What’s In A Name? In Judicial Races, Everything

Guest Columnist

To paraphrase an observation about the weather: “Everybody talks about the screwed up judicial races, but “nobody wants to do anything about them.
The latest “nobodies are the Sun-Sentinel and The Broward County Bar Association.
In a year with the most judicial races in the history of Broward County, both have indicated that they intend to do less than they have ever done before.
What’s a voter to do?   Probably pick a judicial candidate based on the candidates’ name.

On May 7, the Sun-Sentinel published an editorial promoting the importance of voters studying judicial candidates:  “Don’t let these races be decided by something other than legal acumen.
They forgot mention that, because the editorial board is too busy* to interview the numerous candidates, the Sun-Sentinel won’t be issuing endorsements. 
The Broward Bar Association says it does not have money to do the online evaluation of judicial candidates it has done for so many years.
There will be a paucity of information coming from underfunded judicial campaigns (you need about $250,000 to make a real impact).  Newspaper endorsements and reprints of the Broward County Bar Association, with all their shortcomings, might have been the best impartial information that many voters would have gotten.
 Let me go one step further.

I believe that well over half of voters in judicial races will decide who to vote for by looking at the ballot on election day.  The ballot will only provide gender and possibly ethnicity.
[Caveat 1.

Hours after I lost my judicial race to Marcia Beach in 2000 I was at a tavern with Browardbeat.com’s Jim Kane, a pollster.

Sometime after the second, or was it the third drink, he explained to me that one of the reasons I lost was that her name was better than mine.  In other words, people like a “beach more than a “field. 

To prove his point he randomly surveyed the women at the bar asking them if they would rather vote for a “field or a “beach.  Damned if he was not right!

Now this informal survey might have been skewed, because it was confined to young, good-looking women.  But you get the point.]
Which brings me to Public Defender Howard Finkelstein.

Recently on Browardbeat.com, Howard lamented ethnic voting.  He rightly pilloried candidates who decide to run against a particular candidate based on ethnicity.
[Caveat 2:

A name may not reveal true ethnicity.  Olga Levine and Frieda Goldstein changed their names for the ballot.  Unless they went through a conversion, neither is Jewish.  I doubt one-in-50 voters will know that.]
So how will voters decide which candidate to vote for? 
Mr. Gomez goes into the booth and sees it is “Goldberg verses Morales.  Without any other information it is a sure bet he will vote for Morales.  In essence, he figures is that, if nothing else, a judge named Morales won’t hold it against litigants because they are Spanish.
So when we count up the votes in South Florida we quickly learn that Morales is a better name in Dade.  Goldberg is a better name in Broward.  
It’s not that people are bigots; it’s that they have little other information to help them make a decision.
And thanks to the Sun-Sentinel and The Broward County Bar Association they will have even less than usual.

(*FROM BUDDY: I am assured by a source that the newspaper is doing a “complete” editorial page explainer on the judicial races.)

26 Responses to “What’s In A Name? In Judicial Races, Everything”

  1. Why Lie Sam says:

    Olga Levine has always been known around the courthouse as Olga Levine, that is her name. She didnt change her name, she decided to use a middle initial of “G”.

    Freida Goldstein? alot of people have said a lot of things about her, I have not heard she practiced under a maiden or name other than Goldstien.

    Both candidates have elected to use names they have a right to use. The point of running for office is winning an election. It is not their fault that the electorate is ingorant and chooses their candidates by the ethnicity of a candidates name.


    Actually, Olga’s Bar license is in the name of Olga Maria Gonzalez-Levine.

    Goldstein’s Bar license is Frieda M. Goldstein. Her full name is Frieda Montanti Goldstein.

  2. Three Legged Bar Stool says:

    if i am not mistaken, samuel, i believe in the last set of elections, 9 out of 10 judicial candidates’ names who were first on the ballot, won.

    Coincidence, ….nope, not from my perspective.

    Comments, thoughts, Buddy and/or Sam?


    It is not a coincidence. Here is your political science lesson for the day:

    Numerous studies by political scientists have found that the first candidate listed on a ballot has an advantage of around 2.5 percent of the vote.

    This is especially true in races like Broward’s judicial races. Several studies have examined down-ballot races like judicial contests that are overshadowed by more visible races. It was found that first place on the ballot counts for even more in these contests because of the lack of information about the candidates and the natural bias in people to pick the first position.

    It is also more important when candidates lack other identifiers, such as party label.

    I know of no study which has examined whether ethnic cues, such as names, would offset this first position effect. But in Broward two years ago, Catalina Avalos lost to Ian Richards even thought she was listed first on the ballot. I believe that is the clearest evidence that ethnic cues were more important to voters than first place position.

    In 2008, five out of the six judicial winners in the primary were listed in first place on the ballot. In 2006, five out of seven primary winners were in the first position.

    Some states rotate the names on the ballot to offset this effect. In Florida, the names are listed alphabetically.

  3. Rastas says:

    The serial ethnic cleansing of goy judges in Broward continues, it seems. Can you imagine the fabricated, high-decibel outrage if it were Jewish judges who were being systematically terminated? You can bet the New York Times and CBS would be down here wringing their hands in pure moral dudgeon.

  4. sam fields says:

    My name was first in the primary and the general election and I lost

  5. sam fields says:

    That has been happening in Dade and I have not noticed an outcry from The Times, CBS, etc

  6. Broward Lawyer says:

    Sorry Sam but you don’t know what your talking about. Miami-Dade has not been practicing judicial ethnic cleansing, quite to the contrary. Case in point a guy named Milton Hirsch just won an open seat unopposed. Miami is fortunate to have real leaders within the legal community that promote judges that are qualified, not judges named Kaplan, Goldstein and Cohen. That happens here in Broward. Get your facts right before you speak.

  7. Law firm man says:

    Dear Broward Lawyer:
    Miami Dade has one difference from Broward. No Howard Finkelstein.

    Howard, along with his flunkies at JAAblog and sites like this, are intent on turning the courthouse into a revolving door where criminals get a slap on the wrist and are shown the door to the street.

  8. Howard the racist says:

    IMHO I think Howard Finkelstien is a racist. He has made it clear on this blog that he only objects to Jews running against minorities using the name game. He made an exception for war hero’s. After that the average white male or female non jew judge can lose to a jewish person playing the name game all day long. Look at Jakovich and Levine, Destry is a good criminal judge and Luzzo hasn’t had a criminal division in years.

  9. Jane says:

    Sam, did it ever occur to you that you lost precisely because too many voters DID know you? Further, identity politics has been the politics of choice on the left for decades; seems like you got burned by your own beliefs.

    That’s exactly what I’ve been telling Sam for years!!!

  10. Politico says:

    Sam, People remember you from the Scott Cowan days. Just a thought.

  11. Sam Fields says:

    When you loose a race by such a thin margin as I did in November 2000 you can attribute it to a lot of things.

    Nevertheless I contend 90% of the voters did not know much if anything about the judicial candidates.

    None of the original three, Marcia Beach, Jay Hurley or me, had the kind of money it would take to make a serious public presence.

    On top of that in November I am pretty sure that most of the voters were focusing on Gore and Bush and not Fields and Beach.

    As a historical note Judge Beach and I have the distinction of appearing on the infamous “Chad Ballot” which makes us a footnote to a footnote in American history.

    Considering my inability to keep my opinions to myself I suspect, had I won, I would have gotten into of whole hell of a lot of trouble.

    Let me also add that Marcia Beach has been running the Drug Court for the last six years and she has done a great job turning around thousands with substance abuse problems.

    Dear Broward lawyer
    So you don’t think there is ethnic voting in Dade. Check with Judges Peter Adrien or Henry Harnage for starters.

    Two incumbent judges, Ed Newman and Flora Seff, have be challenged by Hispanics. There is more. Beginning with dozens of newspaper stories.

    Hirsch is the exception that proves the rule

    To believe that ethnic politics are a Broward phenomena not found in Dade demonstrates a profound level of ignorance of what is going on.

  12. Sam Fields says:


    I agree that did not help my candidacy

  13. Floridan says:

    Remind me again why electing judges is superior to having them appointed? Or, for that matter, picking names out of a hat?

  14. Rastas says:

    Looks like the ethnic cleansing of non-Jewish judges has spread to Palm Beach County, judging by the names of the people involved. From today’s Post:

    WEST PALM BEACH — Outraged that a traffic ticket attorney who practices in Hollywood is campaigning to oust one of Palm Beach County’s most beloved judges, some of the county’s top lawyers are trying to figure out ways to get the suburban Boynton Beach man thrown off the August ballot.

    And attorney Jason Diamond, who filed last month to run against County Judge August Bonavita, has given them plenty of fodder.

    In a case reminiscent of the one that kept traffic attorney William Abramson from assuming the bench after he defeated incumbent Circuit Judge Richard Wennet in 2008, Diamond has gotten into trouble with the Florida Bar.

    Like Abramson, he was suspended from the practice of law. Unlike Abramson, who was suspended for 91 days after his election, Diamond was suspended for three days in February 2006.

    However, those three days could prove to be his political undoing, say attorneys who support Bonavita and are researching the legal issues swirling around Diamond’s candidacy.

    According to the state constitution, a county judge candidate must have been a member of the Florida Bar for the preceding five years. Because of the three-day suspension for repeatedly violating Bar advertising rules, Diamond doesn’t have five years of uninterrupted service, critics say.

  15. The Long Black Robe (ret.) says:

    When Sam was running for judge, he was very upset by the media who kept connecting him with Scott Cowan Cowan was on trial at the time for campaign violations and many times when they mentioned Cowan, they mentioned Fields. Many in the courthouse believed it was unfair.
    Cowan is apparently Fields’ friend. Fields had nothing to do with Cowan’s problems and he was tarred solely by his friendship.

  16. Atheist Fields says:

    Did any voter know that Fields was an atheist when he ran for judge? How could Fields have taken an oath of office, swearing to a God he doesn’t believe in? How would he allow witnesses to be sworn in?

  17. typical lobbiest says:

    The new book out on BSO talks about a lobbiest named Same Fields who represented a private company that almost took over running the jail in the ealry 90s, Cowan’s heyday. When your best buddy, not Buddy, is a kingpin on the Broward Commission and you are the popular lobbiest you ask to get tied in for good or for bad.

  18. No-Name says:

    ok, let’s talk about names….

    Sam— why write this expose and not include the fact that Jordan Jordan changed his name to Jordan Breslaw or vice versa? He is playing a losing name game. Jordan legally abandoned his name Breslaw in 1991 to use his first name as his last name… so weird. And now he fraudulently tries to use the name he legally abandoned.

    What about F.J. McLawrence? The proud Domincan man who cannot use his real name on the ballot. Crazy huh? I love these people who tout themselves as honorable and dignified and having integrity and then play a name switch thing. What’s Jahra hiding? What’s wrong with his birth name?

    BTW Buddy… did you check out his FAcebook- McLawrence for Haiti fundraiser? A CLEAR ethical violation tying in a fundraiser for charity with a fundraiser for his campaign. Ouch! Can you say…. ethics?

  19. Politico says:

    @The Long Black Robe (ret.) says:
    “May 14th, 2010 at 5:57 am
    When Sam was running for judge, he was very upset by the media who kept connecting him with Scott Cowan Cowan was on trial at the time for campaign violations and many times when they mentioned Cowan, they mentioned Fields. Many in the courthouse believed it was unfair.
    Cowan is apparently Fields’ friend. Fields had nothing to do with Cowan’s problems and he was tarred solely by his friendship.

    Think you missed the boat judge. It’s not the friendship that’s the problem, it was the wheeling and dealing that went on with development in SW Broward. Many people I’m sure, including myself, remember. In my mind’s eye, Sam Fields was up to his eyeballs in that business.

  20. no name aka mardi says:

    Typical racist Mardi already going negative on McLawrence. Too bad you failed to mention that your name games in 2008 that started all this crap. Mardi stick with sneaking around the courthouse taking camera phone pics of Steve Melnick. Hopefull the people will say no to you again and the JQC will give you hubby the boot. With you guys and the Seidmans gone this county will be a much better place

  21. Three Legged Bar Stool says:

    Buddy mentions Catalina being first on ballot and losing. BUT she lost by 1,500 votes countywide, whereas the 2 hispanic males were not first on the ballot and got killed by dramatic margins.

    Buddy? your thoughts, please.

  22. guess who says:

    Ask Pepe Lopez and other prominent hispanics they know that Judy Stern ran Ian Richards campaign

  23. Sam Fields says:

    Dear Atheist Sam Fields

    Not to worry. The Constitution prohibits a religious test to hold office. From time to time it has been ignored by religious loonies like you.

    It has also been corrupted to insert god bullshit into our secular nation. For example The “so help me god” crap that tails the oath of office for President is not found in the Constitution. To the contrary, Article II Sec 2 has a completely secular oath of office.

    Dear Typical Lobbyist

    I never lobbied land use issues. The only two issues I ever lobbied for were plastic lumber (beginning years before Sue Gunzberger went on the County Commission) and allowing a private company to bid on jail services.

    I would defend both until this day.

    The only impact I had on land use was promoting two bond issues to buy up vacant land. Both passed and as a result thousands of acres of developable land are now parks and not homes contributing to congestion.

    You think you know me? You don’t know jack about me.

    Dear No-name

    I don’t know what to say about Jordan Breslaw, Jordan Jordan back to Jordan Breslaw. It sounds nutty to me. It’s enough reason not to support this guy.

    FROM BUDDY: Sam lobbied for Better Than Wood, the company that made recycled plastic benches and that Sue Gunzburger’s husband owned.

  24. Sam Fields says:


  25. Sam Fields says:

    I just remembered I lobbied my city (Plantation) to put in a second swimming pool at Central Park. At the time I was on the Masters Swim team. (succeeded)

    I also lobbied the city to open the bidding process for ambulance services. (Failed)

    I still think it was a good idea notwithstanding that it, along with the jail issue, eliminated union support when I ran for judge.

    I sleep well.

  26. typical lobbiest says:

    I never said you lobbied land use issues. One must wonder how a successful criminal attorney just hapens to become a lobbiest on a major issue like turning over the jail to a private company? One and one reason only, your best bud was a vital vote on the County Commission. So what was Cowan’s vote on this issue? Hey there is nothing wrong with it, it’s legal, but don’t sell yourself better than the greedy opportunist who sold your friendship for votes and cash. I am sure you sleep well at night, Rothstien probably did as fell before last Fall.