BROWARD CIRCUIT COURT
Incumbent Judge Lynn D. Rosenthal found herself in the embarrassing position of running for reelection while facing charges of driving under the influence and causing property damage. Wednesday, she agreed to a plea deal to the reduced charge of reckless driving. In exchange, she will serve three months of probation and perform 25 hours of community service.
In May, deputies arrested her for repeatedly striking the security gate at the Broward County courthouse with her SUV and hitting a patrol car.
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A Breathalyzer test showed Judge Rosenthal had not been drinking, but she failed a field sobriety test and refused to take blood or urine tests. She told the police that she had taken the sedative Ambien the night before. When asked, she refused to discuss the issue with the Editorial Board.
Ms. Rosenthal, 56, was named to the bench in 2012. She is a former federal prosecutor. She should not be faulted for having exercised her rights. However, the plea does not dispel the cloud that still hangs over her. She first fought to keep her mug shot from public view, later relenting. Few suspects get that privilege. In addition, defendants who appear before her under similar circumstances — refusing to give blood and urine samples — don’t get much sympathy from the bench. Voters should exercise similar judgment.
Challenger Frantz J. McLawrence, 42, from Tamarac, is a well-thought-of former public defender in Broward County. Admitted to the bar in 2003, he is in private practice with his own law firm where, he told the Editorial Board, he has litigated more than 40 cases and prepared and reviewed more than 6,000 cases for trial.
Judge Rosenthal, he said, is unreasonable and treats defendants harshly. He decided to challenge her because, in his view, the court needs “new blood.” In this instance, we agree. For Broward Circuit Court, Group 8, the Herald recommends FRANTZ McLAWRENCE.
The race for this open seat is crowded: Dennis Bailey, turning 58 on Friday, a senior trial lawyer; Russell Thompson, 59, whose law firm specializes in personal injury; and Andrea Ruth Gundersen, 58, and Rhoda Sokoloff, 61, both sole practitioners specializing in family law. If no one candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters will face off in the general election in November.
All four candidates appear qualified, earnest and enthusiastic about making a difference on Broward’s troubled judicial bench.
As a traffic court hearing officer, Mr. Thompson has quasi on-the-bench experience. He promises to run his courtroom like his successful family business, efficiently and effectively.
Ms. Sokoloff, who focuses on family law, domestic violence and dependency law cases, confesses that her “professional goal has always been to be a judge.” Nothing wrong with such aspirations. Ms. Gundersen, whose practice also focuses of family issues, wants to make “a difference in the lives of a broader base of the community.”
However, the breadth of Mr. Bailey’s legal experience gives him the edge. As a former prosecutor and criminal defense lawyer who began his career in the 1980s, he has seen both sides of the legal coin and served as lead attorney in more than 200 jury trials. He also teaches law at Nova Southeastern University’s law school. “Throughout my professional career I have gained a broad range of knowledge on the law,” he said. Those who know him agree.
Mr. Bailey is the single parent of two autistic sons. He’s also the brother of Tim Bailey, who is already a Broward Circuit Court judge. If elected, the Baileys will become the first brother duo on the bench in recent Broward court history. For Broward County Circuit Court, Group 16, the Miami Herald recommends DENNIS BAILEY.
Two accomplished attorneys are running to fill this open seat. Julie S. Harris, 54, has for 10 years been a staff attorney in the domestic violence unit of the Broward Clerk of the Court. She reviews petitions for injunctions, making recommendations to the judges. Though her legal career has been limited mostly to civil court, she says she has learned what goes into being an effective judge.
The Editorial Board, however, gives the nod to her opponent, Stacey Schulman, 36, who has much broader legal experience. In her nine years as an assistant state attorney in Broward County, she served in several units, including juvenile justice, felony trial, sex crimes, child abuse, public corruption and organized crime.
She left to deepen her experience, going into private practice to do civil law. She also put herself through the tough Judicial Nominating Commission process — twice. Though not appointed, Ms. Schulman’s willingness to be scrutinized speaks well of her. The Miami Herald recommends STACEY SCHULMAN in Group 17.