After interviewing the candidates, Herald Editorial Board continues its judicial recommendations, this time for Miami-Dade County Court.
In the Group 2 contest for Miami-Dade County judge, candidate Kristy Nunez is a standout. As an assistant state attorney since 2005, she has prosecuted criminals of all sorts who face charges ranging from misdemeanors to capital felonies. She has taken on a crime that plagues Greater Miami as chief of the Human Trafficking Unit of the State Attorney’s Office. Before that promotion, Nunez prosecuted homicides and violent career criminals.
Clearly, she deals with a rough element — deftly.
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At the same time, her commitment to providing at-risk youth a path away from crime and ruinous life decisions led her to co-found a nonprofit mentoring program called Urban Promise Miami.
The opponent in this race, Rosy Aponte, is an experienced attorney in private practice. She calls herself the “underdog.” However, she’s clearly a hard worker. She attended law school at night while teaching kindergartners and first-graders during the day.
Nunez understands that people who come before a judge want to be heard and that judges have a responsibility to eliminate the backlog of cases before them by being punctual, prepared and decisive — qualities she says she will bring to the bench.
The Miami Herald recommends KRISTY NUNEZ for County Court judge, Group 2.
This race features two private attorneys, Lizzet Martinez and Christopher “Chris” Pracitto.
Both have two decades of professional experience mainly in family court, domestic violence and bankruptcy.
Pracitto says he knows his way around a courtroom, describing himself as a “Swiss Army knife in the courthouse.” The son of a Marine, he says he would run his courtroom effectively — and we believe him.
Martinez, who is running for the second time, often represents people of low and middle incomes who many times lack the means to access the legal system. She also has been a Guardian ad Litem, serving as a voice for children in the court system. She says this has given her a more compassionate view.
“I would treat those who appear in front of me with respect and dignity regardless of race, religion and affiliation,” said Martinez, a former Miami Herald Silver Knight winner. Her view is certainly a plus.
We think Martinez would bring both legal rigor and added compassion to the bench, something it always needs.
The Herald recommends LIZZET MARTINEZ for County Court judge, Group 32.
Olanike “Nike” Adebayo was confident enough in her ability to be a judge that she applied to the Judicial Nominating Commission seeking an appointment to the bench.
She did not get one. However, the Editorial Board has always been impressed by attorneys who volunteer to put themselves through the microscopic scrutiny of the JNC. “Our reputations are everything,” Adebayo told the Board. “The JNC asks [colleagues] ‘How did they behave?’ Judges talk — ‘This is the good and the bad.’ They ask opposing counsel.”
That alone should give voters confidence to send Adebayo to the bench. However, she has an impressive resume, too.
Eleane Sosa-Bruzon also is seeking this seat. A partner in a private law practice, she has a diversity of professional experience, including six years in the Broward Public Defender’s Office. She makes clear her commitment to serve.
We give Adebayo the edge for her more than decade as an assistant state attorney, during which she was chief of litigation for the juvenile division, where she supervised and trained more than 80 attorneys. She also trained police officers in constitutional issues and gained extensive trial experience.
The Herald recommends OLANIKE “NIKE” ADEBAYO for County Court judge, Group 33.
Doral lawyer and mediator Elena Ortega-Tauler and Miami litigator Michael Barket are vying for the seat vacated by Judge Don Cohn.
Because of past legal problems, which included a three-year suspension from the Florida Bar, we can’t confidently recommend Ortega-Tauler. She is now in good standing, and we are touched by her dust-yourself-off-and-get-back-in-the-game attitude to refocus her law career. But serving on the bench shouldn’t be part of that focus.
Barket, her opponent, is competent and qualified. He has practiced for two decades in both Circuit and County Court handling family law, probate and landlord/tenant disputes.
“You will not find a judge who will question my integrity,” Barket said of his reputation after years of practicing in Miami-Dade. He promises to bring the “right temperament and hard work to the bench.” We’ll take him at his word.
The Herald recommends MICHAEL BARKET for County Court judge, Group 40.
Milena Abreu and Miguel “Mike” Mirabal are seeking the seat left empty by Judge Joseph Davis’ retirement.
Abreu has the professional advantage in terms of experience, including working for the death penalty unit at the Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel, Third Region of Florida. Both candidates have lost previous races — Abreu by a painful squeaker of 660 votes in 2016.
Abreu is a former Miami-Dade assistant public defender, who is now a sole practitioner and a Miami-Dade traffic court hearing officer — a sort of junior judge, she says.
She is also one of seven women in the county who are certified to try death penalty cases.
She says she has done 100 jury trials. “I’m in court everyday,” she told the Editorial Board.
Mirabal has been an attorney in Miami-Dade and in Spain for 14 years, specializing in international, family and immigration law. We think Abreu bests him on depth of experience. She told the Board she would bring empathy, ethics and preparedness to the bench.
The Herald recommends MILENA ABREU for County Court judge, Group 43.