Monthly Archives: July 2020

It’s a Nightmare

Wake Up.

From the Lincoln Project of course.

This is actually very painful to watch. Will it swing any votes? I’m dubious.

Posted in Trump | 3 Comments

Miami-Dade Primary Day Ballot Recommendations 2020, Part II (Judges)

This is Part II of my 2020 Primary Election Recommendations. Don’t miss Part I (the non-judicial elections).


Unlike most law professors I know, I support the idea of judicial elections at the state level as a reasonable democratic check on what I believe should be the expansive power of judges to interpret the state and federal constitutions.

As I’ve often said before, if it were up to me, I’d have the executive branch pick judges 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 asking voters to try to guess from electoral statements which of two or more candidates might be the best judge.

Florida’s system uses appointment plus retention elections for Supreme Court Justices and District Court of Appeal Judges, but not for trial courts. The Governor can appoint judges to fill vacancies between elections, but otherwise those jobs are straight up elected, so this election pits one or more challengers against the incumbent unless, lacking opposition, the incumbent wins reelection automatically; many trial judges were indeed unopposed this year. There are also open seats when the incumbent retires.

My recommendations are based on:

  • My personal view that I will vote for an incumbent judge unless there’s reason to believe he/she is doing a bad job.
  • After supporting incumbents, my other rule of thumb in sizing up candidates before even getting to the details of biography and practice experience is that in all but the rarest cases of other important life experience we ought to require at least ten years of legal experience from our lawyers before even considering them as judges. Fifteen years is better. I will very rarely support a judicial candidate fewer than ten years out of law school. It just isn’t long enough to get the experience and practical wisdom it takes to be a judge.
  • I look to see if the candidate filed a voluntary self-disclosure form with the state. I prefer candidates who take the trouble to fill out the form and give thoughtful replies. Normally I also look hard at the Dade County Bar Association Poll in which lawyers rate the sitting judges’ and the candidates’ qualifications. The response rate is not that great on this poll, but I do think that if there’s a large majority one way or the other that tells me something. Unfortunately, this year the poll is remarkably unhelpful: It tells me Judge Thomas Rebull is considered one of the better judges, which I guess is good to know especially as some anonymous commentators on another blog seem to have it in for him, and it tells me a lot of lawyers think challenger Rosy Aponte is unqualified, but I knew that without looking at a poll. Other than that it is not very informative.
  • This year, The Daily Business Review (DBR) published a useful voters’ guide to judicial elections.
  • If all else fails, I look at the Miami Herald’s view. (But not this year, the Herald hasn’t done its endorsements yet.) [Update 8/6/20: The Herald’s endorsements are out now.]
  • And oh yes, I read local blogs and listen to gossip too. Except this year, gossip is scarce, since I’m not leaving the house….

This will be a long blog post because there are five Circuit Court elections and two County Court elections in Miami-Dade this year. Both are trial courts, but the County Courts have a more limited jurisdiction, comprising Misdemeanors, small claims up to $5,000, civil disputes up to $15,000, and traffic court. Circuit Courts have broader jurisdiction.  They also hear some appeals from County Courts, while other appeals go straight to the DCA’s, the District Courts of Appeal.

All registered voters in Miami-Dade County get to vote on these judges, regardless of party affiliation. Here are my suggestions how to vote in the August 18, 2020 judicial elections:

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Posted in 2020 Election, Miami | 27 Comments

The Perennial Question

Are You Better OFF? By Meidas Touch

And, just out — this too:

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Not Panicking Yet (Tropical Storm Isaias)

Miami is hardened for wind. Most tropical storms just beat up vegetation and some power lines. You don’t want to be out walking or driving in it, and it makes some noise, but in most cases things are mostly OK the next morning. It’s when it gets to hurricane-force winds that I start to worry.

And hurricane force winds are a possibility here, although not it seems a strong possibility.

National Weather Service says:

By late Friday, a mid-latitude trough moving into the east-central United States is expected to weaken the western portion of the ridge. This pattern should cause the cyclone to turn northwestward to north-northwestward on Saturday when it is near the northwestern Bahamas and South Florida. As the trough slides eastward over the United States, this should steer Isaias northward and northeastward early next week. Although the bulk of the track guidance agrees on this overall scenario, the confidence in the track forecast remains lower than usual due to the expected land interaction and possible center reformation in the short term. The new NHC track forecast is a blend of the HFIP corrected consensus and the TCVA multi-model consensus, and is similar to the previous advisory.

The intensity forecast remains challenging. The structure of the storm is likely to be disrupted by its passage near or over Hispaniola today, and some weakening is likely. Once the system moves away from the Greater Antilles gradual strengthening is anticipated. The global models and the SHIPS guidance suggest that Isaias will encounter an area of moderate southwesterly shear over the weekend, and the NHC intensity forecast is again leveled off at that time. There are models that continue to suggest Isaias could become a hurricane when it is near the U.S., but given the continued uncertainty, the NHC intensity forecast remains near the intensity consensus.

Also, the track has moved East some in the past day or two; that could continue too….

Of course, there’s a lot of food in the freezer right now, so it would be a lousy time to lose power.

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Miami-Dade Primary Day Ballot Recommendations 2020, Part I

Primary Day–and the date for the first and sometimes final round of non-partisan elections–is Tuesday August 18. But Vote-by-Mail-in ballots are out in people’s hands, so it’s time for another edition of my downballot recommendations. I am going to discuss all the races on my ballot, but I suspect most readers have their own views on the Miami-Dade County Mayor’s race, and even the Commission races, so I won’t dwell on those. Instead, as usual, my focus will be on the judicial and other races which – although very important – get little press coverage and so easily fly beneath the radar.

I should start by admitting, though, that collecting info has been tougher this year than I think any time since I started doing this due to a combination of the COVID crisis reducing campaigning, and the fact that I’ve had my own little health issues to contend with. Still, I’ve done some research, and I hope you will find it helpful.

Today’s post will deal with all the non-judicial races. I’ll have the judicial races—which readers tell me is what they really want to read about anyway—up Real Soon Now™.

State Attorney (Open primary)

The State Attorney is the chief local prosecutor. This is a tremendously important race, especially now. The incumbent, Kathleen Fernandez Rundle, has not in all the years I’ve been paying attention ever faced a serious opponent anywhere near the caliber of challenger Melba Pearson. It’s also a fact that in all the years that Kathleen Fernandez Rundle has been our County Attorney she has never – no, never, not one single time – initiated a prosecution against a police officer for an officer-involved shooting. Trust me, we in South Florida do not live in a paradise where the police never shoot when they should not.

Similarly, in the gruesome case of Miami Dade Correctional Institution inmate Darren Rainey — whom three corrections officials stuffed into a hot shower for a couple of hours and then scalded to death, Ms. Rundle was unable to figure a single charge that might have indicated this sort of torture-murder would not be tolerated in our prisons. Not surprisingly, the Corrections abuse continues with the help of legal coverups by the State Attorney’s office.

Kathleen Fernandez Rundle has not just been slow to bail reform, she’s been utterly absent, at least until it appeared she would face a real challenger in an election.

And, oh yes, there’s a secret (charitable) fund defendants can pay to in order to have charges dropped — basically a charitable slush fund operated by the State Attorney’s office.

It’s all so bad that the Miami-Dade Democratic party recently voted to ask Rundle to abandon her bid for re-election.

Melba Pearson will fix these problems and more. Pearson is deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida (where she was involved in passing Amendment Four, the felon voting restoration project) and was a prosecutor in the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office for more than fifteen years, ending as a section chief. She promises to end the use of cash bail for all misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies. Pearson says she is committed to ending the direct filing of juveniles into the adult court system. She promises reforms that “will focus on identifying the root cause of the crime, such as mental illness, homelessness or substance abuse, and helping those offenders rehabilitate and stay out of the criminal justice system.”

If you haven’t guessed yet, I think that, despite Kathleen Fernandez Rundle’s real intelligence and articulate public speaking, after 27 (!!) years, we’re overdue for a change.

Vote Melba Peterson (line 24). This one is important.
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Posted in 2020 Election, Miami | 11 Comments

“Sort of hilariously unconstitutional”? I’m not laughing.

Another step down the path to fascism with an American accent.

According to ProPublica (and many other news sources):

Federal authorities are using a new tactic in their battle against protesters in Portland, Oregon: arrest them on offenses as minor as “failing to obey” an order to get off a sidewalk on federal property — and then tell them they can’t protest anymore as a condition for release from jail.

Legal experts describe the move as a blatant violation of the constitutional right to free assembly, but at least 12 protesters arrested in recent weeks have been specifically barred from attending protests or demonstrations as they await trials on federal misdemeanor charges.

“Defendant may not attend any other protests, rallies, assemblies or public gathering in the state of Oregon,” states one “Order Setting Conditions of Release” for an accused protester, alongside other conditions such as appearing for court dates. The orders are signed by federal magistrate judges.

For other defendants, the restricted area is limited to Portland, where clashes between protesters and federal troops have grown increasingly violent in recent weeks. In at least two cases, there are no geographic restrictions; one release document instructs, “Do not participate in any protests, demonstrations, rallies, assemblies while this case is pending.”

ProPublica identified several instances in which the protest ban was added to the conditions of release document when it was drafted, before it was given to the judge. It remained unclear whether the limits on protesting were initiated by Justice Department officials or the magistrates hearing the cases.

The ACLU’s Somil Trivedi said, “Release conditions should be related to public safety or flight” — in other words, the risk that the defendant will abscond. “This is neither.” He described the handwritten addition of a protest ban to a release document as “sort of hilariously unconstitutional.”

I’m not laughing. The shocking part here is not that some unknown party in the government asked for this — although they ought to know better — but that a federal judge, even if it was ‘just’ a Magistrate, signed off on this.

UPDATE (6/30): Good news/bad news: The good news is that the unconstitutional no-protest condition has been dropped in all cases. Bad news: the source of the condition was two federal Magistrates themselves. Ouch.

Posted in Civil Liberties | Comments Off on “Sort of hilariously unconstitutional”? I’m not laughing.