Miami-Dade County

Miami-Dade state attorney, public defender and 18 judges retain or earn seats unopposed

FOR THE MIAMI HERALD

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle, Public Defender Carlos Martinez and 18 judges won election Friday when no challengers filed to run against them.

Friday’s noon candidate filing deadline also crystallized the races that will take place: Ten judicial positions will be up for grabs in the August election.

For Fernández Rundle, the re-election marks her seventh term in office — now one more than legendary Dade State Attorney Richard Gerstein, who held the job for 21 years.

She was first appointed in 1993 to replace Janet Reno, who left to Washington, D.C., to become the U.S. attorney general under President Bill Clinton. Fernández Rundle has won four contested elections, the last in 2012, when she defeated defense lawyer Rod Vereen in the Democratic primary.

“The State Attorney’s Office is the best team in America, and this validates all of their hard work and commitment for our community,” Fernández Rundle said on Friday.

Fernández Rundle said her office will continue to battle human trafficking, particularly of young girls pressed into prostitution. In recent years, she has become a vocal advocate for victims of human trafficking, and also helped pass a law stiffening penalties for the crime.

She said her office is also working on cracking down on violence that has claimed many young people over the past year. In January, she created a satellite office at the Miami-Dade police station in Liberty City, assigning two prosecutors, two former homicide detectives and several witness and victim liaisons to work with detectives.

“When I go to funeral services, I notice the caskets are getting smaller. It’s heartbreaking,” she said.

As for Martinez, a longtime lawyer with the Public Defender’s Office, he was reelected to a third unopposed term. In 2008, he succeeded his boss, Bennett Brummer, who retired.

In his upcoming term, Martinez said he plans to help people who have been arrested of minor crimes, but never convicted, seal their records. He said he will also begin a campaign on behalf of people who have had their driver licenses suspended because of unpaid court fines and fees.

Martinez, whose office represents the indigent, is also planning a push to ensure that people charged with minor crimes get an attorney. Generally, defendants charged with misdemeanors are not guaranteed representation in Miami-Dade County court.

“There are many thousands of people who are pleading guilty without an attorney,” Martinez said.

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