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293 posts from September 2008

September 29, 2008

Supremes rap "arrogant" Broward judge

The Florida Supreme Court issued a reprimand against Broward Circuit Judge Cheryl Aleman for acting in an "arrogant" and unprofessional manner against defense counsel during the 2006 jury selection for accused Hollywood killer Lawrence Braynen.

Aleman, a Jeb Bush appointee, repeatedly refused to step down from the case at the request of defense lawyers Bruce Raticoff and Sandra Perlman, who was the campaign treasurer for Aleman's opponent, Robert Malove. On at least five occasions, Aleman made the defense lawyers file hand-written motions, with limited time or face contempt charges.

The Judicial Qualifications Committee found Aleman acted unprofessionally, and the Supreme Court agreed today, writing "Far from patient, dignified, or courteous, the JQC concluded that Judge Aleman’s undisputed conduct was “arrogant, discourteous, and impatient,” as well as “[in]adequate,” “improper,” “unacceptable,” and “unreasonable.”

Aleman has to appear before the court for a reprimand and pay for JQC investigative costs. She also has to deal with the ire of the lawyer-run blogosphere, which suggests this isn't an isolated case.

"The Florida Supreme Court recognizes the power of the judiciary and the importance of the judges to be reasonable and fair and they found she was anything but that," said Perlman. "It's a beautiful opinion. It emphasizes what Bruce Raticoff and I had to go through.... When you read it, you can sense what was happening. We're trying to defend a first-degree murder case and at the same time we have a judge who was not being reasonable and not being fair."

Download sc07-198.pdf

Judicial candidate Levey gives up ballot spat

Mardi Anne Levey said she won't file additional court motions trying to force Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes to print her name on the ballot in a judicial race.

"At this point I just feel my energies are better used campaigning,'' Levey said Monday.

A judge initially threw Levey off the ballot because she filed for office under her maiden name rather than her married name of Cohen which she uses in her law practice and on official documents.

The Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed that decision last week, placing Levey back in the race. But the appeals court gave Snipes an out: the judges wrote that Snipes could continue printing ballots without Levey's name on them and post a notice to voters explaining that a vote for Pedro E. Dijols is actually a vote for Levey.

Judge Dijols sued to get back on the ballot after Levey narrowly defeated him. She will face Bernard Isaac "Bernie'' Bober Nov. 4.

Dijols has said he will ask the Florida Supreme Court to review his case.

Here's how they voted

The plan failed 205-228, splitting largely along partisan lines in South Florida: Democrats Kendrick Meek, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Alcee Hastings, Ron Klein, Tim Mahoney and Robert Wexler backed the bill.

Republicans Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen voted against it.

Democrat Kathy Castor of Tampa voted against the bill, however,

After thoughtful consideration and review, saying it didn't "provide sufficient help to middle-class families in the housing squeeze or taxpayer protections."

Klein called it an "undesirable, but essential, plan to stabilize our financial system and get our economy back on track."

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said President Bush was "very disappointed" with the vote, but fellow GOP'er Ros-Lehtinen said it "had a sky high price tag and did not address the needs of our hard-working middle class families who are struggling to make ends meet."

Anti-abortion radio spot to hit FL airwaves

From a Knights of Columbus press release:

"A 30 second radio spot encouraging people to "vote pro-life" in the November elections is running on radio stations throughout the state - from Jacksonville to Miami - and around the United States.  The ad will be aired for several weeks.

"The ad features the sound of an unborn baby's heartbeat at 10 weeks, and the voice of a woman saying, "Listening to this makes me wonder - why would anyone question that her life has begun?"  It concludes with the words, "Vote your heart. Vote Pro Life."

Lincoln Diaz-Balart takes on USA Today -- and Castro

Lincoln Diaz-Balart opines in today's USA Today, taking on the newspaper's editorial board which writes in favor of lifting the embargo on Cuba, given the damage caused by Hurricanes Ike and Gustav.

"Rather than stick to outdated political games, the United States should deprive the Cuban regime of its scapegoat and lift the embargo," the editorial says. "Castro's attempts to hold the United States responsible for his country's woes could then be exposed for what they are: an attempt to shift blame. And millions of Cubans can both be helped and start seeing a different truth from the Castro brothers' insistence that the U.S. is the author of all that goes wrong in Cuba."

Retorts Diaz-Balart: "The gravely ill Fidel Castro might have given up some titles, but he remains the tyrant. At the time of his death, it will be critical for the U.S. embargo to be in place as it is today, with its lifting being conditioned on three fundamental developments: the liberation of all political prisoners; the legalization of all political parties, labor unions and the press; and the scheduling of free elections.

"Those are the exact same conditions that brought about the democratic transitions in Portugal, in Spain, in South Africa, in Chile, in the Dominican Republic and in many other dictatorships," Diaz-Balart wrote. "This is not the time to give the Cuban dictatorship billions of dollars unilaterally, while Cuba's prisons remain full of political prisoners and the regime remains a state sponsor of international terrorism."

Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Raul Martinez find common ground

Lincoln Diaz-Balart says he's opposed to the Wall Street bailout and so is his rival, Democrat Raul Martinez.

So much for making the vote a campaign issue, though Martinez blamed the current crisis on "Diaz-Balart/Bush economic policies.

"The proposed 'bailout' by the Bush Administration to be voted on today in Congress does not do enough to ensure that the middle class, the people who are truly being hit hard by tough economic times, will be sufficiently helped by this legislation," Martinez said in a statement issued by his campaign.

"Hard-working South Floridians, many who are struggling to escape home foreclosure, have not received enough support from Congress to help them stay in their homes," he said. " The mortgage crisis is the root cause of this problem and it has not been addressed sufficiently."

He accused the administration of "seeking an unprecedented power grab to address the mess that they created. The Treasury Secretary would be largely unrestricted in his ability to spend $700 billion of taxpayer money at a cost of about $2,300 to every man, woman and child in America."

Taddeo calls bailout 'flawed bill'

Democrat Annette Taddeo opposes the $700 bailout agreement reached by Congressional leaders Sunday, saying it is a start but does not do enough for homeowners and taxpayers.

"This bill fails to address the collapsing housing market, the root cause of the crisis," Taddeo said in a statement Monday. "I do not support spending $700 billion in taxpayer money on a flawed bill."

She also said Democrats in Congress and her opponent, Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, should do more with the legislation to help South Florida families.

Ros-Lehtinen still leading Taddeo in new poll

A poll released Sunday shows that Democrat Annette Taddeo's campaign to unseat Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen continues to face an uphill climb, although Taddeo slightly narrowed the gap between her and Ros-Lehtinen since July.

Ros-Lehtinen leads Taddeo 53 percent to 36 percent in a poll done by Maryland-based Research 2000 for left-wing blog DailyKos. The poll, of 400 likely District 18 voters, showed 10 percent were undecided (and 1 percent would vote for "other"). The margin of error was plus-or-minus 5 percent.

The gap between the two has narrowed some since a poll released in July by Coral Gables-based Bendixen & Associates had Ros-Lehtinen leading the race 58 percent to 31 percent, with 11 percent of voters undecided.

Anastasia Apa, Taddeo's campaign manager, said it was a good sign that Taddeo had narrowed the gap from 27 to 17 percentage points before releasing her TV and radio ads last week.

"Taddeo now is within striking distance of Ros-Lehtinen going into the final phase of the campaign," Apa said in a statement.

She also said that the poll, which was conducted in English, understates the district's Hispanic vote. The sample was 62 percent white and 31 percent Hispanic, according to the Swing State Project.

The R2K poll shows John McCain besting Barack Obama in the district by 15 percentage points - 52 to 37 - with 8 percent undecided and 3 percent choosing "other."

Obama, pulling way ahead in USA, still trails McCain overall in FL

For a state that prides itself on mirroring the nation, Florida is still far more John McCain-happy than the rest of the USA.

According to the grand-daddy of all polls, Gallup, Barack Obama has pulled way outside the error-margin nationwide against McCain, holding a solid lead of 50-42. Yet in Florida, Obama trails McCain 47.6 to 46 percent, according to RealClearPolitics.com's average of the prior seven polls. Though there is no error-margin on these polling averages, it's likely this is basically a tie. And McCain's polling "lead" in the averages would be even smaller had it not been for SurveyUSA's 51(McCain)-45(Obama) results. Also, today's ARG poll showing Obama up isn't yet listed, either.

Here's what Gallup's national poll and the Florida poll averages agree on: McCain started falling here and across the country by Sept. 16, as news of the economic shock sunk in. Check out the fever grafs of RealClearPolitics and Gallup.

Though the polls clearly show Obama-mo, they also indicate that the race is erratic. Holding leads in this political race is vestigial. As soon as the economic crisis quiets, it could be safe to assume there's a good chance of increased support for McCain, who has largely driven the storylines of the election (remember Paris, inflating tires, and pig lipstick, etc?) just as he dictated the pace of Friday's debate.

More here on all the polls, etc.

Mario Diaz-Balart: "Major, major reservations"

Mario Diaz-Balart, who like his fellow members of Congress has been flooded with calls and e-mails from constituents, says he has "major, major" reservations with the rescue plan to be voted on in about an hour.

"We've gotten a ton of calls from people who are just very upset that we're in this position to start with," the Miami Republican said. "There's outrage and rightfully so."

Diaz-Balart says he's read and re-read the bill and is listening to the House debate, but has "serious reservations" about the proposal.

"I still have some major, major problems with it," Diaz-Balart said, adding that he would favor a plan that "requires Wall Street to put up its money first."