Today, the Herald begins to publish its recommendations for candidates in the August 30 primary. We start with judicial races, usually the ones with which voters are least familiar.
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY COURT
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Judge Edward Newman was elected to the county bench in 1994. He has faced opposition before and was reelected each time — his background as a Miami Dolphin, plus the strength of incumbency, no doubt playing large roles — and he hopes to be returned to the bench this time around.
This time, he faces Lizzet Martinez, an attorney in family law and bankruptcy. She says that she is running for this seat because her 18 years of professional experience and her life experience will help her “bring dignity and do a better job dispensing justice.” Ms. Martinez, 44, often represents people of low and middle incomes, who many times lack the means to access the legal system. She also has served as a Guardian ad Litem as a voice for children in the court system. She says this has given her a more compassionate view of people’s needs when they are in court.
She also said this about her challenge to Judge Newman: “This is the people’s court, it’s no one’s seat.”
Indeed, both in the meeting with the Editorial Board and on the campaign trail, Judge Newman, 65, comes across as somewhat resentful to have drawn a challenger, adding that, “I have, like, the perfect courtroom.”
Credible courthouse sources say that he is a good courtroom manager, and works through a crowded docket efficiently, but could also bring more sharpness to his deliberation.
That said, he indeed brings the experience of making fair and solid decisions. Though he has spent more than two decades on the bench, Judge Newman should know that the seat belongs to no one but the people. And because of his diligence and a well-documented commitment to community service, the people should grant him another term.
The Herald recommends EDWARD NEWMAN for Group 7.
Judge Wendell Graham was appointed to the bench in 1994 by the late Gov. Lawton Chiles. He has returned to the Judicial Nominating Commission process four times seeking an appointment to the circuit court and been nominated four times for Gov. Rick Scott’s consideration.
A willingness to go through such a rigorous process — Judge Graham’s application is 49 pages long — speaks well for any attorney or judge.
Antonio Jimenez, 35, is Judge Graham’s challenger. He is a pleasant young attorney who spent two and a half years in the state attorney’s office, where he was assigned to the misdemeanor and felony crimes units, and eight years as a criminal defense attorney in his own practice. He says he decided to challenge Judge Graham only because the incumbent filed to keep his seat late in the game. As a defense attorney, he not only seeks justice for his clients, he says, but also help beyond the court system.
Judge Graham brought a heftier resume to the bench, having been a special DUI and narcotics prosecutor in the state attorney’s office during the Janet Reno years before going into private practice.
He says that he manages his docket competently because, “I don’t want a $300 cases to end up a $30,000 case.” He, too, works to help troubled people find stability and a straighter path. He made sure his office found housing for woman with medical issues who was facing eviction. He says that he is industrious, though courthouse sources say that he could move even more quickly in the name of efficiency.
Judge Graham’s considerable experience, and his appointment by Gov. Chiles, should give voters the confidence to return him to the county court.
The Herald recommends WENDELL GRAHAM in Group 35.