Update — Courthouse Travesty: Wife of GOP Insider Gets Special Treatment






Lawyers who wanted to be a judge had to go through the Job Interview From Hell on Tuesday.

Grilling the lawyers were members of the Broward Judicial Nominating Commission, the nine-member group that recommends who Gov. Rick Scott should appoint to the bench.

The 10-minute interviews were strictly hardball — penetrating questions from the JNC for the first five applicants for an opening on the County Court.

Until the JNC got to the sixth lawyer who wanted a judicial appointment — Nina Di Pietro, the wife of a Republican political insider and fund raiser David Di Pietro.

Then the hardball became softball.

Ms. Di Pietro was handled with kid gloves while other applicants got boxing gloves.



Nina Di Pietro speaks to JNC members on Tuesday (click on pix for a enlarged view)


Ms. Di Pietro’s reception is no big surprise because the current JNC members tend to be GOP activists, big donors or fervent supporters. Still, seeing the JNC in action is disturbing to those who believe in a level playing field.

The JNC hit the first five candidates with probing questions. JNC Members Terrence O’Connor, William McCormick and others asked repeatedly how the applicants would manage their time as a judge.

The questions were perceptive and appropriate because time management is a persistent problem in the Broward Courthouse. O’Connor summed up the problem like this:

“We have judges at the courthouse who aren’t working. They aren’t putting in the hours,” he said.

But when it came to Ms. Di Pietro, it was different. There was only one toned down question about time management rather than a series of pointed questions. The questions was, how would you spend your day as a judge?

“I would certainly start on time. I would certainly start early…I would go all day long,” she said.

Smiles all around.

There also was no real inquiry into Ms. Di Pietro’s rocky employment and eventual firing at the Public Defender’s Office. Numerous supervisors accused her of breaches of office policies, rudeness and violations of legal ethics.

The extent of the probe into her PD employment was less than an employer would ask a prospective security guard:

A JNC member fed her an opening which allowed her blame her trouble at the PDs Office on two of her former supervisors.

O’Connor read a line from Ms. Di Pietro’s judicial application. In it, she stated that she left the PDs Office because of “strong differences of opinion regarding ethical boundaries.”

He asked, “Did somebody ask you to do something unethical” at the PDs Office when she was fired in 2008?

Yes, she said.

Then she named two of the higher-ups at the PDs Office at the time – Renee Dadowski and Catherine Keuthan.

They allegedly refused to allow Ms. Di Pietro to withdraw from representing a poor criminal defendant when she felt she had a conflict.

That was it. Smiles all around. She left and the JNC took a break.

My bottom line:

Ms. Di Pietro appeared to have been coached. She appeared to know what would be asked of her. She had pat answers ready.

I guess that is the advantage of being the wife of a Republican insider.

Perhaps it is too much to hope that the JNC members were listening when Ms. Di Petro delivered her very first words to them this morning.

“I might not have as much experience as others,” the 33-year-old said.

Will that sway the JNC?

Probably not.

Let’s see: As much as 30 years legal experience versus the young wife of someone who raises money for the GOP.

It doesn’t take a political genius to see who has the inside track for this judicial appointment.

Update:  On Wednesday, it was announced that the following names will be recommended to the governor’s office for the appointment: Nick Davis, Donald Gelin, Michele Ricca, Ernest Kollra, Richard Sachs and, of course, Ms. Di Pietro

I was asked the names of the JNC members behind this week’s farce.  They are below copied from the Florida Bar site.  Kevin Tynan, the chair, was not at Tuesday’s interviews.


Zachariah P. Zachariah, Jr., Vice Chair (2016)
Greenberg Traurig, PA
401 East Las Olas Blvd., Ste. 2000
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33301-4223
Phone: (954)768-5208

Georgette Sosa Douglass (2015)
12 SE 7th Street, Ste. 700
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33301-3433
Phone: (954) 768-0046
Fax: (954) 768-0228

Alexis M. Yarbrough, (2015)
1200 North Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Apt. 292
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33304-1716
Phone: (954)232-4464

Kevin P. Tynan, Chair* (2015)
Richardson & Tynan, PLC
8142 N. University Drive
Tamarac, Florida 33321-1708
Phone: (954) 721-7300
Fax: (954) 721-4742

Belinda M. Keiser, Vice Chancellor (2016)
Keiser College
1900 W. Commercial Blvd., Ste.180
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33309
Phone: (954) 776-4476

Terrence Patrick O’Connor* (2016)
Morgan Carratt & O’Connor
111 SE 12th Street
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida 33316-1813
Phone: (954) 728-8585
Fax: (954) 728-8589

Sidney Charles Calloway* (2018)
Shutts & Bowen, LLP
200 East Broward Blvd., Ste. 2100
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33301-1963
Phone: (954)847-3833
Fax: (954)888-3063

D. David Keller* (2018)
Keller Landsberg, PA
500 E Broward Boulevard Suite 1400
Fort Lauderdale, Fl 33394-3024
Phone: (954) 761-3550
Fax: (954) 525-2134

William G. McCormick (2018)
Gray Robinson, PA
401 East Las Olas Blvd., Ste. 1000
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33301-4236
Phone: (954)761-8111
Fax: (954)761-8112

15 Responses to “Update — Courthouse Travesty: Wife of GOP Insider Gets Special Treatment”

  1. Disgusted with JNC says:

    I am absolutely disgusted with the JNC committee. They should all be removed and obviously someone fed her the questions. What’s worse is the questions they asked of her. Where are the ethics? Why don’t they demand intelligence, work experience, and someone with compassion and honesty?


    If she was coached, which is my belief based on what I saw, it may not be a JNC member who did it. It could be that someone who was interviewed by the committee in the past.

  2. Ha Ha Ha says:

    Here’s a better way. Each month, the procedure defined below is used to fill all judicial vacancies arising during the preceding month:

    All candidates must satisfy an objective set of published preconditions, such as

    a) US citizen
    b) Member of Florida Bar Association in good standing

    Candidates must then provide correct answers to a set of published questions. These may be either questions of fact limited to the candidate’s professional qualifications (which must be answered truthfully) or questions of law (which must be answered to the best of the candidate’s ability). These answers are submitted electronically as text. No handwritten responses or non-textual responses are permitted.

    Candidate preconditions and candidate answers to questions of fact are then verified (fact-checked) by the Supervisor of Judicial Vacancies (SoJV – an office similar to that of the Supervisor Of Elections). After rejecting all applicants who fail the fact-checking process, the SoJV then constructs a candidate profile for each qualified candidate – this consists of a unique candidate identifier along with the candidate’s verified answers to the set of published candidate questions.

    Candidate profiles are then evaluated by a Judicial Nominating Committee having seven seats, filled each month by these designated organizations:

    Seat 1 – Florida Bar Association
    Seat 2 – American Civil Liberties Union
    Seat 3 – Republican Party of Florida
    Seat 4 – Democratic Party of Florida
    Seat 5 – National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
    Seat 6 – Equality Florida
    Seat 7 – Roosevelt Institute

    Selection is based only upon the SoJV-generated candidate profile. The JNC members have no personal contact with the candidates and do not know the names of the candidates. JNC members know candidates only by the unique candidate identifiers assigned by the SoJV and by their personal answers to the published set of candidate questions. A supermajority of 5/7 is needed to select each nominee. There is no limit on the total number of nominees.

    Once all the qualified candidates have been evaluated, the resulting set of nominees is subjected to the random selection process currently used by the Florida Lottery, whereby a single nominee is randomly selected from the total number of nominees to fill a single vacancy. The selected nominee then becomes a judge, filling that single vacancy. The random selection process is then repeated upon the remaining nominees as necessary until all vacancies are filled or the nominee pool becomes empty. Should the nominee pool become empty while vacancies remain, the vacancy is carried over into the following month.

    The set of candidate preconditions and the set of candidate questions may be edited by the JNC. Each addition, deletion or modification must occur by a supermajority of 5/7.

  3. Lara says:

    O’Conner could have asked a more intelligent questions and one fitting of a JNC Committee Member. Sponge Bob would have had more poignant questions than this crew. If she has children who would watch them of she had to work until 3pm? The Nanny?

  4. I disagree says:

    I doubt she was coached, she went up to bat with one of those giant wiffle ball bats and was thrown soft balls as big as watermelons. No need to coach when the toughest question is how to spell c_a_t

  5. Curious says:

    I’m wondering.. were you permitted to sit in on this interview? I thought those were closed to the press?


    The interviews of candidates are public. Anybody can attend. The deliberations when the decision of which lawyers to recommend are private.

  6. Chix Fa Lei says:

    Mr Gelerin,

    Please give me some advice on your time management skills, how are you able to provide a proper defense for your client, do all the time cards including time cards for the judicial personal on a daily basis at the court house, write a column for Buddy criticizing the JNC, check on the trust fund account and have time to bill your client. Eat More Beef.

  7. Las Olas Lawyer says:

    I believe there is not a criminal defense lawyer or prosecutor among the members of the JNC, yet they are called upon to judge (pun intended) those candidates with those credentials who are seeking a judicial appointment. What we have is largely upper class corporate lawyers determining who should lord over poor criminal defendants. The system is wrong.

  8. Something rotten in Denmark says:

    Buddy – Why have all the other circuits who had interviews for judicial openings in the past 2 days posted the candidates being sent to Governor Scott except Broward County. Isn’t this supposed to public record? Could your excellent reporting of the facts made them think twice about their choices? Also why did one of the most ethical JNC member recuse himself from this particular nominating process?


    They posted it today, one day after the interviews.

  9. somethingsmells says:


    Shame on the members of the JNC that are actually lawyers (alll except Zacharia and Keiser)

    I dont understand why they have to be rude and disrespectful to members of the bar that have an interest in being a judge.

    what gives them the right


    Mr. Zachariah is a lawyer.

  10. Is JNC Pay for play? says:

    We deserve nominees that are sent to the governor based on work experience, ethics, demeanor, and legal ability. How they can look at themselves in the mirror is beyond my comprehension. I guess calling someone retard boy is of no consequence. I suppose a scathing letter from Howard Finkelstein corroborated by his office is of no consequence.

  11. UFJD says:

    She’s a follower. Total Democrat at UF. Not to be trusted.

  12. Zig says:

    Good luck to Nina. She’ll be a fine judge.

  13. Owl says:

    Dear Buddy,

    I have always enjoyed reading your columns regardless of whether I agree with your opinion. I would like to take this opportunity to comment upon the blog topic of JNC interviews and place a few things in perhaps a different perspective.

    First, I am familiar with the JNC interview process having personally observed and participated in numerous interviews. Your opinion that Nina DiPietro was coached by someone familiar with the interview process is not only likely accurate, but also mandatory interview preparation protocol. Anyone serious about wanting the position should, if not must, consult with those who have previously interviewed in order to properly prepare. That, is a quality of someone who will be a good judge.

    Second, the question “Did somebody ask you to do something unethical?” is no softball. The fact that the answer included naming two specific individuals likely will win Ms. DiPietro votes with numerous past and present assistant public defenders who frankly don’t care for either of the individuals named.

    Third, “Las Olas Lawyer” makes an interesting observation in the comments section regarding whether appointees will care about treatment of poor criminal defendants. It should be noted, however, that Governor Scott’s first two appointments to the Broward bench were individuals who were essentially career criminal defense attorneys.

    Finally, Broward County is well known for complaining about Republican Governors and minority judicial appointments. We have fifteen minority judges in Broward, eleven of those having been appointed. Of those eleven, eight were appointed by Republican Governors. It’s important that more minority lawyers apply for appointment and that they are mindful that success often takes time.

    I believe Ms. DiPietro, if appointed, will be an excellent judge. I believe she will be prepared, punctual and decisive just like she must have been in her interview. While I haven’t read the judicial applications, my guess is that her submission was thoughtful and well written. I believe she will serve the people well.

  14. Say What says:

    The Chair of the JNC skipped the interview process?

    Maybe Tynan skipped so he could say later he didn’t put up DiPietro.



    He recused himself because he had a former business relationship with one of the candidate’s husband and had represented Di Pietro in her Bar complaint.

  15. Clount LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz says:

    Does anyone care if a Judge is honest, intelligent, and has experience in the judicial process or are candidates rated on religiou, race, political affiliation, and how much money their relatives raise for this or that candidate? And, yes, I think Miss Di Petro is well down on the list of possible candidates based on age, experience, and having too many political connections and too little interest in the law.