Before this election we had no opinion on Judge Marni Bryson. We do now.
Today in the mail we received a highly offensive mailer attacking Lisa Grossman, who is running against Bryson. The mailer identifies itself as being sent by “Keeping Citizens First, Inc.”, which is run by campaign consultant Rick Asnani. Asnani appears to be working for Bryson along with other judicial candidates.
The mailer and similar slurs on the internet and social media misuse personal photos from Grossman’s Facebook account and refer to personal matters that apparently took place thirty years ago. The mailer misleads readers by indicating that Grossman was “found guilty” of what are at worst minor campaign errors, and falsely suggests she has been convicted of crimes. It’s classic libel.
Judge Bryon’s decision to hire a dirty political consultant and participate in such nasty, below-the-belt campaign tactics renders her unqualified to sit as a judge.
As a result, we are endorsing Lisa Grossman for Judge.
Grossman has broad experience in health care and education. As an attorney she served as an assistant public defender, which is one of the hardest jobs in the law.
West Boca News endorses Jessica Ticktin for Circuit Court Judge. Ms. Ticktin is running against the incumbent Hon. Diana Lewis.
There are a few reasons for our endorsement. The most compelling of those is the incumbent’s record. The Palm Beach County Bar Association evaluates judges based on several factors. Lawyers in the county have consistently rated Judge Lewis the worst in the county.
Here are the 2013 ratings for Judge Lewis:
A substantial majority of the lawyers responding rated her poorly for “Judicial Demeanor & Courtesy to Lawyers,” by far the worst. Half the judges in the county are rated “needs improvement” on that factor by single digits. 147 lawyers gave her that rating. Only one other judge had half that many.
She had the worst ratings of the 34 circuit judges on most of the factors. You can see all of the Bar’s judge ratings for 2013 here:
Strong pluralities also rated her poorly for impartiality, common sense, and enforcing professionalism. Put more bluntly, Judge Lewis on the bench is rude, biased, unprofessional, and lacking in common sense.
The Florida Constitution requires that judges face reelection. If that means anything it means that the worst judges should be voted out.
There’s another key reason for our endorsement. We met Jessica Ticktin, she impressed us, and we think she’ll make a good judge. We’re not alone. The Sun-Sentinel (“the steady, fair temperament she would bring to the Circuit Court bench”) and Palm Beach Post (“Ticktin’s experience and demeanor make her a more than capable replacement.”) both endorsed Ticktin.
Two other minor details deserve mention. First, Ticktin lives in West Boca. The legal community in this county tends to center on West Palm Beach. For those who live in West Boca, it doesn’t hurt to have a judge who knows our community.
Second, the incumbent’s campaign did not respond to our requests for an interview in West Boca. We were included on a mass e-mail campaign event invitation sent to people who had “expressed an interest in ReElect Judge Lewis,” but never received any response to our direct requests. One of our volunteer reporters, Jeff Van Treese, was able to attend the event in East Boca. Lewis did interview with him and made a favorable impression. Still the lack of response from the campaign for a more complete interview bothered us. All the other judicial candidates responded to our requests and agreed to meet with us in West Boca.
The election day for this race is August 26th, but early voting has already begun at the West Boca branch library on the west side of 441 north of Yamato.
We should also note that we are not making any endorsement in the other judicial race. We like all three of the candidates: Jaimie Goodman, Peggy Rowe-Linn, and Maxine Cheesman.
Last week I had breakfast with Circuit Court judge candidate Maxine Cheesman. We met at one of my favorite breakfast places, Rancheritos de Boca in Somerset Shoppes. Cheesman is running for an open seat (there is no incumbent) and we previously interviewed the other two candidates for the same spot, Jaimie Goodman and Peggy Rowe-Linn.
We like the other two, and Cheesman also made a strong impression. A few things stand out about her. First, she has a science background which is very rare among attorneys and judges. Cheesman not only has a B.S, but also a Master’s degree in Chemistry from the University of Miami. She applied that knowledge working for the South Florida Water Management District for 15 years.
Another thing that stood out is her commitment to pro bono service, providing free legal services to the less fortunate. She won the 2012 “And Justice for All Award” from Palm Beach County Legal Aid Society. In our conversation her pro bono work came up again and again.
When we interview judge candidates we ask why the person wants to be a judge. One common answer we don’t like is that they “want to give back.” Getting a $142K job with power is not giving back. Doing pro bono work, as Ms. Cheesman has done, is.
Giving back was not her answer. She talked about fairness, and making sure people get a fair judge. I asked her about what qualities she admires in judges and one thing she said again stood out – patience.
Courts today are driven by pressures to be efficient. When it’s your case, efficiency is not important. Fairness is what matters. A judge focused on efficiency is less likely to be patient and I’ve seen that in my work in courtrooms. This is the first time I remember a judge candidate mentioning patience and that really impressed me.
At this point we are very impressed with all three candidates we’ve met for this seat, and we don’t think we’re going to make an endorsement.
Now that we’ve met with Cheesman the politics of the race are even more interesting. As we mentioned in our previous articles, Rowe-Linn grew up in West Palm Beach. Her campaign tends to appeal to north county voters and Florida natives. Goodman touts that he’s from New York and his appeal seems to work best among south county voters and especially those who are not from here. His office is in West Palm Beach.
Cheesman is the third leg of the triangle. She was born in Jamaica, though she’s been in South Florida for 30 years or more. Like the other three she is based in West Palm Beach, which makes sense for Palm Beach County lawyers as that’s where the main courthouse is. We chose to base ourselves in West Boca because it’s convenient to all three counties in South Florida.
From a partisan perspective Rowe-Linn is more likely to draw Republican votes while Goodman and Cheesman will split the Democrat vote. That might seem like an advantage to Rowe-Linn, but the August primary election will draw more Democrats out to vote because of the Democratic primary for Governor. We’re not aware of any significant Republican primary races in August.
For her part Cheesman of course hopes to impress likely voters of all stripes, but she also will try to bring out people who don’t ordinarily vote in elections like this one. Elections in August have much lower turnout than ones in November.
We should also mention that we met with Jessica Ticktin back in May. She’s running against incumbent Judge Diana Lewis, who has not responded to our requests for an interview.
We had the pleasure of meeting judicial candidate Jessica Ticktin this morning at the Mission Bay Panera. Ms. Ticktin grew up in greater Boca Raton and is a resident of West Boca (west of Jog near Yamato). She spent three weeks with her first child at West Boca Medical Center and was very happy with their pediatric care and NICU facility. She and her husband are happily expecting their second child, also a boy. She told us the baby is due in June but his name is a closely guarded secret. They are regulars at places like Babies R Us and Home Depot, as well as Regency Court near their home. Her husband owns Boca Car Wash in East Boca, at the corner of Glades and Federal Highway. They are members of Temple B’nai Israel, which has a lot of West Boca members.
Ticktin faces one challenge male candidates rarely have to deal with – she’s pretty. While we were sitting in Panera an older and balding gentleman approached her out of the blue and offered to buy her hair from her. She handled it gracefully.
This race is one of the most interesting judicial races we’ve ever seen. There was a procedural dance lining up which candidate was running for which seat, partially documented by the Post on Politics. Here’s a summary as best we understand it (and we’re not sure we do):
Judge Diana Lewis currently sits as a Circuit Judge in “Group 14.” Ticktin filed to run for Group 14. Lewis then switched to Group 32 after a judge in that group retired. Ticktin switched from 14 to 32. At the last minute Lewis switched back to 14, and Ticktin filed to switch back to 14 a mere fifteen minutes later, with much of the drama playing out in Tallahassee.
Also in this dance was another candidate we recently interviewed, Samantha Schosberg Feuer, who is now the only candidate in Group 32. We will write more about the Group 14 race closer to the August 26th election date. In our meeting this morning Ticktin impressed us. She’s passionate about children and as a result has spent much of her career handling family law cases. Her academic and legal background are substantial. She’s a Boca High graduate with a B.S. from FSU and a law degree from Stetson. She’s a member of various bar associations and admitted to practice in three federal courts as well as the Florida Supreme Court. For four years she was managing partner of The Ticktin Law Group but stepped back from the managing role after her son was born.
As a judge she aims to control the courtroom while treating people with respect. Ticktin admires judges who are not afraid to “do the right thing.” She understands that a judge’s role is to resolve disputes, not to create them.
We haven’t formed any opinion on the race yet, and hope to hear soon from Judge Lewis about her experience.
Recently I had the pleasure of meeting with Samantha Schosberg Feuer (pronounced like “fewer”). She is a candidate for Circuit Court Judge for the 15th Judicial Circuit. That is, for Palm Beach County.
Mrs. Schosberg Feuer’s legal career has mainly consisted of working as a prosecutor and for the Florida Attorney General in “consumer protection.” Her campaign website is named Samantha For Judge. She also has a long list of “community involvement” such as being past president of the Florida Association of Women Lawyers. She is certainly well qualified for the position.
There are certain things I look for in a judge. One critical piece is courtroom experience. There are some lawyers who run for judge after spending their careers mostly outside courtrooms. That worries those of us who do spend time in court. Schosberg Feuer clearly has substantial trial experience, so she ticks off that box favorably.
She also makes a good impression in person – sharp and clearly knows what she’s doing. She has a lot of energy, and I worry a little that she will try to control the courtroom too much. That can make it hard for the attorneys to do their jobs.
I was mostly impressed with her. She’s clearly on the ball when it comes to the harsh ethics rules that come into play when you run for judge. Something I find helpful with trial lawyers is to ask questions that give them an opportunity to tell stories. A lawyer who’s had a lot of trials will have a lot of stories to tell. And good trial lawyers are also good story tellers. It goes with the job. I did not find her stories compelling. But that’s important in a lawyer, not in a judge.
Here’s a video of the press conference when she announced her run:
We are not making any endorsement decision yet. We are waiting to hear from other candidates, both in judge races and others. So far we will be meeting with one other candidate from the other contested Circuit Court race. Hopefully others will contact us and we will be able to provide more information to our readers.