Four With Campaign Baggage Run For Judge


The Florida Supreme Court’s strict guidelines prohibits “inappropriate” or undignified campaigning by judicial candidates. So lawyers who want a seat on the bench spend a lot of time talking about their experience.

What if a judicial candidate’s experience includes skeletons in their closet? What does that say about their fitness to serve?

You decide after reading about four lawyers who each hope to be elected to the bench in August.

They are running for Broward Circuit Court’s open Group 45 seat.

Here they are:


Julio E. Gonzalez Jr.

Former County Judge Julio Gonzalez Jr., who was appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush in 2006 and was defeated in the 2008, wants back on the bench.

In the interim, Gonzalez worked for the infamous scamster Scott Rothstein.  When the Rothstein firm collapsed in scandal, Gonzalez landed at the firm of  Marc Nurik, who was defending Rothstein.

But that’s not all.  The former judge has a messy financial past.

Gonzalez has a history of foreclosure. American Express has sued his law practice for non-payment.

He says the foreclosure has been solved and the Amex bill has been cleared up.

Gonzalez’s financial disclosure form still has some bizarre twists and turns.

His house may be one of the only ones in South Florida that increased in value 50 percent. That’s according to his 2008 financial disclosure and his 2012 disclosure as a judicial candidate.

He valued it at $350,000 four years ago.  His current financial disclosure contends it is worth $525,000.

Strange. Especially since the same house appeared to be on sale for $290,000 just six months ago.

Was he jiggering the value to insure he had a positive net worth on his financial disclosure? He owes $400,000 on the house.

“There was absolutely no subterfuge,” Gonzalez said. “I live in (Embassy Lakes) in Cooper City, which has been on a rebound. Ask my neighbors. The values have gone up.”

What about disclosing $42,400 in jewelry, art and furniture in 2007 and only $5,000 in 2008?

“I know my wife inherited a lot of things.  Frankly I don’t remember,” he said.

His student loan balances bounce up and down likes a basketball in the playoffs.  For instance, he owed roughly $90,000 in 2006. It dropped to $83,000 in 2008 and is now up to $88,000.

Gonzalez’s finances are a bewildering mess.  Either he stinks as a bookkeeper or he is a lousy money manager – or both.

He said his experiences would make him a better judge.

“We’ve learned a really good lesson,” Gonzalez said. “Living within our means and paying down our debt.  The events that happened in my financial past happened.  I think it makes me a more compassionate person.”

In his short time on the bench, Gonzalez’s financial affairs were chaotic.  He was being chased by debt collectors and fighting off court actions.  Yet many lawyers said he was a very good judge.  So maybe his financial morass doesn’t make a difference.

You decide.

While you’re deciding, Gonzalez will be driving around the county, campaigning.  He is the one now driving a 2000 Dodge minivan van.


Oliver Parker


The only candidate in this race who didn’t disclose financial troubles is Oliver Parker.

The outspoken Parker has been a fixture in east Broward Republican politics for almost a generation.

He was already well-known in the GOP and the mayor of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea when he lost a 2004 race for the Florida House by 12 votes to now-state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff of Fort Lauderdale.

He is formally a Republican state committeeman. And he lost a 2010 race for the Broward Circuit Court.

Although he once practiced law, he hasn’t earned a living as an attorney for a long time. Is that a drawback?

Parker has a net worth of $2.83 million.  Although that’s a slight drop from $3 million two years ago, he still has a whopping $1.273 million in bank accounts, possibly from the sale of a single family home.

He owns a condo and $775,504 in General Motors stock and warrants.  His income, from retirement benefits and investments, is roughly $56,000-a-year.

Discounted by many campaign professionals, Parker could be a hidden factor in this race.  He has some support among east side Republicans.

If the August election rolls over to November and he survives, he’s got a campaign problem. A well-known Republican pol, Parker could drown in November’s Democratic tide.

Being a Republican in Broward in a countywide race is a distinct disadvantage. This is especially true in a Presidential Election when more Ds will be going to the polls.

Oh, I know that the race is supposed to be non-partisan. However, the supporters of Parker’s opponent will make it known that he used to campaign as a conservative Republican.


Rhoda Sokoloff

I wrote about Rhoda Sokoloff two years ago when she was crushed 71 to 29 percent by Broward Circuit Judge Eileen O’Connor

At that time she had a negative net worth of $376,387.

Things have gotten a little bit better.  She now has a negative net worth of $333,298.

Her finances improved as her income from her family law practice grew substantially — from $36,000-a-year two years ago to $163,997 in her latest financial disclosure.

Maybe there has been a wave of divorces.

She continues to owe much more on her Fort Lauderdale home than it is worth.  She has a $396,000 mortgage on a home she values at $120,000.

Sokoloff needs to talk to Gonzalez on how to get those home values up!

The story I wrote about Sokoloff two years ago has a lot about her background. It is here.


Laura Marie Watson

I find Laura Marie Watson’s situation interesting.

Her two-attorney law firm was criticized by a judge for taking too much money from a multi-million settlement.  The judge slapped a $981,792 judgement on the firm for “unfair enrichment”.

But do the voters care about what is essentially a fee dispute between two sets of lawyers?

Two firms thought they deserved more money from the settlement and sued three firms that got the bulk of the money, including Watson’s firm.

I  can see why the plaintiff’s were upset.  According to court documents, the three defendants including Watson got over $10 million.  The plaintiff’s got $420,000.

The plaintiff’s claimed they had an agreement that guaranteed them a larger slice of the pie.  The circuit court and the appeals court agreed.

A veteran lawyer whose specialty is fighting insurance companies for the health care providers, the Laura Watson, P.A. law firm was slapped with a $981,792 judgment by Palm Beach Circuit Court Judge David F. Crow.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the penalty in February. Watson says she is appealing and “we are prepared to go the Supreme Court if necessary.”

The court found “no evidence” that Watson herself received anything of value from the settlement.  It was all her law firm, the judge wrote.

However, Judge Crow forwarded a copy of his opinion to the Florida Bar “for action, if any, in regard to this Court’s findings of violations of Rules of Professional Conduct” governing legal fees and other matters.  Crow believed there were violations of seven rules.

This distinction between Watson and her law firm might mean little to the average voter.  Watson is the shareholder and president of the firm, which is called Laura Watson P.A.

Judge Crow forwarded a copy of his opinion to the Florida Bar “for action, if any, in regard to this Court’s findings of violations of Rules of Professional Conduct” governing legal fees and other matters.  Crow believed there were violations of seven rules.

Other than this judgment, Watson’s resume looks good.

I’ll put aside that PIP lawyers like Watson have been accused of running up the cost of auto insurance.

I’ll put aside that the folks she tries to get more money for – mostly chiropractors — also are alleged to be a major cause of our high insurance bills.

It’s a legal practice and she has been successful at it. She has plenty of solid courtroom experience, including a short stint as an Assistant State Attorney.

She has a net worth of $1.66 million, earned $76,333 from her firm and $52,074 from investments last year.

So will this judgment hanging out there against her law firm affect the race? Only if her opponents find a way to use it…which I would almost bet they will.


16 Responses to “Four With Campaign Baggage Run For Judge”

  1. ExCompassionate Conservative says:

    God is this pathetic to see what is running. SFLA is doing everything possible to make me and others want to leave when we can.

    I hope some of this makes its way to the Sun Sentinel, but I have a gut feeling that it will be watered down and they will just run press releases as news stories.

    Buddy, as a former Sun Sentinel writer, did you think the Sun Sentinel could sink so low as to run a obituary like this about the Psychic Friends Newtork?,0,1091070.story

    Those candidates for judges may only have to buy a cheap lunch and a beer for the Sun Sentinel to get good press.


    The problem isn’t that they ran this obituary. The problem is that notable individuals die every day — judges, former politicians, activists, volunteers, etc. — and they don’t run anything.

    Paid obits has become a profit center for them, so they are reluctant to write free ones. In addition, they have few people left on the staff with any historical knowledge of the community.

  2. paperwork says:

    I would like to see these financial filings you refer to in regards to Julio and judge for myself. I am sure this is a simple misunderstanding being blown out of proportion.


    His financial disclosures are online at the state elections division website.

  3. The real Rhoda says:

    Buddy, the part you wrote on Rhoda is only the first layer of her financial garbage.

    Just do a quick check of the Broward County Clerk’s Office and you can see that Ms. Sokoloff was just sued A MONTH AGO for unpaid bills. Broward County Case Number COWE12004404.


    Given that didn’t raise enough money to pay her filing fee (let alone fund her campaign), I’m curious as to whether she is running her campaign on the money she isn’t paying to the company that sued her last month or just not paying her mortgage!

    It’s no wonder that Rhoda is sucking up to the deadbeats and convicts in Deerfield Beach for campaign help.

    Birds of a feather, flock together.

    If she’s making $160k a year as a lawyer, how come she can’t pay her own bills?

    I think there’s more fluff in that $160k than meets the eye.

  4. In re Real Rhoda says:

    Judy is that you?????????

    The smell of salami permeates the air?

  5. Wheres Julio says:

    Ok, I cant keep up here. I just saw a letter from David Bogenschutz that says Julio has been practicing in the tri county area as Julio E. Gonzalez PA. But wasnt he with Rothstien and Nurik. Then didnt I see an announcement by Carlos Reyes in December the the DBR that he was part fo the Reyes Law Group, yet he now says he practices as the Gonzalez Law Group. Reminds me of Rothstien and all his differnt “WAWW” corporations, What a Wonderful World.

  6. Las Olas Lawyer says:

    The idea that somebody with judgement and a Bar complaint by a judge is running is laughable. Gonzalez would be ripe for bribery. Sokoloff and Parker are light weights. This is another reason why judges should be appointed. None of them are really judicial quality.

  7. Right on LO Lawyer says:

    Julio Gonzalez’s former boss Scott Rothstien of RRA has stated that he bribed judges. As Las Olas Lawyer has said, are lawyers like Julio, Rocque, Rhoda could be seen as prey to be bribed because of their precarious financial positions?

    I disagree as to Watson because Las Olas Lawyer you have to concede the judgment is against her PA not her personally. Piercing the corporate veil seems unlikely from the Judges ruling. Also, even if it was personal, she is worth 1.65 million so if the judgment was satisfied in full she would still have a positive net worth of over half a million dollars.

    I think other questions raised is whether Rothstien had a plan in hiring the former Judges. We have all seen Julio continue to enter through the Judges entrance and park in their parking lot after he lost. Clearly he had access to the private “Judge only areas” of the Courthouse. What does this mean, probably nothing. It is obvoius now that Rothstien was always looking for an inside edge. Rothstien always seemed to befriend people like Espinoza at the bank and use their inside access to further his endeavors.
    Did this happen with Gonzalez? No one will every know but it does raise questions?

  8. Reality Check says:

    With the surprise and dismay at the above-mentioned candidates, let me remind all that at approx. 140k annually and benefits on the chopping block, what type of candidates do we expect?
    Are we disappointed that no one from Gunster making 350k applied?
    Do we think that only candidates willing to half their salaries are worthy to take on a government job that puts one’s life in a fishbowl and faces diminishing benefits?
    Wake up and smell the coffee.

  9. Come on Buddy says:

    Your story on PIP insurance is unfair. PIP costs around $5.00 a month and provids great coverage. If insurers have to be sued for improperly denying claims then, that is appropriate. I applaud Ms. Watson for representing individuals and medical providers to force insurers to pay claims properly.

  10. Citizen says:

    thankx Buddy. Four that will NOT be getting my vote.

  11. s only says:

    Good job, Buddy

  12. Xoojuujuu says:

    Julio Gonzalez walks around the Courthouse like he is still a judge. He calls himself judge in the third person. He is an ego maniac.

  13. SKIP says:

    I do not know Julio Gonzalez very well, but do not appreciate the hatchet job being done on his “resume”. If you’re going to talk about Gonzalez, talk about everything. That includes his life story of being an incarnation of hard work gaining one “the American Dream”. Gonzalez defied the odds to become a real lawyer, from a real law school. Everyone said he was a great judge, so tell people just how he was “defeated”. And as for Rothstein & “financial problems”, you want to have your cake and eat it too. Gonzalez joined the Rothstein firm to make money, so not to have financial problems. Any problems are because of Rothstein’s perfidy, and the fact that Gonzales insists on raising his kids in his faith, in good schools, no matter the sacrifice.

  14. Concerned Voter says:

    Hmmm. Interesting that Watson’s campaign literature mentions her “husband” when she is actually divorced. She does not make good decisions in her personal life, how can she possible make a good decision in a court room. When a judge claims you took too much money for your firm and your name is on the masthead, you are your firm. She took too much money for herself. Anyone who would cheat their client and lie in their campaign literature could not possibly make a good judge. I hope some budding journalist digs a little deeper in this last month of campaigning.

  15. Thomas scotto says:

    You have to talk to me ,

    My name is Thomas scotto ,

    I want to impeach two Fort Lauderdale family judges ,
    For there misconduct and outrages rulings that have cost me 3 years of my four year old daughters life that I can never get back , I need help on how to start the process if you review my file these judges acted outside the law and there job description , I filed an appeal and the same judge puts on a wig and is making rulings in my appeals case , I never heard of such abuse of power , I wrote the Chief Justice to make him aware of what is going on but he does not care either ,

    These judges are running wiled , do what ever they feel like that day ,
    My judge Laura Watson even held secret meetings with the Responded’s attorney without me as a pro Se attorney present or a wear of the meeting in till
    Judge Laura Watson slipped up and said we have been talking about this for weeks about how to file this petition ,

    Well the petition she was referring to was an emergency petition to redo visitation
    Because my x wife claimed I was sexual abusing my 4 yr old little girl because she was acting out in school that was hear reason , they should have never even allowed this into court , because a monkey could have seen this a mile away ,

    Sunny isles police department did a complete investigation and found every claim to be unfounded ,

    My daughters school teacher and daycare teacher testified that there where never any sighs of abuse , but in the end the outrages ruling and abuse of power that judge Watson made is unheard of .

    Yesterday I filed a 12,000,000.00 federal lawsuit against judge Alfred horowitz ,
    Judge LAURA watson , Broward county , my x wife and her attorney ,
    For violating my civil rights and 14 other counts ,

    So if anyone out there can tell me how to start the Impeachment process that
    Would help me a lot , because the last thing I want after my three year nightmare
    Is to let them get away with this , and to make sure no other father has to suffer
    The pain I did .
    See she thinks the little people like me cannot do anything , but that’s in till she crossed paths with me , I will not rest in till she is removed from the bench .

    Thomas scotto (786)618-4177

  16. Judge Watson says:

    Mr. Scotto,

    The Judicial Qualifications Commission and the Florida Supreme Court is about to remove Judge Watson from the bench.

    You can always file another complaint with the JQC on the Internet.