facebook_pixel

Circuit Court Judges, 2016 General Election: Group 52

Circuit courts are the highest-level trial courts in the state. They handle major criminal, civil (more than $15,000 in question), juvenile, and probate cases.

These names might look familiar. This is a runoff race between the top two candidates from the Aug. 30 election. Because these are nonpartisan races, we don’t list the candidates’ parties.

They also do not campaign on platforms because their job is to essentially apply the law as it’s written, in theory without any sway from their personal opinions. In judicial court races, Judicial Canon 7 places restrictions on what individuals can and cannot do as a judicial candidate. For certain questions, candidates may have indicated where they believe they are prohibited from answering. This is the Florida Supreme Court decision that explains further and limits what judicial candidates can and can not do.

Carol “Jodie” Breece

Occupation:

Ethics Counsel

Education:

(J.D.) The Catholic University of America
(B.A., Criminal Justice) University of Maryland, College Park

Relevant experience:

23 years as a trial attorney and 23 years in public service, including 17 years as a prosecutor and 3 years as a defense attorney in private practice. I ran the Miami bureau of the Office of Statewide Prosecution for 8 years and I ran receiverships for 2 years, both jobs giving me invaluable management and administrative experience. As a former Traffic Hearing Officer, I presided over thousands of traffic ticket cases, applying and deciding the law and facts, including ruling on pretrial motions and ruling on the admission of evidence. I served on The Florida Bar’s Criminal Procedure Rules Committee and the Evidence Code and Rules Committee for a total of 9 years. I am presently an Adjunct Professor of ethics and professionalism for grad students at FIU’s Master of Public Administration program.

Why are you running?

I want to elevate the level of my public service, to which I am deeply committed and which I understand very well. I believe being a judge would be the best use of my skills and experience in public service to the benefit our community.

Why are you best qualified?

I have the most relevant experience and highest qualifications of the candidates in my group, including but not limited to (1) having an AV Preeminent Rating from my peers for the highest professional ability and ethical standards and (2) being a Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Trial Law (just 1.7% of Florida Bar’s members in good standing are certified in any trial law category). I have a deep and abiding love of the law and our community. And, when elected, I will be Miami’s first Asian American trial judge in 40 years and the first female Asian American judge in Miami’s history.

Is addiction a disease?

Yes, this is scientifically proven. That said, if I as a judge were to be required to decide whether addiction is a disease in a relevant matter in a case before me, I would rely solely upon the evidence provided to me in court.

Do you believe that defendants should be presumed to receive a non-monetary bond?

My belief about such issues does not matter. I must follow the law as it is written, unless it is unconstitutional or otherwise legally flawed. But the fact is that Florida law does require a judge to set a non-monetary bond if it is sufficient to protect the public and secure the defendant’s appearance back in court.

Should discretionary costs be waived for the homeless?

Yes, otherwise it is folly and will result in persistent and unnecessary consequences to the individual and the system.

Should a civil citation be the presumed penalty for a first offense of cannabis possession?

My belief about such issues does not matter. If a first offense of cannabis possession is presented to me in court as a civil citation, I will adjudicate it according to the law, unless the law is unconstitutional or otherwise legally flawed.

Should judges have a say as to whether a juvenile is direct filed into the adult system?

Judges should have wide latitude to decide matters relating to children; after all, reform is the goal of the juvenile justice system, and the judge is in the best position to decide what is best for the child and society.

How would you describe your sentencing philosophy?

As you know, mandatory sentencing guidelines apply in Circuit Court. If the parties (the State and the Defendant) come to a reasonable agreement about the sentence, I will impose it. If offered, I will hear from the victim and the Defendant and any other person with relevant information about the possible sentence within the guidelines or, if legally permitted, outside the guidelines. I will sentence according to the facts and circumstances surrounding the criminal episode and within the bounds of the law, understanding the numerous and severe consequences that flow from criminal convictions and being under a sentence of court.

What makes Miami so darn cool? What’s your perfect Saturday in Miami?

My coolest perfect Saturday in Miami is probably in January (!) riding my bicycle with my husband and friends through Miami’s canopied roads to Black Point, down the Venetian Causeway to the Beach, or over the Rickenbacker bridge to Key Biscayne. It’s the best way to experience the beauty, weather, and camaraderie of our lovely community.

Oscar Rodriguez-Fonts

Occupation:

Assistant Public Defender / Miami-Dade County Public Defender’s Office

Education:

(J.D) University of Miami
(B.A.) Florida State University

Relevant experience:

I was born and raised in the Greater Miami area and have been a lifelong resident of Miami-Dade County. I have had a profound passion for public service. For nearly eight years I worked in the United States House of Representatives as a Congressional Aide for two members of Congress.

I have obtained vast litigation experience in both the private and government sector.  During my 16 years as a trial attorney, I have tried a wide variety of cases as an Assistant City Attorney for the City of Miami, as an Assistant Public Defender in Miami-Dade County and as a founding partner in the law firm of Alvarez Rodriguez-Fonts, LLP.

In addition to my legal career, I have devoted a great deal of time to our community, serving in various organizations like the City of Miami Code Enforcement Board, Camillus House, the Redemption Project through the Public Defender’s Office, the Kiwanis Club of Little Havana and the Florida Bar Grievance Committee, where I served as a past Chair.

Why are you running?

I have always had an inclination to serve. During the last 26 years, I have served our community in both the public and private sector. I now have the unique opportunity to continue to serve our community by combining my passion to serve and my professional experience. I consider this a calling of service; not a career.

Why are you best qualified?

I believe that my 16 years of vast litigation experience in both civil and criminal court have prepared me to be an exceptionally-effective Circuit Court Judge for Miami-Dade County. If elected, I could immediately focus my attention on serving the community from the bench without having to be subject to a learning curve.

What should the people of Miami-Dade know about you?

I received the highest combined ranking in a recent attorney poll for exceptionally qualified and qualified in Group 52. (2016 CABA Judicial Poll).

Is addiction a disease?:

Arguably, yes. For example, it has been asserted that drug addiction is a brain disease because the abuse of drugs leads to changes in the structure and functioning of the brain.

Do you believe that defendants should be presumed to receive a non-monetary bond?

Florida law sets the guidelines for the courts to follow when determining bonds (See Florida Statute 903.046). Pursuant to the statute, the purpose of a bond determination in criminal proceedings is to ensure the appearance of the criminal defendant at subsequent proceedings and to protect the community against unreasonable danger from the criminal defendant. There are various factors that the court considers when setting bond. Some factors include the nature and circumstances of the offense charged, the weight of the evidence against the defendant, the defendant’s ties and length of residence in the community, the defendant’s employment history, financial resources, mental condition, the defendant’s past and present conduct, including any record of convictions, and the probability of danger which the defendant’s release poses to the community.

Should discretionary costs be waived for the homeless?

Under Florida Criminal Law, the courts do not have the discretion to waive costs. In all criminal cases, convicted persons are liable for payment of the costs of prosecution and including investigative costs incurred by the government agencies, if requested by such agencies (See Florida Statute 938.27). However, the court may issue a stay of such costs for a specified period of time and additionally, the defendant may also enter into a payment plan through the Clerk of Courts.

Should a civil citation be the presumed penalty for a first offense of cannabis possession?

Regarding this question, Canon 7A(3)(e), prohibits a candidate for judicial office from making statements that commit the candidate regarding cases, controversies or issues likely to come before the court. As a corollary, a candidate should emphasize in any public statement the candidate’s duty to uphold the law regardless of his or her personal views. (See Florida Code of Judicial Conduct Canon 7 – Commentary).

Should judges have a say as to whether a juvenile is directly filed into the adult system?

The courts have no discretion in this matter. Full discretion lies with the State Attorney’s Office.

How would you describe your sentencing philosophy?

Florida Law sets forth the guidelines for the courts when handing down sentencing in criminal cases. In many cases, the court have no discretion and cannot depart from the guidelines. In general, I believe that a judge should not legislate from the bench. A judge should only apply and interpret the law pursuant to established precedent from higher courts.

What makes Miami so darn cool?

Sun, fun and its diverse community.

What’s your perfect Saturday in Miami?

Any activity that involves enjoying Miami’s great weather with family and friends.