County Group 28
This open seat drew two contenders. Tanya Brinkley, 45, is a private practitioner who has also been a traffic magistrate for eight years. Enrique “Rick” Yabor, 44, runs a solo practice and spent two years as an assistant state attorney for Florida’s Third Judicial District in central Florida beginning in 1999.
Mr. Yabor returned to Miami, his hometown, in 2001 and went into private practice. In 2010, he established his solo practice here. He practices civil law, including commercial litigation, family law and mediation. He especially enjoys family mediation, where he helps divorcing couples work out differences and settlements before going to court.
His idea of how a judge should approach the job is to look out at the gallery of defendants, lawyers and spectators and tell himself: “You’re here for them, not the other way around.” Soundly put. This is the people’s court, after all.
Our choice, however, is Ms. Brinkley, who sought this office after being nominated by the Judicial Nominating Commission — but not chosen — a surprising nine times. She has practiced family and marital law, criminal defense and general civil work, such as landlord and tenant problems.
Her eight years as a traffic magistrate have taught her a lot about the people’s court and how to deal with defendants and supplicants alike. Currently she presides over the county court judges’ traffic calendars, which involve serious bodily injury, sentence reduction through mitigation relief and other motion calendars.
Ms. Brinkley says that in traffic court she has learned to “think fast on my feet” by identifying and deciphering the facts, the issues and then applying the law.
This ability is sorely needed in a court whose judges can deal with hundreds of cases in one week. Traffic court alone deals with more than one million citations a year. Ms. Brinkley will bring the right qualities to the bench.
For Miami-Dade County Court Group 28 The Miami-Herald recommends TANYA BRINKLEY
.County Group 33
County Judge Teretha Lundy Thomas, 57, drew an opponent this year after 19 years of being reelected automatically when no challenger filed against her.
Her opponent is John M. Rodriguez, 51, a former Hialeah police officer and former Miami-Dade County assistant state attorney.
Mr. Rodriguez has been in private practice for more than 20 years.
He practices criminal-defense and real-estate transactions law. Mr. Rodriguez has plenty of legal experience, but in this contest he’s no match for Ms. Thomas, who was first elected in 1992.
Ms. Thomas started out at the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office in 1981. In 1987, she took another path and served as the senior assistant city attorney for Miami Beach. In 1989 she became the first full-time city attorney for Opa-locka. She kept that position until her election to the bench. Currently she is the administrative judge of the county court’s civil division.
During her 19 years on the bench, Judge Thomas has handled thousands of cases of all types — criminal misdemeanors, traffic cases, including DUI, small claims, domestic violence, civil injunctions. You name it, Judge Thomas has tried it.
She is professional in demeanor and performance and defines her job as one of “seeking the truth.” That’s why it’s disheartening to see a competent minority judge be challenged in a retention election.
Black female judges are in very short supply in Florida state courts. In many cases, after they’re elected or, more often, appointed, they almost always are challenged in the next election. Many lose, wrongly, because of ethnocentric voting habits.
It speaks to Judge Thomas’ record in the courtroom that, through three reelection cycles, she wasn’t challenged. In 2012, she more than deserves to be reelected. She’s a good judge and good for Miami-Dade County.
For Miami-Dade County Court Group 33 The Miami-Herald recommends TERETHA LUNDY THOMAS