Preaching To The Choir: Average Voters Avoid Judicial Forum


Broward Circuit Judge Matthew Isaac Destry looked over the audience at Nova Southeastern University Thursday and said:

“I see a lot of familiar faces.

That was the problem with Broward Judicial Watch’s judicial forum.  The seats at school’s Miniaci Center largely were filled with candidates, their families, their supporters, university staff and law students.  

The judicial candidates were proselytizing to the already committed.  

Too bad.

This forum was a true educational experience. 

It was the best chance so far for voters to learn something about 19 of the 22 largely-unknown candidates for Broward Circuit Court. 

Three didn’t show up Frieda Goldstein and Laura and Lee Seidman.  

The audience did include some courthouse figures.

There was former Judge Catalina Avalos, looking radiantly relaxed almost two years after she left the bench.  It still annoys me that the qualified Avalos got beaten in 2008 almost certainly because she has a Spanish-sounding name. She’s now with the Tripp Scott law firm.

There was Mr. JAAblog, lawyer Bill Gelin with the trusty cellphone camera he uses to document events in Broward’s legal universe.

Former Judge Jay Spechler was sitting in the same row, but four seats away from über political consultant Judy Stern.  That’s as close as they got.

Spechler and Stern are on the outs over several judicial races. Stern is mad about Spechler allegedly encouraging some candidates to run against incumbents judges.

Circuit Judges Geoffrey Cohen and Tom Lynch were sitting with Spechler.

County court candidates Ken Gottlieb and Judge Jay Hurley were in the audience, getting pointers for the county court forum scheduled for next week.

No Nastiness

There was no nastiness at the forum.  The majority of the candidates avoided any reference to their opponents.

There were exceptions.

Assistant public defender Olga Levine shoehorned a shot at opponent Circuit Judge Jack Luzzo into her opening statement.

“My opponent has been publicly reprimanded by the Florida Supreme Court, she said.

Luzzo countered that he had been endorsed by the Miami Herald despite the reprimand for accepting free sports tickets from a lawyer.

Circuit Judge Lisa Porter noted her opponent, the absent Laura Seidman, “has never had a jury trial in her legal career.  Seidman has been in-house counsel for various companies and the North Broward Hospital District.

Trying To Be Remembered

Standing out in a crowd of candidates this big is always a problem.  Circuit Judge Carlos Rodriguez found a way to be remembered.

Rodriguez’s problem is that he is running against a ghost. Opponent Frieda Goldstein hasn’t shown up for any of the more than 50 campaign appearances in this race so far. 

Goldstein, a Dade County lawyer, apparently is counting on her Jewish-sounding name to beat Rodriguez.  Judicial candidates with Spanish names have had a hard time in Broward as Catilina Avalos found out two years ago.

Rodriguez tackled the disadvantage of his name head-on.

“The good news is my name is Carlos Rodriguez because you’ll remember it, the judge quipped.  “The bad news is my name is Carlos Rodriguez.

A Political Background Pays Off

Candidate Oliver Parker has the advantage of a decade-long political career in this campaign. Parker, the former mayor of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, is running against Circuit Judge Ken Gillespie.

Parker It is amazing how much the guy looks on stage like movie legend W. C. Fields has been filleted in the media and on the Internet for taking on one of Broward’s few black judges.

Using his political skills, Parker figured out a clever way to humanize himself and help repair his image.  At the end of his closing remarks, Parker said, “I’d like to shake hands with Judge Gillespie and wish him good luck.

Then he strode across the stage and grabbed Gillespie’s hand.

Parker later told me that he never even knew Gillesepie was black when he filed against him.  He said he had never practiced in Gillespie’s courtroom and no lawyers he knew mentioned the judge was black.

“I was looking to run against the candidate that was the weakest from a judicial perspective. That’s all, Parker said.

Other Judicial Tidbits

*Judge Eileen M. O’Conner is a breast cancer survivor.  “Being a breast cancer survivor has given me strength, a better awareness of what is truly important in life and a wonderfully increased capacity for compassion.

*All candidates were asked to name a legal figure—personal, historical or fictional whom they admire. 

Atticus Finch, the lawyer in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, got the most votes.  He was named by three Judges — Susan Lebow, Jack Luzzo and Lisa Porter.

“Atticus Finch displays all the qualities to which lawyers and judges should aspire hard working, honest, humble, ethical and defending causes because it is the right thing to do, even in the face of popular criticism and ostracism, Porter wrote in the booklet handed out at the forum.

*Only one candidate listed in the booklet was born in Broward Judge Elijah Williams. Two are natives of Miami-Dade County Sandra Perlman and Judge Porter.  

Two candidates were born in Havana Judges Carlos Rebollo and Carlos Rodriguez. Candidate Rhoda Sokoloff was born in Toronto, Canada.

*University of Florida School of Law educated six of the candidates, more than any other school.   Only one went to Florida State law school. 

*And candidate Bob Nichols summed up the problems with  judicial forums perfectly: “One minute is not enough time explain a lifetime.

11 Responses to “Preaching To The Choir: Average Voters Avoid Judicial Forum”

  1. SouthFLGIRL says:

    Best of luck to all the Judicial Candidates! I wish I went to the forum. This has been an exciting election year. Of course I’m partial to friends Judge Gillespie and Judge Rodriguez! Great guys. Better Judges! Hope they are retained!

  2. Floridan says:

    I attended a previous judicial candidates forum and considered it a colossal waste of time.

    The candidates are prevented from offering any useful information, so everyone talks about their experience (whether good or bad) and their fairness and compassion (which of course all contend is the reason they want to be a judge).

    Electing judges was proabably a good idea when most communities were small and rural, and the cases involved were simple. It makes much less sense in our modern urban environment.

    I would rather see our judges appointed.

  3. Steve says:

    I would agree that an appointment system, followed up by a retention election, which is done in many parts of the county is a preferable way to go.

    Wading through judicial candidates, even at forums where they really can’t tell you much, except for their background, is an exercise in futility.

    As a result, as mentioned above, often it’s the sound of a candidate’s surname that most impacts their election.

  4. As heard on Jaab says:

    Do you mean the Judy Stern that has been reported on Jaab as being in a confab with Ollie Parker after the meeting last night? The same Ollie that was the Mayor of an important city in Barbara Stern’s House Race.

    Hey its not a surprise, Judy Stern put Mindy Solomon up against a well qualified black female in Roshawn Banks.

    The same Judy Stern that got Rodriquez to change parties from being a Republican, the same way she did with Israel and her daughter Barbara to fool democratic voters.

    So I guess Stern is aligned with Jay Hurley now? I mean that is the only race that Spechler has been rumored to have encouraged an opponent to run, yes? Good to know the people need to know that Judy Eggeletion Jenne Stern is involved with the campaign of Jay Hurley.

    Thank for the info if a vote for Jay Hurley is a vote for Judy Stern, I will take a pass.

    If you want to elect candidates free of the taint of Judy Eggletion Jenne Stern then say no to Judge Rodriquez, Judge Hurley, candidates Mindy Solomon and Oliver Parker. As well for the County Commission, say no to Stern Candidates Margaret Bates and Angelo Castillo. Finally, don’t forget to vote no to her turncoat recently changed from Republican to Democrat daughter Barbara Stern.


  5. Broward Lawyer says:

    I have been told this Judy Stern has a lot of enemies. Does anyone, besides the person who commented above, know why?

  6. Politico says:

    She’s a bee-atch, maybe.
    An understatement for sure.

  7. Broward Lawyer says:

    To July 23, @11:49 am above:
    I know about Hurley’s campaign. Other than the fact that Jay knows Stern’s daughter, he has nothing to do with Judy Stern.
    If you have facts other than gossip, let us know. I trust that you are a friend of Jay’s opponent and are again trying to spread falsehoods.

  8. Skolnik Supporter says:

    Vote Skolnik. He is the best judge on the bench. Both the plaintiff and defense lawyers love him. RE-ELECT SKOLNIK. Thanks.

  9. Hurley Fan says:

    Next week at the county court forum I expect Jay Hurley to shine. He has kept the cost of jails down by streamlining magistrates court. This helps every taxpayer.

  10. Lobbyist? says:

    Interesting to see that Ken Gottlieb running for county court accepted the max allowed from “the Rubin Group” a firm that is dedicated to lobbying the government on behalf of interest groups.

  11. Teacher and Students says:

    I wish I knew about the Forum. My students would have attended. I work with adults with special needs (ex: Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome) between the ages of 21 and 25 years old. I teach life skills: cooking, shopping, etc. We all received the Broward County 2010 Primary Election Ballot and decided to make our next project on “How to elect a judge?” What qualifications should we look for? We came across some videos that were very helpful from

    The students have some questions they would like to ask the candidates.
    1. Are there any candidates who have presided over a case, prosecuted or represented a defendant who was found guilty, but it was later discovered the person was innocent?
    2. I’m in a wheelchair. I read a boy was not allowed to go to the bathroom and ended up having an accident in the court room. If my brief needed to be changed, would you as a Judge allow someone to change me?
    3. We learned a person is innocent until proven guilty. Do prosecutors believe that also?
    4. Do people with Autism have the right to vote?
    5. We were taught guns are bad, but one of the candidates said he owns a gun. Do you believe there should be some test or evaluation to determine whether a person should own a gun?