Our recommendations for three judicial races in Miami-Dade County:Eleventh Circuit, Group 8
Circuit Court Judge David C. Miller, a 12-year veteran of the bench, is opposed by Mauricio Padilla, who declined to be interviewed by the Editorial Board. In any event, Judge Miller is the logical choice in this race.
Judge Miller, 59, spent 22 years practicing civil law in state and federal courts before being elected in 2000. He specialized in defending attorneys and other professionals in malpractice trials.
He spent seven years on the bench in criminal court, trying hundreds of cases. Judge Miller established a precedent, allowing jurors to ask questions in writing during a trial. Ultimately, the Florida Supreme Court upheld this practice.
Now in civil court, Judge Miller goes to great lengths to accommodate lawyers’ schedules, holding hearings at all hours to ensure that cases can move forward in a timely manner. The judge also established a summer dress code — no ties or jackets required in the year’s steamiest months.
He has a reputation for ensuring that all sides have adequate representation and equal access to expert witnesses to make their case. He says that he is inspired by his father, who, he told the Daily Business Review recently, would ask his children: “What have you done for society today?” Excellent question.
For Miami-Dade Circuit Court Group 8, The Miami Herald recommends JUDGE DAVID C. MILLER
.Eleventh Circuit, Group 15
Miami-Dade will lose the excellent services of Circuit Court Judge Lester Langer in January when he retires. Fortunately, two good candidates filed to fill his big shoes: Robert Coppel, 55, who has made a career at the Miami-Dade Public Defender’s office, and Maria Elena Verde, 42, a criminal defense attorney.
Voters can’t go wrong in this race, whichever candidate they choose. Ms. Verde is a former Miami-Dade prosecutor with a long history of mentoring students while serving as a Youth Crime Watch school coordinator. She says that 80 percent of her clientele is either juvenile or between ages 18 and 24.
Mr. Coppel was a solo practitioner concentrating on juvenile defenders for five years before joining the public defender’s office in 1988. Both candidates have an affinity for understanding the plight of young offenders and helping them turn away from crime.
All else being equal, our choice is Mr. Coppel. We hope that Ms. Verde will run again or apply to the Judicial Nominating Commission. Mr. Coppel has amassed extensive trial experience in his 23 years as an assistant public defender. He spent seven years as the lead training attorney in the juvenile division, mentoring and training young lawyers new to the intense, overworked court milieu of the criminal-justice system in Miami-Dade.
Judge Langer spent many years in juvenile court and became a crusader on behalf of the county’s neediest, most neglected children. Mr. Coppel would fill the gap that Judge Langer leaves behind.
For Miami-Dade County Circuit Court Group 15, The Miami Herald recommends ROBERT COPPEL
.Eleventh Circuit, Group 47
Circuit Judge Arthur Rothenberg is retiring. And, as in the Group 15 race, this race has drawn two well-qualified candidates. Alex Jimenez Labora, 56, is a self-employed attorney and traffic magistrate. Maria de Jesus Santovenia, 50, is an assistant city attorney for North Miami Beach with experience in commercial and environmental litigation.
Mr. Labora is an energetic lawyer of 20 years who litigated a major class action involving defective breast implants. He handles almost all areas of the law, civil and criminal, and became a Miami-Dade County traffic magistrate 18 months ago.
Before moving into municipal law, Ms. Santovenia had some heavy-hitters, too, over her 24 years of practicing law. While working two years for Dexter Lehtinen’s law office, she was involved in Everglades-related lawsuits representing the Miccosukee Tribe and environmental groups that took the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and other agencies to federal court over water-cleanup issues.
In 1999, Ms. Santovenia became an assistant city attorney for Miami and in 2009 moved on to the North Miami Beach. She says that she has found her niche in public service and that becoming a judge was the ultimate goal.
Both candidates have strong attributes, but our choice is Ms. Santovenia. Mr. Labora should run again or try the judicial nominating process. For Miami-Dade Circuit Court, Group 47, The Miami-Herald recommends MARIA DE JESUS SANTOVENIA