Miami-Dade County

Lawsuit in Miami-Dade judicial race fails

adiaz@miamiherald.com

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jason Bloch’s effort to boot his opponent from Tuesday’s ballot failed.

Another judge on Friday threw out Bloch’s lawsuit against challenger Marcia del Rey over her disclosure of income from a motel she owns in Puerto Rico.

Circuit Judge Jerald Bagley ruled that Bloch should have first complained to Florida’s ethics commission. And Bagley agreed with del Rey’s lawyer that kicking the candidate off the ballot “would disenfranchise the citizens of Miami-Dade County from voting for their candidate of choice.”

Bloch’s lawsuit was unusual because Florida judicial races are normally uneventful affairs, and candidates are limited in how they campaign.

Del Rey’s lawyer attacked the legal challenge as nothing more than “politial mudslinging disguised as a lawsuit.”

Her attorney, Robert Fernandez, said after the hearing: “This lawsuit filed against Ms. Del Rey by a desperate candidate just days before the election was full of political hot air and the balloon was just popped.”

At issue: Bloch claimed that del Rey, in a required financial disclosure form, failed to properly disclose income from the motel on the island. The del Rey family also owns a chain of hotels in Miami that cater to the sexually adventurous.

The lawsuit suggested, but offered no evidence to prove, that her family was profiting off “highly questionable activities” such as prostitution and human trafficking.

The salacious allegations were not mentioned at a hearing on Thursday as lawyers — in highly technical and dry langauge — focused almost entirely on whether del Rey properly filled out the financial disclosure form. From his questioning, Bagley clearly seemed troubled by the lawsuit.

“This form is fully completely filled out, from the court’s perspective,” Bagley said. “She’s not lying, as far as I can tell.”

Bagley on Friday also denied a request by Bloch’s lawyer, Joe Geller, to shield the results of Tuesday’s election from the public while they appeal the ruling.

Bloch was appointed to the bench in 2014. This is his first campaign. Del Rey has been a private attorney since 2005.

“Now that the court has thrown out my opponent's attempt at distraction, I can get back to getting to know Miami-Dade voters,” del Rey said in a statement. “I am proud of the campaign we have run. We have run a positive campaign at all times, only bringing the voters positivity and hope, reflecting the professionalism and positivity I hope to bring to the bench.”

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