Category Archives: Miami

Vote-by-Drop-Box Report

ballot dropboxI dropped off my ballot this morning at the drop box outside the Coral Gables library. It was quick and I never even had to leave my car, although I did have to show ID.

If you go in from the back of the Coral Gables library, on the Segovia side, it’s a straight shot to the little black tent where the drop box shelters, along with two (!) poll workers. One takes your ID and makes notes on a list, the drops your ballot into the box. They even gave me an “I Voted” sticker, which I thought was pretty funny.

Perhaps due to the rain — just a little drizzle when I got there, although it had been pouring earlier — there was only one car in front of me in the car queue, and we were in and out in no time.

The parking lot was pretty full, suggesting maybe there were a lot of voters inside, and there certainly was a ton of volunteers from the various campaigns hoisting signs in the rain, although most of them were staked out on the front side of the library, where early voters (as opposed to people like me with filled-out mail-in ballots) would go. I saw a lot more signage for the local campaigns than the Presidential.

Posted in 2020 Election, Coral Gables | Leave a comment

Waiting for Dropboxes

ballot dropboxApparently, “Of the 627,484 Miami-Dade voters who had absentee or vote-by-mail ballots mailed to them as of Wednesday, a little more than 142,000 have mailed them back. That means that more than three times as many — a total of almost half a million — are still sitting somewhere on kitchen counters, home desks, nightstands and dining room tables from Homestead to Hialeah.”

Speaking as one of those voters, I can tell you what I’m thinking: I’m planning to drop off my ballot in a secure, official, not-California-style dropbox early next week.

Why next week and not now? Because early voting doesn’t start until Monday, and the dropboxes are only available at early voting sites (or way downtown at the Board of Elections).

Incidentally, there are some moderately strict rules about how a vote-by-mail ballot may be returned:

Vote-by-Mail ballots must be returned as follows:

  1. IN PERSON – A voter who received a vote-by-mail ballot by mail may return his or her own ballot to the Miami-Dade Elections Department at 2700 NW 87th Avenue, Miami, FL 33172 or to the Elections Department’s Branch Office (located in the lobby of the Stephen P. Clark Center, 111 NW 1st Street, Miami, FL 33128) no later than 7:00 p.m. on Election Day.
    ON THE MONDAY BEFORE ELECTION DAY AND ELECTION DAY (During countywide elections only): Two additional locations are available for a voter to return their vote-by-mail ballot: North Dade Regional Library at 2455 NW 183rd Street, Miami Gardens, FL 33056 or South Dade Regional Library at 10750 SW 211th Street, Cutler Bay, FL 33189 from 7am to 7pm.
  2. BY MAIL – A vote-by-mail ballot may be returned by delivery through the United States Postal Service.
  3. BY VOTER’S DESIGNEE(Limited to two ballots per election, only one of which may be from a voter who is not the spouse, parent, child, grandparent or sibling of the designee). A vote-by-mail ballot may be returned by the voter’s designee at 2700 NW 87th Avenue, Miami, FL 33172 or to the Elections Department’s Branch Office (located in the lobby of the Stephen P. Clark Center, 111 NW 1st Street, Miami, FL 33128), on the day prior to and the day of the election if the person designated by the voter is an immediate family member and only on the day of the election if the designee is not an immediate family member. Picture identification of the designee must be presented along with a written statement from the voter containing the following information:
    1. Printed name of voter
    2. Voter’s daytime phone number
    3. Voter’s date of birth
    4. d. Voter’s registration number (optional)
    5. Name of person returning the vote-by-mail ballot
    6. If the voter is a member of the designee’s immediate family, reason why the voter must have someone else return the vote-by-mail ballot
    7. If the voter is not a member of the designee’s immediate family, the designee must also present a statement signed by a physician on that physician’s stationery that, due to a medical emergency involving the voter or voter’s dependent, the named voter is unable to vote at the polls and is unable to return a vote-by-mail ballot in person
    8. Signature of voter
  4. AT EARLY VOTING – A voter who has received a vote-by-mail ballot may return their voted vote-by-mail ballot to any early voting location by placing it in a secure drop box.
  5. AT THE POLLS – A voter who desires to vote in person may return a voted or unvoted vote-by-mail ballot to the voter’s precinct. The returned ballot will be marked “canceled” by the election board. A voter who desires to vote in person, but does not return the ballot to the precinct, may vote only under the following conditions: (Do not return anyone else’s ballot at the polls. Under State Law, this ballot will not be counted.)
    1. The election board confirms the voter’s vote-by-mail ballot has not been received and
    2. If the election board cannot determine whether the voter’s vote-by-mail ballot has been received, the voter may vote a provisional ballot.

To track the status of your vote-by-mail ballot, go to https://www8.miamidade.gov/elections/votebymail-status.

Posted in 2020 Election, Miami | Leave a comment

Voters’ Guide to the November 2020 Miami-Dade Ballot, Part III: State Constitutional and Charter Amendments

This is the last installment of my three-part Miami-Dade voters’ guide for the November 2020 election. This part concerns the very important proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution, and also three Miami-Dade charter Amendments. It follows on the heels of my Voters’ Guide to the November 2020 Miami-Dade Ballot, Part I — The Easy Part and Voters’ Guide to the November 2020 Miami-Dade Ballot, Part II: Judicial Retention Elections. There’s also a handy summary.

Florida Constitutional Amendments

There are six Florida Constitutional Amendments on our November 2020 ballot. They run the range from cynical to evil and then (in one case) back to good. I’ve taken them in the order they appear on the ballot; links are to the full text of the Amendments, not the ballot summaries:

Amendment 1

Amendment 1 – Citizenship & Age – NO – line 201

This amendment changes two words in the state Constitution: “Every citizen” over 18 may vote is replaced with “Only a” citizen over 18 may vote in a Florida election. There are two problems with Amendment 1. The first is that it is solving a non-problem: that is already the law, and there are no plans that I know of at either the state or local level in Florida to change it. The entire purpose of the amendment is a cynical ploy to get nativists to the polls. This should not be encouraged, and that’s why we should vote NO. Just to be clear here: a NO vote will not make the requirement to vote anything other than what it is already: 18 years old and a citizen. Amendment 1–whether it passes or fails–will have no effect on current law whatsoever.

All that said, there is another subtler reason to vote against this amendment. Some jurisdictions around the world are experimenting with letting 16-year-olds vote, either in municipal elections or more generally. There have been some suggestions in Congress and elsewhere that maybe if you are old enough to drive a death machine – a car – then maybe we should trust you to vote also. I don’t see why we should strangle those ideas before they have a chance to be debated. The old wording would permit such experiments; the new wording will not.

Amendment 2

Amendment 2 – Raise Minimum Wage – YES – line 202

Amendment 2 raises the state minimum wage to $10 effective about a year from now, and a dollar a year thereafter until it hits $15 a year. It is currently $8.56 at the state level, which is higher than the federal minimum.

In principle I don’t think this is the sort of thing we should put in the State Constitution. Suppose, for example, there were a major depression and the entire price and wage level cratered. Having the minimum wage be this inflexible, beyond legislative adjustment in economic emergencies, doesn’t seem like a smart move. On the other hand, our legislature is so hopelessly gerrymandered that even though Florida is the classic 50/50 state, both houses have large GOP majorities, and they have no interest at all in helping working people. So if we are going to get a living wage, it’s this or federal action. Since we can’t count on federal action, it’s this.

We don’t live in a perfect world, and given its imperfections amendments like this are pretty much the only way we get anything progressive at the state level in Florida these days. So I’m voting YES.

Amendment 3

Amendment 3 – Jungle Primary – NO – line 205.

Amendment 3 would abolish the primary system as we know it for races for Governor, Cabinet, and both houses of the legislature. Currently, we are a ‘closed primary’ state: voters have until about a month before the election to register and (optionally) select a party affiliation. If already registered, voters can change party affiliation any time before the close of the registration period. Everyone votes the same in the general election, and also for ‘non-partisan’ offices such as Miami-Dade County Mayor. But for Governor and legislature, only Democrats vote in the Democratic primary, and only Republicans vote in the Republican primary, and so too for any other qualifying party.

The (alleged) case for Amendment 3 is that it fixes the following problem: In many legislative districts—particularly in this age of gerrymandering–the real battle is in a party primary and whoever wins the nomination in the party that dominates the area then cruises to victory, and that disenfranchises independent (no-party) registrants, who only get to vote in the less meaningful general election. A stronger form of the argument says that even for statewide offices, it’s wrong to keep non-party members from having a say as to who ends up on the general election ballot. Why not let everyone vote in one big (so-called “jungle” primary)?

To begin with, let me point out that the amendment isn’t even congruent with the problem it most plausibly claims to solve, as it covers “all elections for the Florida legislature, governor and cabinet”. To the extent the biggest problem exists, it’s legislative and local, not statewide. Why then undermine the parties at the state level?
To ask the question is to answer it: this is an attempt to undermine parties—especially the Democratic party—at the state level. An ‘open,’ ‘single’, or ‘jungle’ (as it’s best known) primary means that it is easier to split the vote for less organized parties – like Democrats. Worse—much worse—the jungle primary empowers extremists.

Another point: it is very easy to change one’s party registration tactically, up to a month before the election. If non-party voters strongly want to support a candidate in a primary, it’s quite easy to join the party to vote in it, and then change one’s registration back afterwards. There is no limit, in fact, on the number of switches a voter is allowed. So the plight of the no-party voter is actually within that voter’s power to cure, with only a little effort.

As I’ve argued previously, the best solution to all these problems would be to use ‘instant run-off voting’, but alas that’s not on offer. Meanwhile, no point in making things worse!

Not convinced yet? Here’s another very serious problem with the proposal. Under this plan, the two candidates with the highest vote totals go to a run-off. That opens the door to extremist candidates in a multi-candidate election. Let’s suppose, for the sake of the argument that there are four credible Democrats, and four credible republicans in the race, but that 15% of the electorate that supports an extremist – think of it as the Q-Anon, Trotskyite, or Proud Boys candidate as you wish. Assume also that all the Democrats voting would prefer any of their four candidates to any of the five others, and assume the same thing about the Republicans. Assume also that all non-extremist voters prefer anyone to the extremist.

Depending on how the votes fall out among either of the parties, it’s possible that each of their candidates will get less than 15% personally – opening the door for the extremist to go into the run-off against one of the major party candidates, when the electorate would have much rather had a choice between two of them. Indeed if we assume that one of the major parties is bigger than the other, but the smaller party is less disunited, it’s possible that the smaller party candidate ends up facing the extremist in the run-off, when in fact a majority of the electorate would have preferred any of the candidates from the more splintered (read, usually, “Democratic”) party.

So – NO – on Amendment 3.

Amendment 4

Amendment 4 – Require 2 ballots for future amendments – NO – line 207

The secret to decoding what is going on here is to understand that although the people of Florida are pretty much 50/50 in terms of party preference, on a number of individual issues – like health care, marijuana decriminalization, felon rights, or the minimum wage – the state skews strongly towards the so-called ‘liberal’ position (I’m actually not sure that’s a correct description of voting rights or decriminalization in theoretical terms, that’s how politicians see the issues since they are supported by the Democratic party and opposed by Republicans.)

Our legislature, however, is expertly gerrymandered to bake in a large, strong, Republican majority. And, to be fair, the state democratic party is in the main spineless and deeply incompetent. The one way that we get anything progressive in this state – like the small class-size rule, or the felon enfranchisement, or (this year) an increase in the minimum wage – is by getting it on the ballot for a Florida Constitutional Amendment. That is far from ideal, but needs must. The state already raised the requirements for getting amendments passed a few years ago, but that only dented and did not extinguish the progressive use this last-ditch method of achieving popular social goals. So here comes the state GOP again with another proposal to make popular change even more difficult.

Amendment 4 would require an issue (such as restoration of felons rights) to be on the ballot twice and get 60% of all Floridians to vote “yes” in two separate elections in order to pass. As each ballot campaign takes years and a lot of money this will inevitably undermine grassroots initiatives by increasing the amount of effort and money needed to pass a constitutional amendment. In effect, it will mean that groups with a lot of money would be able to amend the Florida Constitution. And it will make progressive change like the small class size requirement and former felon voting rights that much harder to achieve.

Vote NO on Amendment 4.

Amendment 5

Amendment 5 – Extend time for ‘Save-our-homes’ carryover – Yes – line 208 (corrected)

This is, frankly, a low-stakes amendment. In normal times I’d be against it on the grounds that its goals could be achieved by legislation. I wouldn’t blame anyone who voted against this minor raid on local government tax revenues. But in a year of COIVD, where everything is difficult, it’s hard to be against a rule that extends the time for rolling over homestead exemptions.

I’m voting YES on Amendment 5 (but feel free to vote NO if you are a purist).

Amendment 6

Amendment 6 – Extend homestead exemption for spouses of deceased disabled veterans – NO – line 211

This one is just silly. We’re talking about a tiny group of people—widows and widowers of disabled veterans. There just isn’t any point to putting this sort of thing in the Florida Constitution. It belongs in legislation.

Vote NO on Amendment 6. But go ahead and vote for it if you want to encourage the legislature to push more stuff like this in front of voters.

Miami-Dade Charter Amendments

Referendum 1 – Create office of Inspector General – Yes – line 212

Given the Augean Stables of corruption that is Miami-Dade, having an independent Inspector General cannot hurt, although I’m not deeply optimistic about how much it will help, either. I’m voting YES.

Referendum 2 – Delay elections to replace ‘resign to run’ officials to general election – Yes – line 214

There really are two sides to this one. The case for Ref 2 is that when politicians resign to run for other office, as required by Florida state law, the resulting special election to fill their seats is costly, participation is often poor, and the resulting term is usually quite short. So it’s not value for money.

The case against Ref 2 is that it means the office(s) in question will be vacant longer, leaving the constituency without the representation to which it is entitled.

You really could go either way on this one. On balance, I think the savings outweigh the democratic gains, especially given the fact that turnout is often very light in special elections. So I’m voting Yes; I wouldn’t blame anyone who voted No.

Referendum 3 – Nonpartisan election of Sheriff, Appraiser, etc – No – 217

This is, to me, the most important of the three referendum questions. Basically, what it does is force the equivalent of a jungle primary (see discussion of Constitutional Amendment 3 above) on major local offices not covered by the Amendment. The only practical difference is that while the Amendment would allow parties to endorse and candidates to state party affiliations on the ballot, this charter amendment would not even do that.

Again, I would be fine with a ‘non-partisan’ ballot if it were organized in a way that didn’t open the door to fringe candidates squeaking through to the run-off or various other machinations that could fail to reflect what people actually want. The way to do that is to follow the State of Maine’s example and use ranked-choice voting. But this is a step backwards, not forwards.

Posted in 2020 Election, Law: Everything Else, Miami | 8 Comments

Summary Voters’ Guide to Nov. 2020 Election in Miami-Dade

Summary Voting Guide for Miami-Dade Nov. 2020 Election.

More detailed background on the reasons for these suggestions will be found in:

  1. Voters’ Guide to the November 2020 Miami-Dade Ballot, Part I — The Easy Part
  2. Voters’ Guide to the November 2020 Miami-Dade Ballot, Part II: Judicial Retention Elections
  3. Voters’ Guide to the November 2020 Miami-Dade Ballot, Part III: State Constitutional and Charter Amendments

President
Joe Biden – line 11

US House of Representatives

26th Dist – Debbie Mucarsel-Powell – line 23
27th Dist – Donna Shalala – line 25

State Senate

District 37 – Javier Rodriguez – line 28
District 39 – Javier Fernandez – line 31

State Rep. Dist 114 – Jean-Pierre Bado – line 45

Judicial Retention Elections

Supreme Court
Justice Carlos G. Muñiz – NO – line 59

District Court of Appeal
– Judge Monica Gordo – YES – line 60
– Judge Eric William Hendon – YES – line 62
– Judge Fleur Jeannine Lobree – YES – line 64
– Judge Thomas Logue – YES – line 66
– Judge Bronwyn Catherine Miller – YES – line 70

Clerk of Courts
Harvey Rubin – line 56

County Commission – Dist 7
Cindy Lerner – line 76

Miami-Dade Mayor
Daniella Levine Cava – line 81

Florida Constitutional Amendments

Amendment 1 – Citizenship & Age – NO – line 201
Amendment 2 – Raise Minimum Wage – YES – line 202
Amendment 3 – Jungle Primary – NO – line 205
Amendment 4 – Require 2 ballots for future amendments – NO – line 207
Amendment 5 – Extend time for ‘Save-our-homes’ carryover – Yes – line 208 (corrected)
Amendment 6 – Extend homestead exemption for spouses of deceased disabled veterans – NO – line 211

Miami-Dade Charter Amendments

Referendum 1 – Create office of Inspector General – Yes – line 212
Referendum 2 – Delay elections to replace ‘resign to run’ officials to general election – Yes – line 214
Referendum 3 – Nonpartisan election of Sheriff, Appraiser, etc – No – 217

Update: Early Voting Information – Locations and Times

Posted in 2020 Election, Miami | 5 Comments

Voters’ Guide to the November 2020 Miami-Dade Ballot, Part II: Judicial Retention Elections

This is the second of three Voters’ Guides for the November 2020 Miami-Dade Ballot. See my Part I for the top-of-the-ballot discussion. This post is primarily about judicial retention elections, although I do briefly discuss the proposed state Constitutional Amendments and County Charter Amendments at the end, and I’ll have more to say about them in a subsequent post.

Judicial Retention Elections

Here things get interesting. 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. So we have six retention elections on our ballot this year: one state Supreme Court Justice, and five Judges on the state 3rd District Court of Appeals.

Long-time readers will know that it takes a fair amount for me to suggest not retaining a Judge, much less a state Supreme Court Justice. But I’m going to do that.

Florida Supreme Court: Justice Carlos Muñiz

Before joining the Court in January 2019, Justice Muñiz served as chief of staff to former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and deputy general counsel to former Gov. Jeb Bush. He had no judicial experience, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The Pam Bondi connection, however, is bad, and made worse by his defense of Bondi’s decision to take no action against the Trump University fraud. It worked out for Muñiz, though, as President Trump appointed him general counsel to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a job he held when Governor DeSantis named him to the Florida Supreme Court. It’s hard to think of a worse credential than having been a top aide to Pam Bondi, but being one for Betsy DeVos might just qualify. And no, going to Yale Law School (where he joined the Federalist Society), and clerking for José Cabranes, doesn’t make up for any of it.

Governor DeSanits named Muñiz to the Supreme Court as part of a massive re-shaping of what had been a mildly liberal court, and Muñiz did not disappoint – he’s voted reliably with the conservative block starting with supporting a change to the rules of evidence in damage suits to make them less favorable to plaintiffs. And he’s been reliable ever since. That included State v. Poole in which the majority overturned the Court’s own precedent in order to hold that juries do not need to be unanimous to impose the death penalty. Fortunately, just three months later, in Ramos v. Louisiana, 140 S. Ct. 1390 (2020), the U.S. Supreme Court cleaned that up and held that the unanimity requirement applies in state court every bit as much as in federal court.

The Poole decision also served notice that it was open season on precedent generally–something that was prefigured by some earlier decisions to withdraw opinions that had recently been decided by the Court–but before the change in personnel .

I don’t, as rule, think judges, even Justices, should be non-retained for their political leanings. But there comes a point where behavior stops being judicial, and this stuff seems to me to be over the line.

Add in some remarkably low ratings in the Florida Bar poll of lawyers . As the Sun-Sentinel summarizes the data:

[Lawyers are] asked to evaluate the judges on eight attributes including legal knowledge, temperament and impartiality. The Bar only counts the responses of those who profess some knowledge of the judges in question. In the past, judges have almost always scored 80 percent or better in favor of new terms.

… Muñiz posted only 71 percent approval overall, and only 63 percent among those lawyers who said they have “considerable” knowledge of him.

Those are the worst ratings for a justice since Joseph A. Boyd Jr., a figure in the Supreme Court scandal, scored 56 percent in 1980.

That has to give you pause. I’m going to vote AGAINST retaining Justice Muñiz (line 59).

3rd DCA: Retain them all?

These are all conservative judges.

  • Monica Gordo was appointed by Ron DeSantis in 2019.
  • Eric William Hendon was appointed by Rick Scott in 2018. (He was the first Black justice appointed by Scott — and that only just before the end of Scott’s term as Governor.)
  • Fleur Jeannine Lobree was appointed by Ron DeSantis in 2019.
  • Thomas Logue was appointed by Rick Scott in 2012.
  • Bronwyn Catherine Miller was appointed by Rick Scott in 2018.

But as I said above, I think politics alone isn’t a reason not to retain a judge, so long as they are reasonable in their judgements.

With the exception of Judge Thomas Logue, all of these are recent appointments, so there’s not necessarily a giant body of work from which to form a view. In those cases, I tend to go back to looking at what they did in former jobs, especially if they served in lower courts. If you want to do your own research, good places to start are the Florida Bar judicial retention page (biographies), and the bar poll and Law.com’s biographies. Neither, however, tells you enough.

From what I know about their prior history – and I will not claim to be an authority here – I think Fleur Jeannine Lobree and Bronwyn Catherine Miller should be retained.

The Dade County Bar Association awarded Lobree its Alan R. Schwartz Judicial Excellence Award, its “Put Something Back” pro bono service award and its special public service award. Everything I hear suggests she is a good judge. Justice Building Blog has a summary of her judicial odyssey.

Similarly, Judge Bronwyn Catherine Miller had a good reputation when she served as a Circuit Judge.

Judge Thomas Logue has the longest track record as a judge, and he also had the best score on the bar poll, although no one did especially badly. Judge Logue wrote the opinion in City of Miami v. Robert F. Piper, III, a recent case upholding a trial court’s decision requiring the Clerk of the City of Miami to deliver recall petition against Miami City Commissioner Joe Caroll to the Miami-Dade County Supervisor of Elections. The panel also included judges Fleur Lobree and Eric Hendon but I’m not sure how much credit any of them they deserve for a ruling that seemed inevitable.

Judge Monica Gordo had the lowest score on the bar poll of any of the judges up for retention–79%–among those who claimed to “have considerable knowledge” of her performance, but that 79% was very little below a couple of the others who had 81%. She’s an active UMiami Law alum–here’s a very friendly article about her and her connections to U.M..

I regret to say I’m least well informed about Eric William Hendon. He had a nice partial dissent in the recent Knespler v. Flordia case (while Judge Gordo was in the majority), but that’s not enough to base a recommendation on, other than to say I tend to have a presumption to retain judges.

For an interesting argument that every sitting Judge and Justice deserves non-retention, see Adam Tebrugge, Making the Case to VOTE NO on all FLORIDA JUDGES in 2020 . I imagine he’ll forgive me for the long quotation:

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.

As arguments go, it’s got some punch, although I’m not on board for this … yet. For one thing, even if we vote these judges out, it’s DeSantis who would appoint the replacements. Yes, that’s true for Justice Muñiz too, but you have to draw a line somewhere.

Constitutional Amendments

There are six Florida Constitutional Amendments on the ballot this year. Two of them are very bad (## 3 & 4). One (# 2) is pretty good. Three (##1, 5, 6) are lightweights, although I think #1 in particular deserves a No vote.

I’ll say more about all these in a subsequent post, but if you’re in a hurry to vote now, here’s how I’m voting and a thumbnail explanation as to why:

1 No – Citizenship and age limits on voting (I don’t like the age limit, constrains local experimentation with 16 year-old-voting in local elections. Plus the amendment is just a scare tactic to drive conservatives to the polls — it’s already the law that you have to be 18 and a citizen to vote. We shouldn’t encourage this cynical use of the state Constitution.)

2 Yes – Provides for slow raises in the state minimum wage. Too slow, but better than the nothing we’re getting from the legislature.

3 NO! – Would replace current primary election system with ‘Jungle Primaries’. I hate the ‘Jungle Primary’ for reasons I will explain.

4 NO!! – Would make it even harder to surmount the gerrymandering of the state legislature with progressive constitutional amendments (like the minimum wage, or the felon voting restoration amendment from last election).

5 Yes (?) -Technical change to save-our-homes homestead exemption (but reasonable people could disagree on grounds it will cause a very small loss of revenue to local government).

6 No (but reasonable people could easily disagree) – Clutters the State Constitution with another small-bore feel-good tax break, this time for surviving spouses of people with combat-related disabilities – this is something that should be done by legislation.

Miami-Dade Charter Amendments

More about these in the next post.

Referendum 1 – Create office of Inspector General – Yes – line 212.
Referendum 2 – Delay elections to replace ‘resign to run’ officials to general election – Yes – line 214.
Referendum 3 – Nonpartisan election of Sheriff, Appraiser, etc – No – line 217.

As I said above, I plan a third post, tomorrow I hope, with more detailed discussion of my reasons for the recommendations about the Constitution and Charter amendments.

UPDATE: Continue to Voters’ Guide to the November 2020 Miami-Dade Ballot, Part III: State Constitutional and Charter Amendments.

Posted in 2020 Election, Law: Elections, Miami | 5 Comments

Voters’ Guide to the November 2020 Miami-Dade Ballot, Part I — The Easy Part

People have been emailing and DMing me asking for the downballot recommendations already. I’m glad to see that people who are voting by mail are taking seriously the suggestion that, given all the hiccups with the Postal Service, this is the year to get those ballots in the mail as early as possible – or maybe take them personally to a dropbox at an early voting center when those open up in less than two weeks.

Anyway, I’m flattered by the fact that people want this post badly enough to ask for it (and ask so nicely!) – so here goes the hors d’oeuvre. Main course tomorrow…

Top of the Ballot

You don’t–I hope–need me to tell you who to vote for in the upcoming Presidential election. Indeed I find it almost inconceivable that there are genuinely undecided voters left in America at this point. Their lives, whoever they are, are undoubtedly radically different from mine….

And I’d also guess that you don’t need me to tell you why a Democratic Congress is important, so I’ll spare you the many the reasons to vote for our incumbents, Donna Shalala (line 25) or Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (line 23) as the case may be. I’ll just say that as regards the 26th District, where Carlos Gimenez is the Republican candidate, please do keep in mind what a thoroughly bad Mayor he’s been for Miami-Dade, especially on COVID-related issues. That’s why I’m very much for Mucarsel-Powell despite what I consider a less-than-progressive voting record.

County Mayor

Similarly, I’d bet most people reading this don’t really need me to tell them who to vote for in the County Mayor race between Daniella Levine Cava and Esteban Bovo. But if you do, let me remind you, as I’ve said before , that Cava (line 81) is head and shoulders the best candidate; Bovo is, I’d argue, a strong contender for the worst County Commissioner we’ve had in a couple of decades – at least if you take out the thoroughly incompetent and thoroughly venal from the pool of contenders for the title. Bovo isn’t at all incompetent, which is why he’s dangerous, and he’s not thoroughly venal, but he’s an ideologue of exactly the kind who we don’t need to see us through pandemic recovery.

State Senate Dist 37 & State Rep. Dist 114

I should also say a few nice words about Javier Rodriguez (line 28), incumbent state Senator in district 37. He’s a hard worker, and a rising star in Florida – we’re lucky to have him for now.

And I’m voting for Jean-Pierre Bado (Line 45) for State Rep. I confess to knowing less about the State Rep race than I’d like – blame COVID? – but I voted for him in the primary, and he seems the better choice.

County Commissioner, District 7

This is a run-off between the two top vote-getters in the non-partisan primary. As I said in my discussion of the primary, I like Cindy Lerner for County Commissioner in District 7 (line 76):

Lerner is an accomplished former Mayor of Pinecrest. Regalado is an undistinguished but well-financed and media-savvy radio host and former School Board member from an important Miami political family (her dad was Mayor of Miami). ….

Regalado has a bad history. She made a lot of noise when she was on the School Board, but as far as I could tell, she didn’t accomplish much of anything other than PR. And as I’ve said before, “the real rap on Regalado has two parts: lack of competence (not numerate, not detail-oriented) and likely to sweep in her father’s cronies.”

I haven’t changed my mind on that one.

Downballot Recommendations

But what you probably really came here for is the true downballot: the other races, especially the Judicial retention elections, and the proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution and to the Miami-Dade Charter. I’m afraid you’ll have to wait for tomorrow’s post for those — here, however, in the mean time is one easy choice:

Clerk of Court

For clerk of the court, Harvey Rubin (line 56) continues to do a fine job. He actually has an opponent this year, which makes a change, but not one that matters much.

Next up, no later than late tomorrow afternoon: Judicial Retention Elections and State Constitutional Amendments

Update: Continue to Voters’ Guide to the November 2020 Miami-Dade Ballot, Part II: Judicial Retention Elections

Posted in 2020 Election, Miami, Politics: FL-25/FL-27 | Leave a comment