Critics: Judiciary Is Being Attacked by "Jewish-Sounding Names"
Public Defender Howard Finkelstein said it was wrong and would foster anti-Semitism. Lawyer Alvin Entin recently railed against it on JAABlog, even going so far as bringing the Holocaust into the argument. "My concern is that this targeting is based on a belief that a Jewish surname by itself is a qualification for office, and that this provides one with an advantage. The fact that this may be true is of no moment, because persons running in this manner should be ashamed of themselves...," Entin wrote. "In Nazi Germany, Adolph Hitler attacked and attempted to eliminate the Jewish people because of their ethnicity. For you to run a campaign based upon ethnicity is an example of what you should spend a lifetime telling your children is totally wrong."
Now erstwhile campaign consultant Dan Lewis, who has a deep history of involvement in Broward politics and is behind a new business website, is jumping into the fray. "The problem is that inexperienced generally out of work or unsuccessful attorneys with Jewish sounding last names think that they can win a judicial seat on that fact alone," Lewis wrote in a piece that is included at the end of this post. "The problem is that they
may be right."
Lewis is holding a meeting on May 8 with incumbent judges he supports to discuss election strategies (and possibly pick up some clients, one supposes). It's a real issue. Currently there are an unprecedented 17 judicial races that are being contested in Broward County. And you must understand: These sitting judges have no idea how to run a campaign. Listening to them talk about the daunting prospect of challenging an opponent can be rich tragicomedy. Some of them deserve to be tossed from the bench, but some are being challenged by people who clearly have no business wearing the black robe. As I recount some of the races below, keep in mind that in most cases, I'm not making any judgments myself. Just pointing out the trend. Some of these challengers for all I know may be the right choice. I think it's safe to say that most aren't.
Among those who are being challenged by a Jewish-sounding name is Circuit Judge Elijah Williams, who happens to be black and very well-respected. His challenger is one Alan B. Schneider, an unknown at the courthouse. Then you have Judge Carlos Rodriguez being challenged by Freida Goldstein -- a Homeland Security attorney who primarily practices in Miami. County Judge Ed Merrigan, a war veteran (referenced by Lewis below), is being challenged by DUI lawyer Lloyd Harris Golburgh. Judge Mary Robinson is being challenged by Jordan Howard Breslaw, who at one point changed his name to Jordan Jordan and who in my judgment is a totally unqualified joke (read this about him for a laugh). I don't know if Judge Jay Hurley's opponent is Jewish, but Melissa Donoho is going by "Melissa Beth Minsk-Donohoe," which obviously has its connotations. Then you have Judge Carlos Rebollo, who is being challenged by Bob Nichols.
I know what you're thinking: But Nichols doesn't sound Jewish. Yes, but that doesn't matter because Anglo beats Hispanic, according to conventional wisdom, so it's the same sort of thing. Hispanic judges were slaughtered last go-round, if you don't remember.
There are others, but you get the picture. It's happening, and it's a bittersweet type of thing. It's good to see so much action in races for judgeships that used to be sure things. But it's gone from a cake walk to chaos, and it's putting the onus on voters who sadly have neither the time nor inclination to really get down into the meat of judicial races.
Here's the entirety of Lewis' writing on the subject:
Trouble, Oh We Got Trouble!
"We got trouble, my friend, right here, I say, trouble right here in River City."
When our elected officials, banks, neighborhood businesses, contractors or service people corruptly profit from fast talking and bad dealing? Who do we turn to for relief? As victims of family, probate, civil or criminal activities bring us to court - who do we turn to for justice? Broward County Judges.
You get the idea, we need good experienced Judges in Broward County to keep all of us and our families safe and prosperous and "we got trouble- right here in River City"!
Who doesn't know about all the judicial controversies in Broward; from the unwanted multi-hundred million dollar new courthouse to replace an underutilized dilapidated courthouse, to a park pot smoking judge, a publicly naked dancing judge, a national TV crying Judge, a judge resigning over a romantic controversy, and the list continues. "We got trouble- right here in River City"!
When good, experienced judges are challenged because of their race or because they are not Jewish -"We got trouble- right here in River City"!
The problem is that in-experienced generally out of work or unsuccessful attorneys with Jewish sounding last names think that they can win a judicial seat on that fact alone. The problem is that they may be right. "We got trouble- right here in River City"!
To be sure, not all our Broward judges should be re-elected. There are certainly a few who should never have been a Judge and if possible, summarily thrown off the bench without being afforded the dignity of losing election. But there are some who are excellent Judges.
There are currently three black Judges on the Broward Bench who have distinguished themselves both in community as well as in their service as a Judge. All should be re-elected. But black countywide candidates have difficulty being elected in Broward because of both an uninformed voter as well as latent racism. "We got trouble- right here in River City"!
There are a number of Hispanic Judges, who were appointed and have through their actions have brought honor and dignity to the Broward Bench. But Hispanic countywide candidates have difficulty being elected in Broward because of both an uninformed voter as well as latent racism. "We got trouble- right here in River City"!
Among the Judges being targeted by Jewish sounding names includes a Judge in the active reserves (who fights so we don't have to), and a genuine war hero, a decorated combat veteran who risked his life to save others.
The problem is that it takes money to run a countywide election in Broward. With from 75,000 to 150,000 voters voting in the August 24th election it would take over $80,000.00 for TV ads (minimal), at least $70,000.00 per targeted mailing to likely voters (one is never enough), and over $20,000.00 for one absentee ballot mailing for a minimal budget of $170,000.00 not including any 'breakfast's", handouts, or nail files. That's a lot of money for a job that pays only about $130,000.00 per year. I guess it's just too bad that most of the quality Judges being challenged cynically by the Jewish sounding names simply do not have the money to effectively communicate traditionally.
"We've surely got trouble! Right here in River City! Remember the Maine, Plymouth Rock and the Golden Rule! Oh, we've got trouble. We're in terrible, terrible trouble."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss New Times Broward-Palm Beach's biggest stories.