November 24, 2015

Broward circuit judge charged with ethics violations


A Broward County circuit court judge is accused of multiple ethics violations, because he allegedly offered advice to an assistant public defender last spring and engaged in subsequent "inappropriate conduct" in reaction to that accusation.

The Florida Supreme Court announced this morning the Judicial Qualifications Commission's decision to bring formal charges against Judge John Patrick ContiniDownload Filed_11-23-2015_Notice_Formal_Charges

After learning of Contini's email to the public defender in March, the state attorney's office sought Contini's removal from the related case because they said his advice to the defendant's counsel negated his impartiality.

The state attorney's office appealed to the Fourth District Court of Appeals to have Contini removed, and a stay was placed on hundreds of Contini's criminal cases -- freezing their progress and leaving defendants in jail because Contini couldn't hear their cases.

Contini initially refused to step away. Then, in August, Contini asked for and was granted a transfer to the family court division, following a blow-up over his dispute with the state attorney's office, according to a report by the Sun-Sentinel.

The commission wrote that after Contini first appeared before the JQC's investigative panel, "(he) again breeched the judicial canons by exhibiting discourteous, impatient and undignified conduct" during court discussions of the state attorney's appeal.

For example, the commission said he repeatedly referred to attorneys handling the appeal as "idiots" and their work as "fraudulent," and he also called the Attorney General's position in the case as "a lie from the pit of hell."

"The events of this case have been broadcast in the local and regional news media, further amplifying the negative effect of your actions," the commission wrote.

The JQC said his actions "constitute inappropriate conduct" in violation of five canons of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Contini has 20 days to offer a written answer to the charges.

November 12, 2015

Marco Rubio unveils campaign chairs in all Florida counties


ORLANDO -- Marco Rubio unveiled a list Thursday of supporters for his presidential candidacy in every Florida county.

Rubio has lagged behind Jeb Bush in home-state endorsements. But the sitting U.S. senator is the one climbing in presidential polls, sticking to his strategy of rolling out his campaign slowly and methodically in an effort to save money and not peak too soon.

His campaign published the names a few hours before Rubio was scheduled to speak at the Republican Party of Florida's annual Statesman's Dinner in Orlando, and before a two-day party event featuring Rubio and 12 of his rivals for the 2016 nomination. Rubio will open the Sunshine Summit on Friday.

Rubio named a campaign chairman in all 67 Florida counties, and named other supporters from the state legislature and municipalities. In June, Rubio announced his Florida effort would be headed by U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney and former House Majority Leader Rep. Adam Hasner.

"These county chairs are proof that Floridians are tired of electing the same politicians with the same 20th Century ideas and are eager to embrace Marco's vision for a vibrant 21st Century," Rooney said in a statement. 

In his own statement, Hasner noted many of them are "new to the political arena."

Notable South Florida backers include Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez, Miami-Dade County Commissioners Esteban Bovo and Rebeca Sosa. Sosa was Rubio's political godmother in West Miami, where he began his career in elected office; two current city leaders -- West Miami Mayor Eduardo Muhina and Vice Mayor Juan Blanes -- have endorsed Rubio.

The Miami-Dade list also includes Miami Young Republicans President Jessica Fernandez.

Here is the full list:

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November 04, 2015

South Miami and Broward square off with state over federal carbon plan

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The small but feisty city of South Miami and Broward County, a longtime Democratic stronghold, is squaring off with Florida's Republican leadership in the national fight to cut greenhouse gases by imposing limits on power plants.

On Wednesday, the two local governments joined forces with 23 other cities and states in a motion to intervene in a federal lawsuit filed last month by 23 states, including Florida, that opposes the Obama administration's new EPA rules to reduce carbon.

In challenging the Clean Power Plan, Attorney General Pam Bondi argued the new rules are will raise the cost of electricity while making service less reliable. Bondi, who also sued to stop the Affordable Care Act, said the new rules trample states' rights.

Not so, said rule supporters.

The motion, filed by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, contends that many states have already enacted their own limits on greenhouse gases to battle the effects of climate change. The  new EPA rule, the motion says, would extend those efforts nationwide. In vulnerable South Florida, where seasonal high tides now regularly flood streets, setting limits would "level the playing field" while allowing states to customize carbon cuts, according to a resolution passed by South Miami last month.

Among the states and cities siding with the EPA are Connecticut, California, Virginia, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Iowa, Maine, Hawaii, Illinois, New Mexico, Massachusetts, the District of Columbia and Philadelphia.

Cuba policy questions stump Ben Carson ahead of Miami book stop

GOP 2016 Carson(2)

@PatriciaMazzei @AmySherman1

Ben Carson has defied the traditional presidential playbook, taking time off from the campaign trail to promote his latest book and sign copies for hundreds of fans, even in Democratic strongholds like Tallahassee.

He heads to more unusual ground in South Florida on Thursday: West Kendall, a Hispanic bastion, and Fort Lauderdale, the seat of the bluest county in Florida. Carson leads hometown candidates Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush in the latest Florida polls, behind only Donald Trump.

"I'm a little different than most of the candidates," Carson the author told the Miami Herald in a phone interview Wednesday. "I'm looking more nationally at everything that's going on across the country."

Before Carson the candidate campaigns to Miami-Dade County's Cuban-American Republicans, though, he might have a little catching up to do.

Carson's national approach means he didn't take a close look ahead of his trip at a key issue in local politics: U.S.-Cuba policy.

In the Herald interview, Carson appeared stumped by questions about the so-called wet-foot, dry-foot policy, which allows Cubans who reach U.S. soil to remain here, and about the Cuban Adjustment Act, which allows Cubans who arrive in the U.S. to apply for legal residency after 366 days. 

He was candid about not being up to speed.

"You're going to have to explain to me exactly what you mean by that," Carson said, asked about wet-foot, dry-foot. "I have to admit that I don't know a great deal about that, and I don't really like to comment until I've had a chance to study the issue from both sides."

On the Cuban Adjustment Act, he gave a similar response: "Again, I've not been briefed fully on what that is."

Continue reading "Cuba policy questions stump Ben Carson ahead of Miami book stop" »

October 10, 2015

Robert Lance Andrews, colorful Broward judge, is dead at 74

Robert Lance Andrews, whose biting wit and flair for high-profile and controversial cases made him a fixture in Broward County's court system for three decades, died Friday. He was 74.

After a 30-year career on the bench, Andrews suffered a stroke in 2008 and retired, a year after his wife Carole, a member of the Broward school board, died of cancer. He remarried and moved to Texas, and was living with a son in Georgia at the time of his death.

Andrews' colorful and outside-the-box approach first drew national attention in 1982 when he offered a long-time Fort Lauderdale prostitute a stark choice: five years in prison or a one-way ticket to California.

The woman went to Santa Monica, where she was quickly arrested for prostitution, and the police chief there sent an alleged sex offender to South Florida as payback. "We owed a few to Florida," the chief said.

During South Florida's epidemic of cocaine use in the '80s, Andrews struck down Broward Sheriff Nick Navarro's policy of random searches of bus passengers for drugs.

"This is not Hitler's Berlin, nor Stalin's Moscow," Andrews wrote in an opinion cited approvingly by the Florida Supreme Court, which upheld his decision.    

Andrews once ruled that a Plantation couple could keep their two overweight dogs, even though their condo association had a weight limit on pets, because the couple had been denied a right to a hearing. In a historic preservation case that dragged on for years, he ruled that a developer could build a 42-story condo tower next to downtown Fort Lauderdale's iconic Stranahan House, the home of the city's pioneer settlers. 

Continue reading "Robert Lance Andrews, colorful Broward judge, is dead at 74 " »

October 05, 2015

Former Broward emergency manager Chuck Lanza to run against former state Sen. Steve Geller for County Commission

Former state Sen. Steve Geller will face a challenge from the former Broward Emergency Management director Chuck Lanza for a Broward County Commission seat in 2016.

The race will create a rare partisan battle on the left-leaning County Commission: Lanza is a Republican while Geller is a Democrat. Currently the lone Republican on the County Commission is Chip LaMarca who ousted Democrat Ken Keechl in 2010 and fended off a rematch in 2014.

Lanza announced his candidacy in a press release and said he will officially file his paperwork Tuesday morning at the county’s elections office. The District 5 seat is currently held by Lois Wexler who is retiring. Both Lanza and Geller live in Cooper City -- a city within the district.

When Geller was contacted by the Miami Herald to ask his thoughts on Lanza running against him he replied: “Who is that?”

Geller was unaware that he would face an opponent.

Lanza left his position as the Emergency Manager for Broward County in 2014 and has been consulting since then -- he currently consults for the city of Dania Beach. He previously served as emergency manager for Miami-Dade counties as well as the fire chief for the Broward Sheriff's Office and the Seminole Tribe of Florida.  

Lanza told the Herald that he had wanted to enter politics for many years but didn’t because of the jobs he held.

Continue reading "Former Broward emergency manager Chuck Lanza to run against former state Sen. Steve Geller for County Commission" »

October 01, 2015

Davie police say they will provide security at Hillary Clinton event - but not as much as Secret Service asked for

Davie police will provide some security for Hillary Clinton’s visit to Broward College Friday but not the amount of personnel that the Secret Service asked for, a Secret Service spokesman told the Miami Herald Thursday.

The New York Times reported earlier today that Davie police refused to provide security.

From the Times: “An assistant police chief who attended an interagency meeting to prepare for the visit announced the news that the city would not provide security. The Secret Service officials who were at the meeting did not take it well, and promised to name names about the episode if ever called before Congress, according to one of the people at the meeting, who was not authorized to discuss the private session.”

William Cachinero, an assistant special agent in charge of the Miami field office for the Secret Service, said that the Secret Service asked Davie police if they could supplement security. Clinton already gets Secret Service protection since she is a former First Lady but the Secret Service wanted extra protection for her public campaign organizational meeting at Broward College in Friday afternoon.

The Davie police “said they would not be able to have the bodies that we required, they will have people there but not in amount we wanted,” Cachinero said. He said he didn’t have any specific numbers to give the Miami Herald regarding the number of personnel the Secret Service wanted Davie to provide compared to what the police department will actually provide.

The Secret Service had already asked the Broward Sheriff’s Office and Broward College to also provide security -- and both will, he said. Nearby Florida Atlantic University will also provide security.

Continue reading "Davie police say they will provide security at Hillary Clinton event - but not as much as Secret Service asked for " »

September 29, 2015

UPDATED Florida state senator from Broward wants Joe Biden for president


State Sen. Jeremy Ring of Margate has a favorite presidential candidate: Vice President Joe Biden.

Biden hasn't decided if he's running. But a political committee hoping he will, Draft Biden, touted Ring's endorsement in a statement Tuesday listing Democratic Party "leaders" who back the VP.

"I, like countless other Americans, share our profound hope that Vice President Biden chooses to run for President," Ring said in the statement.

"In his 35 plus years in public office, the Vice President has shown great political and individual strength. He has never wavered far from his working class roots and progressive beliefs. The Vice President has proven that he is the most experienced, approachable, and sincere candidate to lead the free world. I am proud to support Joe Biden as the next President of the United States."

UPDATE: Ring told the Miami Herald in a telephone interview that his Biden endorsement has been in the works for a while, given that the state senator was an early Biden supporter in 2008. Ring is also friends with the vice president's brother Frank, who lives in Palm Beach County.

Ring praised Biden's experience and noted that the Draft Biden effort is essentially a campaign in waiting -- and "no one has told them to stop."

"The vice president just inspires me -- his strength after personal tragedy, but also that whenever there's been gridlock in Washington, it's the vice-president that works with Republicans," Ring said. "He speaks from his heart. His lines don't sound poll-tested and rehearsed. Sometimes that leads to gaffes, but I'll take gaffes over someone who's not genuine, who's robotic."

Hillary Clinton and Republicans like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Ring added, are struggling because they don't sound real enough.

"Bernie Sanders, who I don't think is electable in the general election, has at least demonstrated that people are hungry for an alternative" in the Democratic primary, Ring said. "I'm certainly not a Donald Trump supporter by any means, but he is resonating, and he's resonating because he's not coming off as a robot."

September 27, 2015

Hillary Clinton heads to Broward College


Hillary Clinton will swing by Broward College at 2:30 p.m. Friday for a "grassroots organizing meeting," her campaign said Sunday. Blue Broward, of course, is the heart of Florida Democratic politics.

The Democrat will be in South Florida for three big-money fundraisers. Her campaign had said the candidate would hold a public event in Fort Lauderdale; it will actually take place in Davie, at Broward College's Hugh Adams Central Campus B. George Mayer Gymnasium.

"During the event, Clinton will lay out the case for her campaign and directly ask supporters to get involve," the campaign said in an advisory to reporters.

Members of the public can sign up to attend here.

September 25, 2015

Broward Election Supervisor Brenda Snipes won't say whether she is seeking final term

Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes who filed for re-election Monday isn’t ready to say yet if she wins if this will be her last term.

Snipes, a Democrat, told the Miami Herald today that before she leaves office she wants to implement prepaid absentee ballots which will begin in 2016 and online voter registration which the state Legislature determined won’t start until 2017.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner attempted to thwart online voter registration and claimed that it could lead to "forces of evil" disrupting the 2016 presidential election but Gov. Rick Scott signed it into law.

In 2003, Gov. Jeb Bush appointed Snipes to replace Miriam Oliphant after she botched the 2002 primary. Snipes then went on to win her next three elections easily.

Snipes, of Lauderdale Lakes, will face Hollywood political consultant and Democrat David Brown who lost a race for the supervisor’s position in 2000. He has raised about $15,000.Two other Democrats filed to run in July but have raised no money: Rubin Young and Willie Floyd Roberson. (No Republicans have filed to run in the left-leaning county.)

Snipes has had a contentious relationship with the Broward County Commissioners who fund her office. Voters can expect Brown to criticize Snipes for some of those problems she has had with commissioners including criticism she faced after her contract attorney, Burnadette Norris-Weeks, donated money to a county commission candidate who ultimately lost.

Snipes asked the Florida Bar for an opinion regarding whether a contract attorney can give money to candidates. The Florida Bar told the Miami Herald that any such query is confidential and would not provide any information about it. However Snipes said that the Bar told her that there was nothing in state law that prohibited Norris-Weeks from donating to candidates.

Asked if she plans to change any of her office rules as a result of the Florida Bar’s advice, Snipes said “I haven’t made any flat decisions. Burnadette and I did talk about it. I don’t think she will be making those contributions to whomever she may have contributed to before.”