Yesterday I had lunch with Jaimie Goodman, one of three candidates for Circuit Court Judge, Group 30. We met at Bagel Works and spoke for over an hour about his career, why he wants to be a judge, and the politics of judicial elections.
One thing leapt out at me during our conversation. Questions others have raised about his experience are nonsense. This guy is an experienced trial lawyer. We talked in depth about some of the cases he’s handled over the years and he’s genuine and knowledgeable. In interviewing candidates who claim to be experienced litigators, we look for storytelling ability. A trial lawyer has to tell juries the story of the case. One of the bits of lawyer life others don’t know about is the moments when we’re sitting around a courtroom waiting for something. Lawyers do a lot of waiting. In those moments we tell each other “war stories” about cases we’ve handled. Goodman has plenty of those stories.
If he has a weakness, it’s specialization. Some lawyers are generalists, handling all kinds of cases. He’s the opposite. In his career Goodman has practiced almost exclusively in employment litigation. That’s a narrow field within the broader area of civil litigation.
That is a potential issue for Circuit Court. Over the course of a term, a circuit judge might handle a wide variety of cases including criminal, family law, probate, civil litigation, state and local tax disputes, and more. His experience is narrow, but it’s also deep. So while it’s something to consider it’s not a deal breaker.
As far as background and credentials, Goodman checks off a lot of the right boxes. He earned his Bachelor’s degree and law degree from Cornell University. He’s admitted to federal courts in both Florida and Michigan, including two federal circuits and the US Supreme Court. He’s a member of various bar associations, involved with community organizations, and he’s “AV” rated by Martindale-Hubbell.
The politics are interesting. This is Goodman’s third run for judge. He lost an open seat race in 2010, and a fairly close race against Judge Alvarez in 2012. That 2012 race means a lot. There is a terrible unwritten rule in the legal community that you’re not supposed to run against a sitting judge. The state Constitution mandates that judges have to run for reelection. It’s also hard. Sitting judges are also generally popular and hard to beat. Goodman took some heat for running against an incumbent, when he should be admired for swimming upstream.
You can look at those previous campaigns two ways: He lost twice so he must not be a great candidate; or he’s gotten valuable experience and gotten his name out there so that makes him a stronger candidate. Running close to a sitting judge is a sign of the latter.
One of the funny things about the campaign is a reflection of life in South Florida. Goodman mentions prominently in his campaign that he was born in Queens and went to school in upstate New York. We’re not sure but this might be the only place in the world where a candidate would feature that he’s from somewhere else.
There’s one big question we ask judge candidates: Why do you want to be a judge? No candidate yet has given us a good answer. Someday we’ll meet one who does.
We previously interviewed Peggy Rowe-Linn running for the same seat. We had lunch with her at the Original Pancake House in Somerset Shoppes. And before that we met with Jessica Ticktin at Panera in Mission Bay running for a different seat on the Circuit Court.
We have reached out to the other candidates in their races but have not received any response so far. If any of our readers has connections to the campaigns of Judge Diana Lewis or Maxine Dianne Cheesman, please let them know we’d be happy to meet with them in West Boca to talk about their campaigns. At this point we expect to make endorsements in both races. If we don’t hear from them, we will not consider them for endorsement.