Figuring out who to vote for downballot is a lot of work. The judicial part is especially hard for voters — even for a lawyer like me who isn’t very plugged into the local scene.
My rule of thumb is to vote to re-elect incumbent Judges unless there is a strong reason not to. That bar is amply met in one race (vote FOR Diana Gonzales and against Pando); otherwise I’m voting for the incumbents. The more difficult cases are the open seats.
For Circuit Judge, that would be Groups 15, 47 & 49
In Group 15 I prefer Robert Coppel, a former PD with extensive trial experience; the other candidate sounds bad to me, not least for the endorsement by the Christian Family Coalition.
In Group 47, Alex Labora (MBA Wharton ’83; JD U.M. ’82) has a wide range of experience (he is also the husband of sitting Drug Court Judge Deborah White-Labora); Maria de Jesus Santovenia (JD U.Penn ’88) has been working as an assistant city attorney in Miami and North Miami Beach. The Herald prefers Santovenia. According to the Herald’s questionnaire she spent much more of her own money on the campaign, and also has more civic endorsements. They both seem like serious candidates. She’ll likely win, and I’m OK with that.
In Group 49 pits ex-Miami City Commissioner Victor De Yurre (JD St. Mary’s University School of Law [Texas] ; LL.M Tax, UM) against Teresa Mary Pooler (JD UM). Both are experienced lawyers; De Yurre has political and extensive civil law experience; Pooler has a criminal law background. On the other hand, De Yurre’s political career had extensive smoke (but no fire) when it came to corruption – he was investigated over and over … but always exonerated. The Herald prefers Pooler; the New Times points to De Yurre’s ownership of a troubled business. How you vote on this one probably depends on how you feel about De Yurre (or even if you remember him!). Pooler is not endorsed by the Christian Family Coalition, De Yurre is…so I guess it’s Pooler.
Patricia Marino-Pedraza (incumbent). The CFC endorsed Marino-Pedraza, but I’m leaning to vote for her anyway. That said, I wasn’t impressed by Marino-Pedraza’s husband’s attempt to get her opponent, knocked off the ballot. And she has a relatively high (20%) of lawyers rating her unqualified.
The CFC endorsed Diana Gonzales. (So did the Herald.) Vote for her anyway. Pando should go.
Fleur Jeannine Lobree is the incumbent, and well-regarded.
Andrea Wolfson is the incumbent. The CFC endorsed Wolfson, as did the Herald. Fellow lawyers rate her highly. Easy choice.
Ivonne Cuesta (JD Nova ’01) vs. Jacci Suzan Seskin (UM ’02). The Herald endorsed Cuesta over Seskin, a nurse turned PD, citing Cuesta’s exprience of 75 trials. IMHO ten years since law school is on the light side for a judge, although we often settle for even less around here. On the other hand, Cuesta has been nominated for a judgeship four times by the Judicial Nominating Commission, which counts for something. And she has a higher rating from fellow lawyers. So Cuesta.
Tanya Brinkley (JD UM ’95) vs. Enrique Yabor (JD “Ole Miss” ’99) (CFC endorsed). Herald-endorsed Brinkley has a wider experience, and impressive endorsements. She’s been nominated by the Judicial Nominating Commission nine times (is that a record?) And she isn’t Yabor. No contest.
Teretha Lundy Thomas (incumbent) (and the challenger is bad).
Dan Cohen (incumbent)
My Downballot Palmcard
(clip and save!)
29 State Attorney: KF Rundle
79 David C. Miller (incumbent)
81 Robert Coppel
83-84 Pick ’em (Labora = 83; Santovenia =84)
88 Marino-Pedraza (incumbent) (?)
89 Gonzales (!)
92 Lobree (incumbent)
95 Wolfson (incumbent)
103 Cohn (incumbent)
Pitbulls “no” !?! et tu Michael?
Please allow me a brief opportunity to change your mind:
1) it is exceedingly difficult to tell, based upon the county’s definition of “pitbull” what is and is not actually a pitbull for the purposes of the ban. It is so difficult in fact, that it borders on arbitrary. WLRN ran a piece during the 1pm hour recently and the arbitrary nature of the ban and its loose definitions was one of the biggest issues they took up. I invite you to look it up and listen if you are interested. I think the show is called Topical Currents. It ran on Thursday, August 9, 2012 at 1pm.
2) Pitbulls are not actually any worse than most other breeds. The American Temperament Test Society, Inc. (http://atts.org/) conducts temperament tests on dogs of all breeds. They find that 86.8% of pitbulls they test pass their temperament tests. While some breeds do better, MANY do worse. A list of notables with a worse score includes: Afghan Hound (72.4%), Airedale Terrier (77.7%), Akita (72.7), Alaskan Malamute (85.6), American Bulldog (I own one of these, along with a toy poodle and a cat) (85.5), American Eskimo (81.9), American Water Spaniel (85.7), Beagle (80), Bichone Frise (76.7), blood hound (73.5), border collie (81.3), Boston Terrier (84.8), Boxer (83.4), English Bulldog (70.4), Bullmastiff (78.9), Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (83.3), Chihuahua (68.3), Shar-pei (70.8), chow chow (71.4), Collie (80.1), Dalmation (82.5). This list goes on and on. I encourage you to review it.
3) breed specific legislation is not the best answer to dog biting issues. Enforcement of leash laws, spay/neuter laws, and other across the board laws are both more effective and more fair. Also, bite laws designed to punish actual bad acts (why put down good dogs that have done nothing?) should be promoted as an alternative to breed specific legislation.
Sorry to press the issue, but I thought I might add a little more on the Pitbull issue. Above I mentioned temperament testing by The American Temperament Test Society, Inc. This group has, according to their website, tested 31,730 dogs. Of those 31,730, some 839 were American Pitbull Terriers (passing at 86.8%), 646 were American Staffordshire Terriers which are lumped into “pitbull” in Dade (passing at 84.2%), and 124 were Staffordshire Bull Terriers which are also sometimes lumped in as “pitbulls” (passing at 90.3%).
Other breeds tested in large numbers include the Australian Sheppard (657 tested, 81.7% passed), Bouvier Des Flandres (903 tested, 85% passed), Boxer (441 tested, 83.4% passed), Collie (864 tested, 80.1% passed), Dalmation (331 tested, 82.5% passed), Doberman Pintcher (1,629 tested, 78.2% passed), German Shepard (3,133 tested, 84.6% passed), Golden Retriever (776 tested, 85.2% passed), Labrador retriever (783 tested, 92.3% passed), Mixed Breed Dogs (1,063 tested, 86.2% passed), Rottweiler (5,545 tested, 83.9% passed), Shetland Sheepdog (499 tested, 68.1% passed), and Poodles (all sizes combined – 374 tested, 84.2% passed).
The percent of dogs, irrespective of breed, that have passed the temperament test is 82.8%. All three “pitbull” breeds tested better than the average. Pitbulls are a classic example of victims of bad press. In a free society, we have a duty to govern ourselves in an intelligent and informed basis, and bear the burden of erring, not on the side of safety, but on the side of liberty. Pitbulls are not, empirically speaking, any more unsafe than Golden Retrievers, Collies, or Rottweilers – three perfectly legal breeds.
Folks, if you haven’t voted yet, vote “yes” to lift the pitbull ban in Miami-Dade County.