The Herald is publishing its recommendations for candidates in the August 30 primary. We start with judicial races, usually the ones with which voters are least familiar.
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Fred Seraphin, who made Miami-Dade history in 2001 by becoming the county’s first Haitian-American judge, is seeking to retain his county court seat.
The former assistant public defender was only 43 when he was appointed by then-Gov. Jeb Bush. At the time, Mr. Seraphin, now 57, was among a handful of local Haitians entering public office.
He told the Editorial Board that being a judge is a calling, not just a job. Mr. Seraphin adds that he has a deep personal understanding of injustice. In Haiti, his father, a political opponent of Haitian dictator François “Papa Doc” Duvalier, was murdered and no killer was ever tried.
He, too, Mr. Seraphin said, experienced injustice when as a senior in college he was arrested for a crime he did not commit. That experience convinced him to go into law.
Mr. Seraphin’s challenger is New Jersey native Milena Abreu, 43, a 16-year private practice attorney who handles death penalty cases and has gained bench experience working as a county Traffic Hearing Officer.
Ms. Abreu says judicial temperament on the bench is another critical shortcoming. Asked why she is challenging Mr. Seraphin, Ms. Abreu responded: “Temperament; I think I can do better.” And the way Mr. Seraphin handles himself in the court courtroom has been at issue at times.
Last year, he at first refused to accommodate an assistant public defender’s request for a 15-minute break every few hours during a trial so that she would be able to pump breast milk. Courthouse regulars also say the judge can be inflexible.
“I address each defendant with the dignity and patience that I would expect for myself,” he said. Let’s hope so.
Although Ms. Abreu will soon be ready to be a fine county judge, we feel Mr. Seraphin has served his community well and should be returned for another four-year term.
The Herald recommends FRED SERAPHIN in Group 5.
The retirement of Miami-Dade Judge Judith Rubenstein in the Domestic Violence Division created a vacancy that has attracted two candidates — Linda Luce and Ruben Alcoba, both in private practice.
Ms. Luce,who has been practicing since 1991 and soon after came to Miami to work for the Department of Children & Families juvenile delinquency unit, currently focuses on civil and family law. She has worked at several local law firms and as a mediator.
“After 25 years in private practice, I would like to go back to public service,” said Ms. Luce, who added that she feels strongly that a proper level temperament from the bench is imperative — and we agree.
Mr. Alcoba, 50, a sole practitioner who focuses mainly on patent, trademark and immigration law, says he’s running because “this community has been so wonderful to me.”
Both candidates are newcomers, but we give the edge to Ms. Luce due to her varied law experience, particularly in family law.
The Herald recommends LINDA LUCE in Group 15.