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Is Judge Lee Seidman on Collision Course With Judge Susan Lebow?

There have been rumors in the local legal community that Broward County Judge Lee Seidman is considering a campaign to challenge Broward Circuit Court Judge Susan Lebow, who's been notorious since February, when she dismissed a death-penalty murder case over a scheduling conflict and a clash with the prosecutor.

With exactly three weeks before the filing deadline, I reached Seidman this afternoon to see if he'd show his hand. Will he run against Lebow? He acknowledged the rumors but would only say: "At this time, I'm weighing all my options."

Well, I tried. If Seidman joined the race, he'd be the third challenger. Jill Tamkin Rafilovitch, an immigration attorney from Hollywood, is also running against Lebow.

If Seidman does declare for Lebow's seat, then it will open up the race for his seat, where he was to face four challengers. The most recognizable name among them is Mardi Ann Levey Cohen, who attracted controversy of her own in 2008.

Then a judicial candidate running against Pedro Dijols, Levey Cohen won the primary, only to have her name struck from the ballot on the general election after a judge ruled that she had violated election law by campaigning under her maiden name, rather the one she used in her professional role. Levey Cohen eventually won on appeal, but by the time she did, the ballots had already been printed with Dijols' name, not hers. Ultimately, she lost that race to Bernie Bober.

Of course, she's the wife of Judge Dale Cohen and in that capacity she played a role in another one of the county's legal soap operas. Last summer defense attorney Stephen Melnick asked Cohen to recuse himself from a criminal case Melnick was handling, due to Melnick's concern that Judge Cohen would be biased by the fact that Melnick was involved in the civil suit against the judge's wife over that 2008 election. Cohen took the unusual step of calling his wife Mardi Anne to testify.

In February the Judicial Qualifications Committee filed charges against Cohen, alleging that he abused his authority and sought to intimidate Melnick.

Potentially, when the dust clears on the local races, four judgeships could be in the hands of two maried couples -- the Cohens and the Seidmans, since Lee Seidman's wife Laura is running for Judge Lisa Porter's seat.

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Thomas Francis

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