As you vote today, I wanted to lend some editorial comment to the local judicial races.Many of the candidates who are facing opposition are minorities, just like you.


Eminently qualified jurists with Hispanic names could be bumped from the bench by ethnically correct names.

On one hand, judicial seats are elective, even though gubernatorial appointments allow vacancies to be filled by a merit selection process, after undergoing screening by lawyers’ judicial review committees. Those candidates, however, usually were filling out a term and eventually had to run for election. In the past, it was a cakewalk with few opponents. Not so this year in Broward.

Let’s make it clear. No one has an absolute right to a seat on the bench, and persons selected by Governors Bush and Crist should rightfully be screened carefully by the LGBT community. But it is more than suspicious that even the most eminently qualified Hispanic and African American jurists have opponents. Think about it. This is a county with nearly 100 jurists, of whom less than 7 or 8 are minorities, and they all have opposition.

Let’s not kid anyone or fool ourselves. The opponents running against these persons are not running against their qualifications. They are running against their names. Just because the incumbents have no right to the seat does not mean it is right to run against them. What is right is not always popular, and what is popular is not always right. The LGBT community should know this personally and exercise their rights accordingly.

Judges Carlos Rebollo and Carlos A. Rodriguez, along with Judges Elijah Williams, Mary Rudd Robinson, and Kenneth Gillespie are Hispanic and African American respectively. The LGBT community should applaud minorities who have overcome adversity and served with distinction.

These jurists should be of course measured not by the color of their skin but the content of their character. Individually, even before they reached the bench, their careers were marked by public service in the Public Defender’s Office, the Legal Service Corporation or as counsel for the Sheriff.

Do they have an absolute right to assume the seat is theirs forever?

No, of course not.

Was there a cause to challenge them and create the possibility our bench will have even less minorities serving? No, absolutely not.

So too has our community member, Lisa Porter, served a tenure with honor and stature, first as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Florida, now in a robe on the Circuit Court bench. She too warranted no opposition, but it will be up to us to see that she is elected in Group 47. Turn out, and allow for others to see the visibility and strength of the LGBT community.

We even have a chance to elect a gay congressman in South Florida. Sadly, in the heat of the summer, Scott Galvin’s candidacy has not effectively been covered by the media or supported in the gay community. There are just too many races, too little time, and too few pages newspapers can afford to publish.

Locally, too, Justin Flippen has presented himself as a credible LGBT candidate immersed in a difficult primary against an incumbent being funded by anti gay forces. So we must stand by him. How can you do better than finding a person like Angelo Castillo, who has run an AIDS organization, Broward House, to serve at the County Commission, with a gay Mayor, Ken Keechl? We are indeed fortunate to have local voices speaking to our issues and listening to our aspirations.

Some of these judicial races are tough calls, but candidates like Susan Lebow, John Hurley, Matt Destry, Linda Pratt, and Peter Skolnick have stood the test of time. Even though many of their opponents have excellent resumes, insufficient cause has been put forth as to why these individuals should not be returned to the bench to serve our community. Other challengers, like Steven Schaet and Lloyd Golburgh have demonstrated superb legal skills, a fine demeanor, and deserve the right to serve our community.

Open races are so much tougher to call, because you do not know the mettle of the person about to become a judge, but both Sandra Pearlman and Mindy Solomon have shown in the public defender’s office they are extraordinary and experienced trial lawyers with distinguished careers. More candidates with those kinds of trial backgrounds belong on the bench. A shakeup here or there is in order just to remind the powers that be that they cannot be entrenched forever.

 


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