says:

    Buddy, I was actually going to post about Rosenberg…. glad you did it first.

    I have been working on an academic paper about this stuff for a while. We’ll see what happens in August with the elections.

  7. Game Changer says:

    If Crist goes Independent no one is going to vote in August and the Broward Judiciary is going to be called the Broward Jewdiciary.



    The game changer this year is the hot primary between Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio. That will draw Republicans to the polls, while Democrats have no reason to vote in the primary.

    If Crist runs as an independent, that depresses the Republican vote in the primary. It gives more weight to the condo vote and helps the Jewish candidates.

    How much it really helps will be interesting to see.

    The Jewish condo vote is dying fast.

    My wife just sold a condo she owned at Century Village of Pembroke Pines. Every person who looked at it was Hispanic. It was sold to a Hispanic from Miami-Dade County. The condo’s own real estate office now has Hispanic sales people.

    Check the turnout in the special election for U. S. House in north Broward and Palm Beach Counties. Century Village had a turnout in the low teens, while Wynmoor and Kings Point did slightly better with 20-24 percent turnouts.

    Clearly, the days of big turnout in the condos are over.

  8. Offensive says:

    Game Changer: Your comment is offensive and better left to other blogs that enjoy such anti-semitic comments.

    Buddy worked to discern your point, and responded with some politic facts regarding the changing nature of Broward politics, but that type of labeling is disgusting.

    I considered not posting Game Changer’s comments. However, I believe they reflect a view that is growing among non-Jews.

    I believe non-Jews — blacks and Hispanics particularly — deeply resent the move by Jewish lawyers to steal hard-won judicial seats from members of their ethnic group.

    There is going to be a backlash against Jewish lawyers and it is not going to be pretty.

  9. Dangers Ahead says:

    There are many observations to be gleaned from this development.

    To be sure, there are judges who deserve to be tested by election and who need to justify work-ethic or productivity or leadership in the Courthouse. But, can Broward Judiciary be so much worse than the rest of the State such that there are 14 contested elections involving incumbents as compared to 3 around the ENTIRE state? This is the result of either reality, perception, strategic assault (or some combination of all 3).

    On the perception side, yes, some blogs offer people the ability to make anonymous comments in a public forum (likely the same they would say in a closed elevator amongst friends). Yes, some are likely lawyers. Yes, some are likely disgruntled anti-establishment folks who hate everything and know nothing. Yes, some are fueling their own rumors or criticisms generating a mythical interest on particular issues. And, suddenly perception or growing anti-judge sentiment generates a reality for particular judges or the entire judiciary. Oh yea, trying to gag such blogs only fuels the fire. Better to counter with true leadership and accept public accountability while educating the public on the true work of the judiciary.

    But, that does not explain the wild-west attitude where civil judges who have never been the subject of complaints are now seen as “vulnerable”. Not case-specific vulnerable, but either (as Buddy suggests) due to “name” (origin) recognition OR simple anti-incumbancy vulnerability.

    Such wholesale attacks on the institution (as compared to fact specific and justifiable criticism of particular judges) are not healthy for the instituional judiciary or the litigants who seek justice in the Courthouse. Let me explain: Assume some low-paid, moderate quality legal mind decides because of anti-incumbancy sentiment or “name” (origin) recognition to try to unseat an experienced smart judge and is successful at doing so. How is that healthy for litigants — who are by the way the ultimate beneficiaries of the judicial process? Less experienced no-so-smart-judge now deciding the fate of litigants. Good? No.

    Take another step — where the U.S. Supreme Court has permitted the unrestricted and unbridled contributions of business interests into elections. A corporate community intent on buying judicial seats to dominate the local courthouse could do so with such “name” (origin) recognition and not-so-smart or even biased legal mind. Good for litigants? Some, yes. Good for justice? No.

    This is a pendulum I am sure. With time, perhaps the electorate will see through the concerted effort of some “not so well-paid, down on their luck moderate legal minds, who are looking for a cushy job” — and yet be able to distinguish where simply being incumbent does not mean you have no obligation to work.

    To those who are fueling this push to run against every incumbant, there are broader dangers to the justic community and your wins will not be easily defended if achieved by placing your hand on one of scales.

  10. Boring says:

    Let me yawn while you anti american pinko commies assault democracy one last time.

  11. sunny skies shady people says:

    the days of the condo voters is coming to an end, sooner then later, at their own “new york style” doing. it has already started with obama i.e. his recent lashing out at israel. aside from that, statistics show that in about 50 yrs from now the jewish vote in this country will amount to about zero. buddy, you are 100% right about the change in century village. in my line of business, im there quite often buying estates and the vast majority of new owner are from miami-dade. some of the caregivers are buying because of the low prices. very very few new owners are MOT. i saw this same change happening in the skylake section of miami starting 10 years ago. there are almost no jewish condo owners left there anymore. all hispanic, haitian, jamaican…and sadly, for future judges like elijah williams, not united as a voting block.

  12. IMJUSTBEACHY says:

    bring back judge Lance Andrews, fast

  13. Floridan says:

    This conversation underscores the need to have appointed, rather than elected, judges.

    Ninety-nine percent of the electorate has absolutely no idea if a sitting judge is doing a good job, or if a judicial candidate has the qualities that would make for a good judge.

    Our system of justice should not be based on popularity contests (or who can raise the most money).

  14. Dangers Ahead says:

    Floridian: I understand the sentiment of finding another way for selection of judges.

    However, remember, the 3rd branch is an independent branch. Appointment is definitely not perfect. We need only look towards the Federal Court system where there are those who suggest the pendulum of appointment favors one political party for periods of time with dangers of bias of perspective/views then embedded in the judiciary. Additionally, the system of appointment favors those with access — we see that in the process of appointment to replace vacancies. We forget that with every appointment here in the state comes not the unanimous adulation of the commentators or electorate, but rather a robust discussion of who knew who and how access was obtained.

    Merit retention similarly favors incumbancy. Voters faced with a lack of knowledge may simply say “Heck, I havent heard anything bad about him/her, so I’ll vote in favor of retention”.

    Elections. Appointment. Merit Retention. Naturally, none have a quantative analysis demonstrating success at achieving the goals of justice. But, one major goal must be to maintain the independence of the bench from the other branches plus ensuring fair representation of the PEOPLE (not the corporate interests or those who can place their hands on one of the scales).

    As imperfect as it is, elections still offer that greatest hope and aspiration of independence. We must just realize that there will be times when we have to work a little harder to preserve the process and maintain the focus on our goals of justice.

  15. Concerned Citizen says:

    Rhoda Sokoloff is not qualified to be a judge!!!!!!!!!!!! She is not even a good lawyer!!!!!!!