Voter’s Guide to the Miami-Dade Downballot – Part III: County Court

As I wrote in Part II, about the Circuit Court races,

Unlike most law professors I know, I support the idea of judicial elections at the state level, although if it were up to me I'd have the executive branch pick judges, perhaps with legislative confirmation, followed by a California-style retention election every few years in which there would be an up or down vote on the incumbent. If the vote was down, the executive would pick a new judge. It seems to me that the right question is “has this judge done a good (enough) job” — something voters might be able to figure out — rather than trying to figure out which candidate might be the best judge.

Florida's system, however, pits one or more challengers against the incumbent or else, lacking opposition, the incumbent wins reelection automatically. My personal view is that I will vote for the incumbent unless there's reason to believe they're doing a bad job. Fortunately, that only happens occasionally.

In both of the County Court races I support retaining the incumbent.

County Judges: Group 7

There are two candidates, Manuel 'Manny' Alvarez and the incumbent, Judge Edward Newman.

Judge Newman (UM Law '87) has been a judge since 1995 and, despite the occasional brickbat, he seems worth retaining. I admit that receiving candidate literature touting his years as an offensive guard for the Miami Dolphins as a qualification for being a judge did give me a moment's pause, but I got over it. His Dade County Bar Association poll numbers are good: 27.5% say he is exceptionally qualified and 50.9% say he is qualified. Here is Judge Edward Newman's Judicial Candidate Voluntary Self-Disclosure Statement.

Manuel “Manny” Alvarez (UM Law '86) doesn't seem to have filed a Judicial Candidate Voluntary Self-Disclosure Statement. He has a lot of relevant litigation experience, and good Dade County Bar Association poll numbers: 26.3% exceptionally qualified and 54.2 qualified. He was a co-recipient of the ACLU Act of Courage Award in 1998.

Word is that Mr. Alvarez would make a good judge. [Update (8/16): Those who disagree point to the 19-year-old incidents recounted in the DBR's 8/12 article, Judicial candidate was arrested on gun charge; to me the arguably relevant part isn't the dropped charges but rather the restraining order.] But Judge Newman doesn't seem like the sort of judge who deserves removal; on the contrary, despite the occasional critic of his tough courtroom style, there are many who say he's one of the good ones. The Herald endorsed Judge Newman.

I plan to vote for Judge Edward Newman.

County Judges: Group 11

There are two candidates, Michaelle Gonzalez-Paulson and Judge Flora Seff, the incumbent.

Judge Seff (UM Law '79), 57, has two years experience as a judge. Previously she was a state prosecutor for 28 years, including time as the head of the felony division. She got ratings of 31.8% exceptionally qualified and 45.8% qualified in the Dade County Bar Association poll. Here is Flora Seff's Judicial Candidate Voluntary Self-Disclosure Statement. I have not heard anything bad about her. The Herald endorsed Judge Seff.

Michaelle Gonzalez-Paulson, 38, graduated from St. Thomas Law school only nine years ago, which seems somewhat recent for someone wanting to become a judge. She doesn't appear to have filed a Judicial Candidate Voluntary Self-Disclosure Statement. Her bar poll numbers are not nearly as strong as Judge Seff's: 12.2% rated her exceptionally qualified, and 41.2% said she was qualified. More than twice as many respondents (46.6%) rated Ms. Gonzalez-Paulson unqualified as said that of Judge Seff.

This one is easy: vote to retain Judge Flora Seff.

Part I: Introduction
Part II: Circuit Judges
Part III: County Judges (today)
Part IV: School Board, District 6
Part V: Miami-Dade County Charter Amendments

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One Response to Voter’s Guide to the Miami-Dade Downballot – Part III: County Court

  1. Just me says:

    I read in the DBR that Manny Alvarez said that he couldn’t cut in the private sector – it was the whole chasing money thing that was a problem. While I feel his pain (chasing the money is the worst part of my practice), this statement left a bad taste in my mouth. It was almost as though I could hear him thinking, “hey, I’ve been a government attorney for 20+ years, I would like a raise (or at least a promotion), and I can’t cut it in the private sector. Hmm…oh yeah, I’ll run for judge.”

    Looking forward to your coverage tomorrow of the School Board race and your thoughts on “Raquelita.”

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