Most judicial races involving circuit and county courts were settled during the August election, except for three run-off races in county courts —two in Broward County and one in Miami-Dade County.
Judicial candidates are limited by Bar rules on what they can say in campaign advertisements. Typically, they also have fewer campaign funds at their disposal to promote their candidacies. Voters would do well to study the judicial candidates’ record and experience before deciding on these important races.
Broward Group 5
Attorneys Robert “Bob” Nichols, 51, and Olga Levine, 48, came out ahead in a three-way primary race to replace County Judge Leonard Feiner. Both are seasoned, well-qualified candidates for this bench.
A one-time assistant state attorney in Pinellas and Broward counties, Mr. Nichols says he has tried more than 300 civil and criminal jury trials and has appeared in 18 circuits around the state. He says he devotes 30 percent of his time to pro bono (non-fee) cases.
Our recommendation in this race is for Ms. Levine, whose temperament and experience as a Broward County public defender makes this a good next step.
Ms. Levine says that as criminal defense attorney for the Office of Public Defender, she has handled all aspects of criminal defense and has been in court for most of her legal career.
Additionally, she says, she has represented hundreds of clients in all walks of life, citing in particular seniors, vulnerable adults and mental health consumers in civil evidentiary proceedings in guardianship, adult protective service and involuntary commitment hearings.
For Broward County Court, Group 5, The Herald recommends OLGA LEVINE.
Broward Group 10
Incumbent Robert F. “Bob” Diaz missed winning outright in the August primary by an eyelash, garnering 49.7 percent of the vote against two other candidates.
This time around, he deserves to win a clear victory.
Roshawn Banks, 43, a former prosecutor and public defender now in private practice in both state and federal courts, is running on the basis of her experience as a trial attorney. She received 28 percent of the vote in the primary.
Judge Diaz is a well-respected jurist with a solid reputation as a good judge among both prosecutors and defense attorneys. One of the first Hispanics appointed to the bench in Broward — in July of 1992 — he deserves to remain on the job.
In 2005, the Florida Supreme Court upheld a disciplinary charge against him that Judge Diaz did not contest for sending anonymous emails to a fellow judge and to the Hispanic bar involving that judge’s alleged mistreatment of illegal immigrants in court.
A judicial dissent noted that this was an isolated incident and did not violate judicial canons. In any case, aside from this one blemish in a 20-year career on the bench, Judge Diaz has been an exemplary judge. He has served most of that time in the Criminal Division.
For Broward County Court, Group 10, The Herald recommends ROBERT “BOB” DIAZ .
Miami-Dade Group 24
A career prosecutor in state and federal courts, Andrea Wolfson went through the rigorous process of a Judicial Nominating Commission and was appointed to the bench two years ago by then-Gov. Charlie Crist.
Judge Wolfson now presides in the “people’s court,” versed in a variety of issues, from DUI to domestic violence, traffic and uncontested divorces.
Now overseeing jury trials, Judge Wolfson, 39, faces an experienced attorney, Greer Elaine Wallace, 58, who came in second in a three-candidate race in August. We continue to give the edge to Ms. Wolfson because candidates who undergo the gubernatorial nominations process are well-vetted, and that bodes well for an independent judiciary.
During her time in court, Judge Wolfson has shown through her hard work that she is fair and impartial and has the temperament suited for the bench.
She is eager to take on more responsibilities in an already overloaded judiciary. She has volunteered to oversee administrative matters in an appellate capacity, and also has taught seminars at the Florida Judicial College.
For Miami-Dade County Court, Group 24, The Herald recommends ANDREA WOLFSON.