Judge Porter Photo With Public Defender Only Looks Like an Endorsement

As the Broward judicial races heat up, candidates are looking to seize upon every possible advantage. So it seemed a suspicious bit serendipity last week when Lisa Porter, the Broward Circuit Court judge running for reelection, appeared in a photograph with Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein on the legal community's most trafficked website, JAABlog. Finkelstein has a policy forbidding judicial endorsements from his office.

A commenter on the post congratulated Porter for earning the support of Finkelstein. We asked the colorful public defender if he'd made an exception in Porter's case.

"It's not an endorsement," says Finkelstein.

Finkelstein told Juice that he thinks it "unseemly" for his public defenders to be endorsing or fundraising for a judge's campaign. It could create the perception that those lawyers expect favors after the judge gets elected. Or it could create a bias against that attorney if the opposing judge wins office.

"With Lisa Porter, she came by to see me," says Finkelstein. "I've known her a long time. Her domestic partner was an intern for us. Like most judges, they all want endorsements, and I tell them I can't do that."

But it happened that while they were talking, Bill Gelin from JAABlog was nearby. Finkelstein says that Gelin asked to take their photo. "I'm not good at guile or hiding the ball," says Finkelstein. "You want to take a picture? Sure!"

We called Gelin, and he said the same -- that the photo was purely spontaneous. "I always ask everybody if I can take their photo," he says, adding that it was "150 percent" his idea, not Porter's.

Laura Seidman, wife of Broward County Judge Lee Seidman, is running against Porter.

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