Broward Circuit Judge John "Jay" Hurley called me last night to offer his take on numerous issues that have been written about on the blog. Suffice it to say it was a productive and insightful conversation on a few fronts, the first of which was any influence Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein may have had on his appointment by Gov. Charlie Crist to the bench in July 2008.
Hurley says that Rothstein's part in the appointment, if there was one, was minimal and that reports that Rothstein may have purchased the seat for him are false.
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Maurice Ferre raised the issue in a news release last month, noting that Rothstein and his law firm gave $52,000 to the state GOP on the day Crist appointed Hurley and another $25,000 to the party the next day.
I didn't jump on that bit of information here because the idea that Hurley, a frat brother and friend of Crist's, would need Rothstein to get the appointment didn't seem to hold water. I did mention it in a blog post over the weekend that concerned Hurley, noting there was no concrete evidence to support any wrongdoing.
Hurley told me last night that he met Rothstein a few times but
never socialized with him other than at public functions. For instance, he met Rothstein at the funeral of slain Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler partner Melissa Britt Lewis (Hurley dated Lewis for a brief period in the late 1990s). He also says he met him when the Celtic Society once named Rothstein honorary Irishman of the year (believe it or not).
"I've met Scott Rothstein less than five times in my life," Hurley said. "I've never had a meal with him, I've never met his wife, I've never had coffee with him, I've never been to his home, none of that."
Hurley said, however, that when he was applying to the Judicial Nominating Committee to become a judge, Rothstein was among numerous powerful and political people he contacted to ask for their support.
"I called him at his office and asked him, 'Would you support me?' " said Hurley. "It was before I actually turned in my application. There are influential people around town you have to make phone calls to, and I made at least 25 of them. When I called Rothstein, he said, 'Sure Jay, I'll do whatever I can do for you. I'll call the governor.' He said he'd put in a good word for me."
But Hurley said he didn't ask Rothstein to call Crist and didn't need that phone call. He's an old friend of Crist's, and the governor put him on his transition team as an adviser on military affairs (Hurley is a veteran of the Navy) after his election in 2006, among other things. Hurley and Crist were frat brothers as Pikes at Florida State University and maintained a friendship, he said.
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"The truth is that I didn't need him to call the governor," said Hurley. "I was more worried that if someone called him, he wouldn't throw me under the bus."
The judge also says he requested fundraising support from RRA and received only one contribution, a $150 check from RRA attorney Ken Padowitz.
After the appointment, Hurley invited Rothstein to his robing ceremony "along with 100 other people because I called every politician in Broward and invited them to come," said Hurley.
Add it up and it seems to be politics as usual more than any sinister sale of a spot on the court bench. Absent any evidence to the contrary, I'm going to once again echo KevinK on the idea that Rothstein paid for Hurley's appointment: no sale.