For the next two months The Miami Herald will recommend candidates in various races leading up to the Aug. 14 election. We start with three judicial races in Broward County:
Circuit 17, Group 19
The upcoming retirement of Judge Ronald J. Rothschild in Group 19 has opened up a seat that has drawn two aspirants, including the outgoing jurists son, Michael Ian Rothschild, 37. Both he and Julie Shapiro-Harris, 52, are making their initial runs for the bench.
Mr. Rothschilds name will give him a possible edge, but he also appears to be the best qualified. Mr. Rothschild is a commercial litigator with 13 years of experience as a lawyer. He formerly served in the public defenders office. He also represented insurance insurance companies in homeowners claims.
Ms. Shapiro-Harris works for the county clerks office, where, she says, her primary responsibility is to review petitions and draft orders. A lawyer for 17 years, she focused on family law and says the majority of her cases were mediated successfully.
Mr. Rothschilds experience gives him the edge in this race. He believes the use of technology, allowing for the conduct of routine hearings and motions modeled on the procedure in federal court, would alleviate some of the stress on dockets and caseloads. For Broward Circuit Court, Group 19, The Miami Herald recommends MICHAEL IAN ROTHSCHILD.
Circuit 17, Group 35
With 30 years of experience on the bench, since 1987 in circuit court, 65-year-old Judge Dale Ross says he wants one more term before he reaches mandatory retirement. Broward voters should consider whether Judge Ross has been around too long already.
Judge Ross served as chief judge for 17 years but was forced to step down in 2007 after a series of scandals during his tenure and allegations of improper behavior on the bench, including allegedly disparaging remarks toward defendants. The scandals involved, among others, a pot-smoking judge and another judge openly weeping on the bench and displaying inappropriate behavior.
The Fourth Court of Appeal has cited Judge Ross numerous times for abuse of discretion and being pro-prosecution. In one instance, he was admonished for giving advice to a young prosecutor on how to obtain a stronger sentence. The appellate court said he crossed the line of ostensible neutrality and impartiality.
One such instance would not be significant, but repeated controversy during his decades on the bench suggest its time for Judge Ross to step down.
Michael Mickey Rocque, 51, formerly a public defender, is a trial attorney with 25 years of experience. Although he cannot boast Judge Ross many endorsements, he deserves credit for taking on one of the most powerful figures on the Broward bench, who has never before faced a challenger.
For Broward Circuit Court, Group 35, The Miami Herald recommends MICHAEL MICKEY ROCQUE.
Circuit 17, Group 45
The open seat for Broward Circuit Court, Group 45, has drawn four candidates of diverse backgrounds and experience. The best is former Judge Julio E. Gonzalez Jr., 42, a well-qualified trial lawyer in private practice who lost his seat in 2008 when all three Hispanic judges on the ballot were defeated for reasons that seemed to have more to do with their names than their ability.
During his nearly three years on the bench, he presided over both misdemeanor and felony trials in civil and criminal actions. He also served with the Legal Aid Society and says he has taken 40 cases to verdict as either a prosecutor in Brooklyn or defense attorney.
The other candidates are Oliver Parker, 61, former mayor of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea; Rhoda Sokoloff, 59, a lawyer for 13 years who specializes in family law; and Laura Watson, 42, who entered private practice after serving as a prosecutor. Of these, Ms. Watson has the most varied experience over the past decade.
Mr. Gonzalezs experience as a judge is the crucial factor in this race. He has a reputation for being smart, fair and respectful. Other lawyers say his conduct on the bench was a model of appropriate behavior and demeanor.
For Broward Circuit Court, Group 45, The Miami Herald recommends JULIO E. GONZALEZ JR.