Judges Being Allowed To Campaign In Courthouse





Judges facing opponents traditionally get a little extra help by being allowed to swear-in thousands of jurors in the weeks leading up to the election.

It is time to end that tradition.

It is a tradition that is unfair. It is a tradition that’s wrong.

Because the incumbent judges are being given a forum where their challengers can’t appear — the swearing-in of jurors.  Hundreds are sworn-in for jury duty at a time.  Thousands will be sworn-in between now and the August primary.

This year three judges facing challengers — County Judge Ian Richards, along with Circuit Judges Lynn Rosenthal and Steve Feren — have been handed the job of swearing-in the jurors. The swearing-in is usually accompanied by a little speech.

So essentially Richards, Rosenthal and Feren are campaigning in front of a captive audience in the courthouse. Richards traveled from his Hollywood courtroom to downtown Fort Lauderdale for this campaign opportunity.

I’m not the only one who thinks this is wrong. Attorney Bill Gelin at JAABlog raised the question, too. Here is his post.

“It’s really a shame,” Gelin writes. “It’s so transparently unfair to all those hoping for an election on the merits, while reinforcing the 17th Circuit’s image of a judiciary primarily driven by political concerns.”

I’m told that Clerk of the Courts Howard Forman controls the jury room.  If Forman is responsible, he should make sure that Richards, Rosenthal and Feren would be the last justices to swear-in jurors until after the election.

That would be the fair way to play it.


Judge Steve Feren (right) and his opponent John Contini (left) at one of the forums where both can appear. Democratic activist Percy Johnson (in hat) is in the background.


16 Responses to “Judges Being Allowed To Campaign In Courthouse”

  1. JQCtime says:

    Not only is it morally, ethically, and legally wrong but here is the bigger problem…it’s clearly intentional and all four of them are will continue to do it.

  2. On the other hand says:

    I hear you, but, how is it any different for any other incumbent?

    School Board members get to make speeches at graduation to thousands of captive audience members; city officials and SB members can be seen on TV every other week as their meetings are televised…

    It’s called the “power of incumbency” and while it may not be fair, the incumbents do have the right to do their jobs while they are running…

    Just sayin’


    Judges are supposed to be held to a higher standard. In fact, judges have a code of conduct which specifically states they are not supposed to use their office to obtain an advantage.

    A single School Board member attends the graduations in their own district. There are dozens of judges who could swear-in jurors.

    Also, no one is compelled by law to attend a graduation. You are compelled to show up for jury duty.

  3. what says:

    Percy johnson that sounds like quite a debate?The courthouse crowd has been taking care of there own since I could remember. Judges are suppose to be fair and impartial now thats funny lol

  4. Señor Censor says:

    Did Percy have a case in front of them? This appears to be Florida’s Welfare Transition Program enables welfare recipients to move from welfare to work by emphasizing self-sufficiency and personal responsibility. Just look closely at these three…………without laughing.

  5. Canon 7c3 says:

    (3) A judicial candidate involved in an election or re-election, or a merit retention candidate who has certified that he or she has active opposition, may attend a political party function to speak in behalf of his or her candidacy or on a matter that relates to the law, the improvement of the legal system, or the administration of justice. The function must not be a fund raiser, and the invitation to speak must also include the other candidates, if any, for that office……

  6. frank says:

    This is a fair use of the power of incumbency.

  7. He who has not sinned says:

    Judges are not allowed to give their judicial philosophy. It is strictly limited. By design, the electorate cannot be educated by the candidate.

    People, even judges, will do what a system allows them to do.

  8. Janet Burnett says:

    It seems a tad ridiculous to have judges retained by voters. The reason is obvious. How much does the public know about judges. Judges are restricted in campaigning. We already vote for the legislature and the executive branch. So many voters don’t even vote for judges. It is a stupid relic that should go the way of the dodo bird.


    I believe that judges should not have to face candidates. Like the appeals court judges, trial judges should only face a vote to determine whether voters want to retain them. If voters decide not to retain a judge, then the position should be filled by appointment.

  9. Abolish the BOCC says:

    Term limits. One.

  10. What is next says:

    Judge Bailey will do the pledge and can introduce his brother Dennis doing back up vocals while holding the flag?

  11. Judge Ian Richards is the best choice says:

    What is fair about a sitting judge with a bow
    Tie taking Kasen to the condos to introduce him to voters? The Jqc should remove that judge for doing this. Judge are allowed to swearing juries they do this in Miami Dade and other counties. Y’all seem more like hypocrites to me.

  12. just saying says:

    @Abolish the BOCC

    Term limits. One.


  13. Boca Spin Doctor says:

    Looks like one of them will have her hands full with a re-election campaign after being arrested for DWI in the courthouse garage!

  14. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    I agree with Buddy. Judicial elections are not good for the justice system.

  15. Seth Sklarey says:

    Buddy, if you don’t understand that the appointment process for judges is just another political election, then you are naive. Many good judges who couldn’get appointed because the weren’t politically connected made it to the bench as well as some bad ones. The campaign election process allowscpotential judges to meet and understand the community and they learn a good?deal. Ask any judge who ran. The fundraising is a different issue entirely.


    I understand the appointment process perfectly. I have attended sessions of the Judicial Nominating Commission and watched the interviews.

    When Gov. Lawton Chiles was governor, Democratic Chairman Mitch Ceasar was on the JNC. You don’t get much more political than that.

    Both processes — elections and appointments — are flawed. I still prefer the appointment process where judges get vetted by a group of lawyers and get vetted a second time by the governor’s legal staff. Most of the judges appointed in recent years have very good resumes. In contrast, some elected judges (who will go nameless) are legal doofuses are are merely good fund raisers and campaigners.

  16. Legal Doofus says:

    Cough Cough, Steve Feren, Cough Cough.

    Couldn’t litigate his way out of a shoe box, but gladhanded his way to a cushy judicial job as he moseys off into retirement.