Today is Election Day, time to cash out on a season's worth of primary drama. Also, your mailbox will soon be filling up with less junk -- hopefully. But just now as we're getting ready to shelve politics for a couple of months, a sideshow issue has broken out in one of Broward's most important judicial races. It involves family court Judge Steven Feren, whom you might remember from our recent feature.
This spring, Robert Baumann petitioned the jurist for custody of his 2-year-old daughter, Lilly. But pictures of the baby playing in piles of ammunition and other evidence of Baumann's ex's growing anti-government sentiments weren't enough for Feren to step in. Instead, he gave Baumann 50-50 custody, and the mother kidnapped the girl the first chance she got. Now, more than three months later, Lilly is still missing.
Feren is up for reelection against attorney John Contini, which might have been why he shied away from a bold move like giving a father full custody. But Feren's career on the bench has been far from distinguished. The Miami Herald endorsed Contini in the race. The Sun Sentinel endorsed Feren, but the paper made it clear it wasn't in love with Feren's underwhelming performance in robes. Maybe the heated face-off explains what recently happened.
Over at BrowardBeat, Buddy Nevins lays out the situation. A recent attack ad against Contini claims the attorney has a history "of lying and skirting the law," has had "struggles with alcohol," and has "right-wing supporters." All pretty basic stuff, as far as attack ads go. But instead of being mailed from a third-party committee, the flier was mailed directly from Feren's campaign.
As Nevins points out, any material coming from the campaign is subject to the Florida Supreme Court's Code of Judicial Conduct. The code states that a candidate can't "knowingly misrepresent" information about another candidate and "shall maintain the dignity appropriate to judicial office and act in a manner consistent with the impartiality, integrity, and independence of the judiciary." Nevins thinks the flier could be a violation of the code.
And so does one-man-blogging-bazooka Chaz Stevens. Which is why the guy behind the Pabst Blue Ribbon Festivus Pole in the state Capitol building filed a Judicial Qualifications Commission complaint against Feren last Friday.
When New Times got Stevens on the phone to talk about the complaint, he said the decision was pretty easy. "Thou shall fuck with incumbents, especially incumbent judges," Stevens says. "It's questionable, so I spent five minutes of my life signing out the complaint."
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