Thursday, September 24, 2020

Making the Case to VOTE NO on all FLORIDA JUDGES in 2020

    Floridians will face a lengthy ballot in 2020. Depending on what part of the state they live in, voters will be asked the same question four, five or even six times: "Should Judge so and so of the District Court of Appeal be retained in Office?" This year, there is one justice from the Florida Supreme Court (Carlos Muniz) and twenty-four judges from the five district courts of appeal up for retention. I am encouraging all Florida voters to vote NO on all of these judges. I will give my reasons but first a little history:

History and Georgraphy: In the early 1970's Florida courts were consumed by scandals, especially the Florida Supreme Court, whose members were popularly elected. Governor Reuben Askew led a series of judicial reforms that resulted in the merit selection system. The thinking was that judges should face the voters periodically and could be removed by election if they were corrupt or incompetent. No judge has ever lost a merit retention election in Florida, and these ballots rarely draw any attention.

      Voters should understand that the Florida Supreme Court only hears a limited number of cases, such as death penalty cases or when an issue has statewide importance. The District Courts of Appeal are intended to be the final stop for most appeals, whether civil or criminal. Florida is divided into five regions, so for instance, the First District covers north Florida, the Second District covers most of the west-central section, the Third District covers Miami-Dade and the Keys, the Fourth District covers the rest of south-east Florida, and the Fifth District stretches from the east coast to the west and includes Orlando.

Why Vote No? For years I advised voters who asked me, to vote yes on all judges. This was based in large part on direction from the Florida Bar. Each election the Florida Bar polls its members, finds they overwhelmingly support retention, then publishes a voter's guide that contain biographies of the candidates and descriptions of their job, and an admonition that none of the judges can discuss issues in any manner. The not so subtle message each election is that each judge should be retained, and I went along with this messaging in past elections.

  I have now been a member of the Florida Bar for 35 years. My first 23 years I worked almost exclusively as a criminal defense trial attorney handling major cases in the Sarasota Bradenton area. The past 12 years I began handling numerous appeals in the Second District Court of Appeal in Tampa. An appeal is of course important to someone who has been convicted and sentenced to prison and may represent their last chance at freedom. Appeals are also important for accountability, to make sure that trial judges and prosecutors are following the law, and to require new trials when the rules aren't followed. Therefore, it is very important to ensure these judges are doing their job. In my opinion, they aren't. 

    As mentioned above, the District Courts of Appeal are the final stop for almost all cases. So imagine for a second that you were unjustly accused and wrongfully convicted of a serious crime in Florida. Imagine you hired an attorney who agreed with you that serious mistakes had been made in your trial and agreed to represent you on appeal. Imagine that the attorney works on the case for months, files a compelling written brief of arguments in the court, then makes a powerful oral argument to the judges.  Now imagine that you get the ruling of the court; "Per Curiam Affirmed," commonly known as a PCA. You ask the lawyer what it means, and you are told it means that you lost the appeal, that the court is giving no reasons for their decision, and you have no opportunity for any further appeals.

   Presently, the District Courts of Appeal in Florida are issuing a PCA in approximately 75%  of all cases they hear. This means that three out of four times, the appeal is denied and nobody knows why, except the judges and they're not telling. This is a terrible state of affairs for the citizens of Florida and for their attorneys. On the other hand, trial judges and prosecutors delight in PCAs, taking them as a stamp of approval that they can get away with anything without consequences.

    Attorneys have been complaining about PCAs for as long as I have been practicing. We have a sneaking suspicion that PCAs are used in most cases as a result oriented device to cover up the many errors that occur in a trial court. As such, PCAs have been a tool of mass incarceration, filling our prisons with citizens who were illegally if not wrongfully convicted. Our complaints about PCA's have fallen on deaf ears, with appellate court judges justifying their use due to their alleged heavy work load. They also claim that PCAs are only used "when the points of law raised are so well settled that a further writing would serve no useful purpose." Elliott v Elliott, 648 So.2d  137, 138 (4th DCA 1994) In my experience, this statement is utterly and completely false. 

      I handled homicide cases for the most part, and these trials had numerous legal issues arise with no precedent in Florida law. These were substantial questions that needed definitive responses from the court, yet when I would appear for oral argument the judges showed little interest in the case or the issues. Invariably I would receive my PCA a few days later, giving me little confidence that the judges had considered my issues or even read the arguments. In my view, when Florida appellate judges are issuing PCAs in three out of four cases, they are not doing their job, and therefore should not be retained in office.

     My primary argument for voting NO on all Florida judges is that they are simply not doing their job. The problem is institutional and systemic, that is, the system is designed to fail, not to vindicate the constitutional rights of litigants. But why should an individual judge lose their job because of systemic failure? This leads to my next justification for voting NO on all judges -- politics. Every judge up for retention in 2020 was appointed by a Republican governor.

    In the past I have been leery about politicizing judicial races but that position feels naive now. Without a doubt, Florida judges have been politicized over the past 20 years. These days, membership in the Federalist Society seems like a prerequisite to being named judge. Though they deny it, the Federalist Society is a political organization whose primary goal is to dismantle the regulatory state for businesses while reducing constitutional protections for individual litigants. Judges who come out of the Federalist Society are chosen because they will vote a certain way, not for their fealty to the law.

  Voters in Florida have been given the power of the ballot and it is time that they use it. If you are dissatisfied with mass incarceration, judicial hostility to constitutional rights and judges who won't do their job, then VOTE NO. It is doubtful that this article will result in sufficient NO votes to remove any judge, and even if it did, Florida's Governor (who is in large part responsible for these judges) gets to appoint their replacements. Nevertheless, each NO vote will send a message to Florida's judiciary that they need to do better.

FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

All Florida voters will vote whether to retain Justice Carlos Muniz. Justice Muniz was appointed by Governor DeSantis in January of 2019. He has chosen to ignore binding United States Supreme Court precedent in death penalty cases. VOTE NO on Justice Carlos Muniz


FIRST DISTRICT COURT OF APPEAL

Joseph Lewis, Jr. was appointed by Jeb Bush in 2001. VOTE NO to retain Judge Lewis.

Scott Makar was appointed by Rick Scott in 2012. VOTE NO to retain Judge Makar.

Rachel Nordby was appointed by Ron DeSantis in October of 2019. VOTE NO to retain Judge Nordby.

Tim Osterhaus was appointed by Rick Scott in 2013. VOTE NO to retain Judge Osterhaus.

Clay Roberts was appointed by Charlie Crist in 2007. Roberts was the director of the Florida Division of Elections during the disastrous 2000 presidential election. VOTE NO to retain Judge Roberts.

Adam S. Tanenbaum was appointed by Ron DeSantis in October 2019. VOTE NO to retain Judge Tanenbaum.


SECOND DISTRICT COURT OF APPEAL

Drew Atkinson was appointed by Rick Scott in 2018. VOTE NO on Judge Atkinson.

Morris Silberman was appointed by Jeb Busch in 2001. VOTE NO on Judge Silberman.

Daniel H. Sleet was appointed by Rick Scott in 2012. VOTE NO on Judge Sleet.

Andrea Teves Smith was appointed by Rick Scott in January of 2019. VOTE NO on Judge Smith.


THIRD DISTRICT COURT OF APPEAL

Monica Gordo was appointed by Ron DeSantis in 2019. VOTE NO on Judge Gordo.

Eric William Hendon was appointed by Rick Scott in 2018. VOTE NO on Judge Hendon.

Fleur Jeannine Lobree was appointed by Ron DeSantis in 2019. VOTE NO on Judge Lobree.

Thomas Logue was appointed by Rick Scott in 2012. VOTE NO on Judge Logue.

Bronwyn Catherine Miller was appointed by Rick Scott in 2018. VOTE NO on Judge Miller.


FOURTH DISTRICT COURT OF APPEAL

 Alan O. Forst was appointed by Rick Scott in 2013. VOTE NO to retain Judge Forst.

Mark W. Klingensmith was appointed by Rick Scott in 2013. VOTE NO to retain Judge Klingensmith.

Martha C. Warner was appointed by Bob Martinez in 1989. VOTE NO to retain Judge Warner.


FIFTH DISTRICT COURT OF APPEAL

Kerry I. Evander was appointed by Jeb Bush in 2006. VOTE NO to retain Judge Evander.

John M. Harris was appointed by Rick Scott in 2018. VOTE NO to retain Judge Harris.

Richard B. Orfinger was appointed by Jeb Bush in 2000. VOTE NO to retain Judge Orfinger.

Meredith Sasso was appointed by Rick Scott in January, 2019. VOTE NO to retain Judge Sasso.

F. Rand Wallis was appointed by Rick Scott in 2013. VOTE NO to retain Judge Wallis.


The Florida Bar provides official biographies on all candidates.

48 comments:

  1. Thank you. This was a real education to me. I'll share w other thinkers. Joan McKniff, Sarasota

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    1. Sadly I believe this blog is very misleading U.S. JUDICARY SYSTEM is currently infiltrated by Globalist with a lot of money as "Soros's" they are now paying for lawless prosecutors and Judges that will let as many bad people go as they can. If you see what is happening with Democrat States bailing out ANTIFA rioters that destroyed millions in property- not having them go to court for crimes -you get it. Keep all the Judges they want you to vote out! Their wish is for U.N. to take over U.S. open borders with a communist state.

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    2. Sorry but it’s misleading.. bar ass. I have no use for them. Sounds like a Democrat to me. But who am I to say that. This is for Madagascar.

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    3. It seems you don't quite understand how this works. Basically you're naive to what happens. A lot of these judges flip flop from party to party (Republican to Democrat to Independent) to fit their agenda and those who will help them get appointed. So we're dealing with a systematic approach to things in the judicial system. So if the corruption is happening, who gives a sh*t what party this man is affiliated with? I suggest you Wikipedia some of these judges and see how from year to year they've flip flopped through different party affiliations.

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    4. It seems you don't quite understand how this works. Basically you're naive to what happens. A lot of these judges flip flop from party to party (Republican to Democrat to Independent) to fit their agenda and those who will help them get appointed. So we're dealing with a systematic approach to things in the judicial system. So if the corruption is happening, who gives a sh*t what party this man is affiliated with? I suggest you Wikipedia some of these judges and see how from year to year they've flip flopped through different party affiliations.

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    5. Thank you now I know to vote yes to what you said vote no to.

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  2. Hi Adam. Thanks for this perspective. I have a question - how are PCAs handled in other states? Is this a common problem and complaint, or unique to Florida?

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    1. Is there a way to vote out the use of or limit the PCAs?

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  3. Hi Adam. Thanks for this I perspective. I have a question - how are PCAs handled in other states? Is this a common problem and complaint, or unique to Florida?

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  4. Thank you Adam for pointing out this problem in our justice system. In my last seven years of practicing with you we both saw this problem but could do nothing about it. I just hope that your article will reach a lot of Florida voters so they might better understand why their NO vote may have an impact on these judges. We can only hope.

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  5. Hi Adam: Thanks for this well-thought-out argument. I agree with voting out Muniz - I don't like the fact that he worked for deVos, and he has too many other ties to the current Republican administration to be a fair jurist. He is also too young, in my opinion. However, I disagree with you about voting out the Court of Appeals judges. It is true that they were all appointed by Republican governors, but they have all been serving for quite a long time and have decent resumes (I looked them all up). If we get rid of them, deSantis will be able to appoint new ones, and in my opinion, that would be worse. I believe we should choose the lesser of two evils here.

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    1. Hello Patricia, Maybe you should read the book, "Just Mercy", and you might change your mind on the District Court of Appeal Judges. I agree with Adam that they are not doing their job. They take the easy way and do not even consider the facts on appeal. The children who are incarcerated to life imprisonment without parole, for instance. I couldn't agree more with NO for Muniz as well. Some of his decisions--on guns and women-- are not to my liking.

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  6. Well, this is certainly an eye-opening read. My gut has been telling me to vote no on the judges for years and I've done it a time or two when I couldn't find time to research. I'll still do the research to be sure I don't bounce anyone undeserving (such as Nordby this year since she's newly appointed) but I'll dang sure give the boot to others who have been around for too long. I shared this with my Facebook friends as well. Thank you for the insight, Adam!

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  7. Thank you, Adam. This was very informative and helped me make a more informed decision. I plan on voting NO for all the judges and surely hope that others will read your comments and vote accordingly. I would suggest that everyone should read the book, "Just Mercy", by Bryan Stevenson. That book opened my eyes to the injustice that exists in the legal system and your comments here have confirmed what I read in his book.

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  8. Thank you for detailed explanations, made it much easier to decide!

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  9. This has been an eye opener to me. I, like the comment above would be worried if enough "no" votes voted a Judge out and then give DeSantis the opportunity to appoint more Judges of his choice. I surely do not trust DeSantis' character to do this. However, point well made to vote no, so I will with the exception of Judge John Harris, Fifth District Court of Appeal - not too long appointed and I have some experience with him. Beverley

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  10. Thank you. I am spreading the word for anyone who hasn't voted yet.

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  11. Replies
    1. You all are being played. This is a political activist trying to undermine the Florida judicial system. Wake up and do your own research on the judges then decide.

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  12. THANK YOU FOR THIS INFORMATIVE INFORMATION.

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  13. You fail to show a valid reason to vote NO so I will vote YES and I will persuade family and friends to do the same. You seem to forget the fact that it will cost Florida tax payers over 1.5 million per candidate if we have to elect new members to those District Courts so NO to your no

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    1. I agree with you for the most part. If they’ve done a good job vote yes. Occasionally, you’ll find a Judge who’s in someone’s pocket and it becomes public knowledge. I read up on them and if it’s political play, I vote no. It’s always worthwhile to search each Judge’s name for any big issues. I’ve done it for years and it doesn’t take much time at all! Best to get Absentee ballot so you’re not surprised by something on the ballot when you get to the polls! Plus it gets mailed out early enough to give you time to check everything/everyone out!

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    2. I agree with you for the most part. If they’ve done a good job vote yes. Occasionally, you’ll find a Judge who’s in someone’s pocket and it becomes public knowledge. I read up on them and if it’s political play, I vote no. It’s always worthwhile to search each Judge’s name for any big issues. I’ve done it for years and it doesn’t take much time at all! Best to get Absentee ballot so you’re not surprised by something on the ballot when you get to the polls! Plus it gets mailed out early enough to give you time to check everything/everyone out!

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    3. I agree with you for the most part. If they’ve done a good job vote yes. Occasionally, you’ll find a Judge who’s in someone’s pocket and it becomes public knowledge. I read up on them and if it’s political play, I vote no. It’s always worthwhile to search each Judge’s name for any big issues. I’ve done it for years and it doesn’t take much time at all! Best to get Absentee ballot so you’re not surprised by something on the ballot when you get to the polls! Plus it gets mailed out early enough to give you time to check everything/everyone out!

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  14. All cases are determined by the weight of evidence, oral argument does little to move the needle in any direction when the evidence beyond any doubts proves the case. As you know Adam, oral argument is only effective when the evidence lacks grounds to determine the case. Your reasoning above is more political than rational, is irrelevant to any case is the judge shows any interest, that as you know Adam does not determine the case. Your argument fails to give any valid point to prove your allegation that they are not doing the job...based on what Adam? Your oral argument in this case failed.

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  15. Wade Hopping on the Florida Supreme Court was not retained by voters.

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  16. One could take it that lower level judges mostly, are accurately interpreting the law.

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  17. Some individuals become radicalized by Facebook conspiracies & alt-right ideas, completely missing the idea behind this article (and behind riots apparently, which are simply over-reported instances used to fear-monger individuals). Some are too easily persuaded by any explanation that makes them feel comfortable rather than being critical and analyzing all information and the systems providing it.

    This article was good insight. It won't completely dictate my decisions, but it definitely provided some valuable perspective.

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  18. thank you for making sense on this...

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  19. where can we find each judge's individual record? All the no's above to be politically motivated because they were not otherwise individually sustantiated.

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    1. Search on each Judge’s name. If there are issues, there will be articles. You need to decide if it’s a political hit job or responsible reporting. (i.e., if there’s lots of news about a judge - pay attention. If it’s an opinion piece, it’s probably politically motivated!). Read all you can on the Judges. I get Absentee ballot because it comes early enough for me to research them and all amendments too!

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  20. Can’t help but notice these are all republican appointments and the blog writer is not clearly stating who s/he is with all due respect. Florida legislators & Bar ASSOCS need to clean up their own acts and stop politicizing the COURT SYSTEM. It’s a travesty starting with DOG COURT and GATED COMMUNITIES equating to plantation=master=slave must end.

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  21. This is a crazy position to take! I never just vote no or yes. I have gotten an absentee ballot for years for this purpose. I get it nice and early before the election. I am able to research everyone on the ballot. I can find out the issues that have arisen due to some judges actions or non-actions. I can take my time and evaluate whether this judge or politician should be re-elected or a new person should replace them. Voting YES OR NO on whether to retain these Judges is wrong. Each should be evaluated independent of who appointed them. Each should be evaluated independently for their decisions in court cases overall. If you don’t agree with their decisions then vote them as no. If they have done a good job then give them more opportunity to do a good job. This should be evaluated each time we have an election. I do this every time I get an absentee ballot and I know I’ve done a thorough job of the privilege of the right to vote. These decisions are too important to just put a yes or a no every time because it’s someone else’s opinion and seems like an easy way out. If you’re going to vote, Vote responsibly!

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  22. I know that there is no perfect system and that at times, decisions can be handed down arbitrarily,and that its never good to leave officers in their positions indefinitely. So, I am voting to remove the ones that have been in their positions a long time and am voting in new blood. Not the best system but as voters, we should be forewarned about these ballots a lot longer so as to be able to make a more informed decision.

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  23. Thanks for the juridical education. I am voting NO on all 5th
    FIFTH DISTRICT COURT OF APPEAL JUDGES.

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  24. Thank you for facts not containing labels people love to use when they are pretty likely to never be before any of the judges themselves.

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  25. Did a little research on this guy and his opinions. He is a registered Democrat and of course he wants all the above people voted out. They were all appointed by Republicans.

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  26. Thanks for your advice but your obvious Dem leaning prompts me to vote YES!

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  27. Agreed. Not doing their job. Plenty of other qualified candidates who will. Times change, and so should the people

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  28. lot of biased appointments by biased governors. got to be a better way

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  29. I voted YES to all the judges! Spent hours researching all the judges/issues on the ballot! It was like going back to college! Geez!

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  30. Know your author, here is Mr. Tebrugge....a failed, embittered Democrat candidate...Tebrugge ran in the 2012 election for Florida House of Representatives District 71. Tebrugge ran unopposed in the Democratic primary on August 14, 2012, and was defeated by incumbent Jim Boyd (R) in the general election, which took place on November 6, 2012.[2]
    [hide]Florida House of Representatives, District 71, General Election, 2012
    Party Candidate Vote % Votes
    Republican Green check mark transparent.pngJim Boyd Incumbent 55.9% 41,734
    Democratic Adam Tebrugge 44.1% 32,875
    Total Votes 74,609

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  31. Thank you very much for this insight. I'm glad I sat down to research before making selections. I followed your guide and selected "NO" for all. I happen to be a family member of an inmate who is fighting for their life after receiving a 20 year sentence. An over sentence for the crime committed. Thanks again.

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