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August 26, 2014

Politics and Mudslinging: Judges Gone Wild!!!

by Sam Ranard

It is easy to tell when an election is coming up. Everywhere you look, on television, the internet, radio, in newspapers, there are adults acting in ways that they would punish their own children for. Name calling, bullying, lying and the such. This behavior is exemplified every election, election after election. It is easy to overlook the attacks, as we have become immune to the questionable political antics being shoved in our faces. These campaign strategies do not really bother me. When they do bother me, it is when they are being used by judges to gain an edge against other judges. Judges hold such an important and powerful position, they must be held to a higher standard.

 

Judges must be held to a higher standard.

For individuals that have to face a judge in a legal setting, for that moment in time when they are standing in front of the judge’s podium, that judge has more power over the perso before them than any other politician (most likely) ever will. For that moment in time, the judge becomes the end all decision maker. Based on a judges decision alone, a decision that a judge will make and forget about, can change a persons life forever. The power that comes with being a judge is extensive. So when it comes to elections and campaigning, judges should be held to a higher standard than other politicians. Or at least a higher standard than they are being held to now.

Should an election not be based on the reputation, experience and political and personal views of each candidate? Why are campaign adds not filled with the credentials of the candidate instead of the downfalls of their opponent. To me, listing the skeletons in the closet of your opponent indicates that you have nothing left to say about your own qualifications. It also implies that you do not necessarily want people to vote for you because they think you will be a great judge, but you want them to vote for you because they hate the other candidate.

The Kim Shepard Advertisement:

It really didn’t occur to me how ridiculous and inappropriate it was for a judge to smear the reputation of another judge -until I saw the advertisement pictured below, and really thought about it. Something I should have “really thought about” earlier, but like most Americans, I have become desensitized to the reputation smearing and name calling surrounding most political campaigns.

When a co-worker of mine was in Orlando, Florida, he came across this gem. A full page advertisement from Kim Shepard. A full page, and not one word about herself. The entire page is dedicated to destroying her opponent, Norberto Katz’s name. Oh, wait, no she does say she has a “Business Sense.” So only 99% of the advertisement is attacking Katz. And she underlined “sense”, so you know she’s good. Oh and she has a baby sheep with a halo over its head…  #CmonMan….

Judges must be held to a higher standard.

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To be honest, I really don’t know where to start with this one. There is so much nonsense going on – it is overwhelming. Before we move forward, I need to address (again) the sheep in the room. Does anyone else see the white sheep with a halo standing on the “D” in “SHEPARD,” What is that? Is it a play on her name Shepard? But that kind of shepherd is spelled, shepherd, not shepard. I am so confused. Damn you haloed baby angel sheep. Damn you.

Getting back on track, let’s start at the top of this advertisement:

“Norberto Katz Was Convicted of Lying” (and all of the other accusations, 1 -4)

To the lay person, Shepard makes it sound as if Katz was found guilty of some crime called “lying” in a trial held in front of the Florida Supreme Court, however, that is not the case.

When an attorney is disciplined for some type of misconduct, they will be investigated and disciplined by the Florida Bar.  Depending on what the misconduct was, an attorney may have to have a hearing with the Florida Bar or the Florida Supreme Court.  This is a hearing to discipline the attorney a a member of the Florida Bar, not as a criminal of some sort.

While a hearing with the Florida Bar can be, and generally is, as serious and consequential as other civil and criminal hearings, it is important to know that they are two different things. Shepard puts zero effort into clarifying this ambiguity in her advertisement.

Basically, this advertisement makes it sound as if Katz was found guilty for the non-existent crime of  “lying,” when he was not. However, he was disciplined by the Florida Bar.

The incident Shepard is referring to in her advertisement took place in 1995. Yes 1995. Almost 20 years ago. Shepard’s advertisement is referring to something Katz did the same year O.J. Simpson’s trial began, when the LA Rams moved to St. Louis, the year Monica Lewinsky began her internship at the White House. So, a while ago.

In 1995, Katz was suspended by The Florida Bar after a client complained about Katz’s handling of a will and estate. According to the Orlando Sentinel,  “Katz received a 90-day suspension, paid a $725 fine and was on probation for one year.”

In regards to being disciplined by the Florida Bar, “I made a mistake,” Katz said. “There is no question about it.”

The Sentinel reported, “The Florida Bar found him guilty of dishonesty, failing to act with diligence for a client, failing to keep a client informed, making false statements of fact or law, knowingly making a false statement in connection with a disciplinary matter and engaging in conduct of dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.”

Being disciplined by a state bar is a very serious issue, and one that should not be taken lightly. Voters should be informed of such transgressions as they are material to the credibility and integrity of the candidate. However, there should be more clarification on Shepards part.

“Don’t Believe Any Last Minute Smear!”

Written at the very bottom of the advertisement is “Don’t believe any last minute smear!”  Don’t believe any last minute smear? So, I should or I should not believe that Katz is a convicted liar?

The Haloed Baby Angel Sheep

Well, enough has been said about that little guy.

Florida’s Judicial Standards?

Most states enforce a very similar standards of conduct for both attorneys and judges. The Florida Supreme Court has a set out a series of standards of professional conduct for Judge’s called “Canons”.  However, the Canons only refer to the conduct of a judge, not necessarily the standards for a campaign advertisement. If it were up to me, there would be a significant amount of professional restraints on campaign advertisements. For now, we will just have to coexist in a world with haloed baby angel sheep and bold, underlined, multi-colered, ALL CAPITAL, ACCUSATIONS.

Where to go from here?

Well, all I can say going forward is to try your best to ignore ridiculous advertisement smear campaigns. Unless you are into that. Then go with it, I guess. What do I know. Regardless, get out to the polls and vote! And if you like haloed baby angel sheep and a business sense  for the bench, then vote for Kim Shepard, she has both of those things, apparently.
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