Today we wrap up recommendations for Broward County court judges and begin those for county court judges in Miami-Dade.
Broward County, Group 5
Voters have three seasoned and public-spirited attorney candidates from which to choose: Olga Levine, 48; Robert Nichols, 51; and Richard Sachs, 44. Two, Ms. Levine and Mr. Nichols, stand out for the depth of their experience. Mr. Nichols, in private practice, has seen legal action as both a prosecutor — serving in Broward’s sexual-battery unit and becoming an expert in the problem of date rape — and as a defense attorney. His demeanor and career trajectory could make him a good fit in circuit court.
For this county seat, The Herald gives its nod to Ms. Levine. Her down-to-earth, real-world experience as a Broward County assistant public defender makes the county bench a logical next step. She has handled a broad variety of criminal defense work, often representing seniors, vulnerable adults and those facing mental-health challenges in civil evidentiary proceedings in guardianship, adult protective service and involuntary commitment hearings. She has been appointed by the court as attorney ad litem in family court cases, preparing reports and recommending time-sharing arrangements and other issues for children caught in divorce proceedings.
She says that the backlog of cases waiting to be heard is one of the court system’s biggest challenges. Ms. Levine says she would advocate for implementing digital e-filing to set hearings and instantly send notice to everyone involved, freeing up overburdened staff to be used more efficiently.
For Broward County Court Group 5, The Miami Herald recommends OLGA LEVINE.
Miami-Dade County, Group 1
County Court Judge Patricia Marino-Pedraza is being challenged by assistant state attorney Frank Alexander Hernandez for the County Group 1 seat.
Mr. Hernandez, 32, who has taken leave from his prosecutor’s job to run, says he decided to take on Judge Marino-Pedraza because she ran for the seat in 2006 and beat a sitting judge that was an upstanding jurist. That’s a testament to his loyalty, but in this case, there’s no strong reason to unseat Judge Marino-Pedraza. Mr. Hernandez has potential and should consider putting his hat in the ring through the Judicial Nominating Commission process for an open seat.
Ms. Marino-Pedraza, 47, works in the civil division, hearing about 5,000 cases a month, primarily PIP car accidents, evictions and small claims at the Coral Gables courthouse. She practiced law for 15 years before serving on the bench and went through the rigorous Judicial Nominating Commission process three times. She’s active in the legal community and has been involved in civic causes, such as the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. She also has been appointed to sit in circuit court to handle domestic-violence cases.
For Miami-Dade County Court Group 1, The Miami Herald recommends PATRICIA MARINO-PEDRAZA.
Miami-Dade county, Group 10
Miami-Dade County Judge Ana Maria Pando has twice now run afoul of ethics rules.
In 2005, the Florida Supreme Court fined her $25,000 for improper campaign donations, which she says was a mistake when she spent money her mother gave for her home on the campaign instead. Now she faces charges filed against her by the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission. She admits she wrote a letter on her judicial letterhead to the Florida Division of Corporations on behalf of Florida Wellness and Rehabilitation Center to help the company correct an accidental misfiling. The company has had cases heard by Judge Pando, and it donated $2,000 to her reelection campaign.
It’s unfortunate that Ms. Pando, 49, has to defend herself again. Her ethically impaired actions call into question her judgment.
The better choice is Diana Gonzalez, 39, for the “people’s court.” A former public defender, Ms. Gonzalez also worked in a civil litigation firm. She now handles family-law cases, domestic-violence and immigration cases, among others, at Ferrer Shane, PL. She notes she has tried “everything from traffic tickets to murder cases.” She also has traveled to Colombia and Panama on behalf of the U.S. government to help during transitions in their legal systems.
For Miami-Dade County Court Group 10, The Miami Herald recommends DIANA GONZALEZ.