Exposing Secret Battle For Broward Chief Judge








The ongoing campaign for Broward Chief Judge doesn’t shout, it whispers.

Fought out of the public eye, the campaign is quietly being waged in the corridors of the courthouse and the chambers of the county’s 90 judges.

Only the judges will vote in February whether current Chief Judge Peter Weinstein or challenger Alfred Horowitz will be their leader for the next two years.

The Chief Judge’s job has little power on paper. Most judges are highly independent and since they hold elected office, they cannot be disciplined or punished by the Chief Judge.

But the Chief Judge is the public face of Broward’s judiciary, the titular leader of a branch of government in the state’s second biggest county.  That alone is enough to make the job desirable.

Winning the Chief Judge’s job is akin to winning the presidency of the state Senate, an election former state Senator Weinstein took part in many times in the past. Like the battle for the Senate presidency, the fight for Chief Judge is staged among a small constituency of office holders who know each other personally and in many cases intimately.

So the weapons in this campaign are the same used in the Senate – the discreet deal and the unspoken threat, the outstretched hand and the pat on the back, making nice and making nasty.

Unlike a future Senate president, Weinstein and Horowitz have few perks they can dangle in front of other judges to win votes.

Foremost among them are the assignments, which the future Chief Judge controls. The Chief Judge decides which judges will preside over criminal, civil, juvenile, domestic violence, divorce, or probate cases.

The Chief Judge also has the power to assign offices. A judge out of favor can be shipped to the courthouse in Hollywood or Deerfield Beach.

It is no surprise that Weinstein and Horowitz deny they are making any promises or using intimidation to win the post.  The assignment power has been used to devastating effect in 2009 by Chief Judge Vic Tobin, who conducted wholesale transfers of judges who opposed him for the post.

In the current campaign, both courthouse veterans are running at a time when many men are thinking of retirement. Weinstein is 67, while Horowitz is 64.

Peter Weinstein became chief judge on July 1, 2011 and is nearing the end of his second term. Whoever is elected in February will take office on July 1, 2015.


Peter WeinsteinPeter Weinstein


Weinstein was a former Democratic state senator from Coral Springs when the late Gov. Lawton Chiles picked him to fill a circuit court vacancy in August, 1997. Weinstein had spent 1982 to 1996 in the Senate.

It took all the skills Weinstein learned in Tallahassee to help shepherd the new courthouse construction. It helped that Weinstein is close with Commissioner Stacy Ritter, who helped push the new courthouse through the commission. A month ago, the county commission agreed to pay $4 million for furniture in the new courthouse, after the state refused.

“I formed a partnership with the county commission and it worked,” Weinstein said.

The building is due to open next year.

“I’d like to see it through to the end,” Weinstein said about remaining Chief Judge.

Weinstein also counts among his achievements the establishment of Veteran’s Court. The court hears cases involving veterans experiencing legal problems due to behavioral, mental health, or substance abuse disorders.

He said he worked with Clerk of the Courts Howard Forman, who he served with in the Senate, to implement case filing and scheduling over the Internet.

A consensus builder while in the Senate, Weinstein said he calmed the tension and animosity among judges.

Horowitz was named to the county court by Chiles in July, 1995. Four years later after switching his party registration from Democratic to Republican, Horowitz was appointed to the circuit court by Gov. Jeb Bush.

“I was approached by several of my colleagues” and asked to run for Chief Judge, Horowitz said. “I have been humbled and I’ve been touched by the support I’ve gotten from so many of my colleagues.”

Horowitz said his colleagues know he is “decisive. They know me. They knew I’d bring fresh ideas and a different personality.”

One promise from Horowitz: He pledged to work with various groups to encourage more minority lawyers to run for the bench or apply for a gubernatorial appointment.

In the murky world of courthouse politics, it is hard to ascertain who is winning. Both candidates have their black-robed acolytes campaigning for them.


Alfred Horowitz and wifeAlfred Horowitz and his wife, Judge Giuseppina Miranda


Horowitz should be able to count on the vote of at least one judge — County Judge Giuseppina Miranda. She is Horowitz’s wife.

However, having been married myself for more than four decades I realize that maybe Horowitz can’t count on Miranda’s vote.

After all, it’s by secret ballot.



The power’s of the Chief Judge are defined in this Florida Supreme Court rule here. 


11 Responses to “Exposing Secret Battle For Broward Chief Judge”

  1. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz says:

    Explain to me why, like New York City and especially Manhattan, i.e. New York County, it is good to have husbands and wives on the Bench! Don’t tell me that the wives and husbands don’t politic for their spouces, I knew too many New York County Judges to swallow that lie! In fact the whole business here in South Florida of a Judge married to another public official, yes, I mean Judge Cohen and Property Appraiser and former County Commissioner Parish, or the constant list of County Commissioners, ususally women (of my Faith) married to husbands whose sole source of income seems to be “lobbying public officials” also stinks to high Heavens of conflicts of interest and abuse of office!
    We constantly are shocked at the Scott Rothstein type scandals, but every day South Florida (yes, I mean my fellow Jewish Democrats who always scream “reform”) politics has example after example of Broward County Commission and Judicial nepotism, cronyism, and favouritism.

    I am sorry, but Conflict of Interest is not just something to attack Republicans who vote for tax breaks for millionaire right wingers who contribute to their campaigns for! We Democrats should be as forceful about our own Party’s problems.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Buddy is too kind to say that both are light weights. Neither are legal geniuses so maybe it is good to get one of them at least out of the courtroom.

  3. minority lawyer says:

    Good for Judge Horowitz to take taking the position of supporting minorities running for Judge. In the last four years a black and a Hispanic incumbent judge were challenged by those who many belive had the support of the old boy network around the Courthouse.

  4. D or R???? says:

    Is Horowitz the new incarnation of Charlie Crist? If this story is correct, Howowitz switched parties just to become a judge. Crist switched parties just to become governor. It worked out for Horowitz not for Crist. Both of them haveno principles.

  5. Be a man of your word Peter says:

    Weinstien said he was only going to run for two terms and now is seeking his third. The term a Chief Judge serves in the 17th should be a total of 4 years like every other Circuit in Florida.


    Weinstein denied to Browardbeat.com that he ever promised to serve only four years.

  6. Punishment? says:

    “A judge out of favor can be shipped to the courthouse in Hollywood or Deerfield Beach”

    The Satelite courthouses, including Plantation, are places where judges desire to go to NOT work. It is the place for the lazy. Clearly not a punishment.


    What you say is true for some judges. Other judges don’t want to go to the satellites. Read this from the Sun-Sentinel:

    Demoted Judge Spechler resigns
    Reason for quitting not included in his letter to governor
    April 2, 2008|By Tonya Alanez Staff Writer

    “A Broward judge resigned four days after his demotion from hearing county civil cases to handling traffic infractions. The chief judge also ordered him to stay away from the central courthouse.

    Broward County Court Judge Jay S. Spechler said Tuesday he was “stunned” to learn of his reassignment to the satellite courthouses, prompting him to move into civil mediation work sooner than he had planned.”

  7. Be a man of your word Peter says:

    Damn ambien.

  8. 2 cents says:

    Judge Spechler resigned almost 8 years ago. Back then being in the satellites was considered being in Siberia. With the advent of Bill Gelin and Jaablog creating a fishbowl atmosphere downtown, the Judges that have been in the Satellite courthouses in the last 5 years are happy to be there and do not want to leave. That is not to say there are not good hardworking Judges at the satellite courthouses, they are the ones smart enough to get away from the bs of being downtown.


    If you lived in downtown Fort Lauderdale, you may not want to work in Plantation or Hollywood. If you lived in Hollywood, you may not want to work in the Deerfield Beach courthouse. Not every county judge wants to work in the satellites.

    The bottom line is the Chief Judge can make any judge he perceives as an enemy work in places they don’t want to work handling cases they don’t want to handle.

  9. In the know says:

    To his credit, Peter has never played the retribution game like Tobin did. The only mistake that could come back to haunt Peter is creating the situation which opened an acting circuit spot in Juvi for Arlene Backman and then told the JNC the next spot would be sent to Juvi as an obvious nod to Backman. Many Judges in County Court will not forget this, as they know Peter would never go that far for one of them. Good won out in the end, Arlene didn’t make it out of Committee and her husband Paul out of no where decided to resign from the JQC shortley thereafter. My guess, Peter is down at least 20 votes already due to Paul Backman.

  10. for sense says:

    Why not name Willie Jellowin Esq chef juge, after all he is so brite, articulent, a legel scollor in his own mind, unbuyassed, shows great temperment, a hard worker, is a task master at keeping attendance records (a truancy officer in high school), named esquired best dressed in court room setting 12 years and running. OK how about cheef juge in absentia until apointed by Rick Scott.

  11. Concerned Citizen says:

    I think Judge Weinstein needs to go. 4 years is enough. The last thing Broward County needs is a dictator.
    Judge Horowitz will bring a needed change and try to get ALL OUR JUDGES to work and as many as possible to pitch in consistent with the Order put out by Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Labarga.