Judge vs. Judge: Seidman Runs Against Lebow…For Now


In a stunning move, a Broward county court judge has announced plans to run against one of his colleagues on the circuit court bench.

Lee Seidman called off his re-election campaign to the county court today, saying in a letter he planned to run against Circuit Judge Susan Lebow.

Seidman gave a letter to the Broward Supervisors of Elections Office which stated his intention of running against Lebow.  He was reported flying today to Tallahassee to formally file.

But Seidman is so capricious that he could change his mind when he reaches the state Elections Division office.  His decision won’t be final until Friday at noon, when filing closes.

Regardless, this is the first time in my memory an incumbent county court judge announced plans to run against a circuit court incumbent.

The move was widely expected since Seidman has been telling folks for months he was planning to run against “Let ‘Em Go Lebow,” using the disbaraging nickname

The nickname comes from Lebow’s reputation as a judge who defends the rights of the accused.  She is a favorite of defense lawyers.

If Seidman goes through with his challenge of Lebow, it is sure to erode his backing among the Broward Bar.  Lebow has been in office more than two decades and enjoys a great deal of support.

The treasurer of  his re-election campaign was at one time Kevin Kulik, who has a great deal of influence among his fellow criminal defense attorneys.  It is Kulik who marshalled many of the challenges against incumbent judges…but not Lebow.

“I am no longer his (Seidman’s) treasurer,” Kulik said. “I support Judge Lebow.”

Kulik predicted that a lot attorneys who supported Seidman’s re-election would withdraw their backing.

“Lots of his support came from criminal defense attorneys.  They like Judge Lebow,” Kulik said.

Some big civil firms like Ruden McClosky also are expected to pull their backing of Seidman.

Some courthouse types speculate that Seidman is courting the defense attorneys by protecting Lebow. 

 This speculation contends that Seidman is saying that he will run against Lebow to keep other formidable candidates from filing against her.  The theory is that at the last minute, Seidman will switch races.

Such a switcheroo would allow Seidman to keep his defense attorney support. 

I know Seidman plays very close to the vest.  He is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, to steal a phrase from Winston Churchill.   But this would be very Machiavellian…even for Seidman!

 Lebow is one of the courthouse’s most controversial judges.  She earned her disbaraging nickname “Let ‘Em Go Lebow” because she has dismissed cases against several high profile defendants, citing either prosecutoral misconduct or a lack of evidence.

“Everybody complains about her being defense-oriented judge.  If they were a defendant, wouldn’t they want a judge who looked out for their rights and forced the prosecution to prove the charges?  That’s what Lebow believes in,” said one defense attorney, who is friendly to both judges.

What is lost in the media roar over a handful of cases is that Lebow has sentenced many deserving criminals to death or long prison terms.

Here is one of dozens of stories from the Sun-Sentinel:

“Denise O’Neill had just put her key in the lock of her front door when she was grabbed from behind, blindfolded with a towel and dragged into her neighbor’s apartment, where she was beaten, held captive for hours and eventually strangled.

On Thursday, Broward Circuit Judge Susan Lebow sentenced Luis “Chris” Caballero to death for the July 1995 murder in West Palm Beach.

Lebow followed an 8-4 recommendation by jurors last March that Caballero, now 27, should die for the crime.”

Lebow has several political factors working in her favor.

She is a Jewish female running in an August primary where older Jewish women will be a big bloc of voters.

Lebow has experience running in an election, having first won a seat on the bench in 1985.  She was appointed to the circuit court in 1992 by Gov. Lawton Chiles.

Also in her favor: She is a Democrat in heavily Democratic Broward, while Seidman was appointed by a Republican governor.

Lebow’s family is part of South Florida’s history. Her father Irving “Doc” Lebow was a car dealer who dominated TV screens from the 1950’s to the 1970s.  He was called “Doc” because he would say he only sold healthy used cars.

He founded the first Toyota dealership in Broward along Oakland Park Boulevard.

Seidman is known as loner in the courthouse who allegedly packs guns in court.  He will run his campaign as a law-and-order candidate against the more defense-oriented Lebow.

Seidman’s dramatic shift  Wednesday leaves three candidates running for his county court seat — Mardi Anne Levey Cohen, Nate Klitsberg and Frantz “Jahra” McLawrence

One other candidate — Jill Tamkin Rafilovich — is already running against Lebow.

6 Responses to “Judge vs. Judge: Seidman Runs Against Lebow…For Now”

  1. Interesting Fact says:

    I hear that Lebow has the most Defendants of Death Row of any Judge in the State of Florida. I would like to see Lee counter that one if he starts calling her let em go lebow.

  2. OWL says:

    From 1998, here is another one:

    A Miramar man convicted of two first-degree murders was sentenced to Death Row on Thursday.

    Broward Judge Susan Lebow sentenced Alex Pagan for the execution- style murders of Freddie Lee Jones Jr. and his stepson, Michael Lynn, 5, during a home-invasion robbery in February 1993.

    Judge Lebow is an excellent Judge. She isn’t afraid of following the law which sometimes requires unpopular decisions. Most other Broward Judges do whatever they can just to get re-elected, even if it costs the taxpayers millions of dollars when cases have to be litigated on appeal and re-tried over and over.

    I hope Mr. Kulik does his job and writes individual letters to each and every contributor to her opponent and informs them of their right to have contributions returned.

  3. Dennis Roth says:

    Judge Susan Lebow is experienced, capable and fair. The ONLY clear choice. Has full support of Broward.

  4. disenchanted says:

    sorry to say, she is by her history almost totaly pro accused and negative as to the rights of the victims. let em go lebow is, to state it mildly, a just appelation.

  5. Letemgo says:

    Lebow is a very nice person. Seidman is not so nice. However Seidman is the better judge. Lebow is not just pro accused she is anti-state. To the point that it turned so personal she dismissed a murder case! Sorry to say my vote goes to Seidman.

  6. Ft Laud Attorney says:

    Lebow v Seidman election guarantees one sure loser: the residents of Broward County. Both are bad judges, albeit for very different reasons.