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Justices and Judges

Will there ever be a day where the judicial section of your ballot isn’t super confusing?

This time around, you’re voting on whether to retain a Florida Supreme Court justice and four judges. It will be a yes/no question. You also have a runoff vote from August’s circuit court judge race in the 11th Judicial Circuit Group 14.

Judicial retention

If you vote “no” on Justice Alan Lawson, the next governor will appoint his replacement. In early October, the Supreme Court ruled that Gov. Rick Scott could not appoint replacements before leaving office; there are also three justices retiring who the next governor will replace. With such different candidates for governor, they are likely to appoint very different justices.

The Florida Bar always polls its members on whether they believe judges should be retained, based on their knowledge of the judges’ quality and clarity of judicial opinions; knowledge of the law; integrity; judicial temperament; impartiality; freedom from bias/prejudice; demeanor; and courtesy. Here are the full results of their poll.

  • Supreme Court Justice Alan Lawson – 87 percent retention
  • 3rd District Court of Appeal Judge Kevin Emas – 92 percent retention
  • 3rd District Court of Appeal Judge Ivan Fernandez – 87 percent retention
  • 3rd District Court of Appeal Judge Norma Shepard Lindsay – 85 percent retention
  • 3rd District Court of Appeal Judge Robert Joshua Luck – 90 percent retention

The Miami Herald recommended a “yes” vote on all the judges.

11th Judicial Circuit Group 14

Neither Vivianne del Rio nor Renee Gordon got more than 50 percent of the vote in the August election, so they’re in a runoff election. We’ve re-upped our info on them from our August voter guide below.

Florida judicial elections are nonpartisan, so if your M.O. is to just vote for your party’s candidate in every race, you’re out of luck. Luckily you have this voter guide!

What they do: Circuit judges deal with felonies, domestic situations, juvenile issues, and civil cases about amounts of $15,000 or more, among a couple other things.

How do we evaluate the candidates? Judges don’t campaign on platforms because they’re not supposed to share their opinions, predictions, etc. about anything that could come up once they’re on the court. If you’re trying to figure out how to evaluate the judicial candidates, you should look at things like their ability to be impartial, fair, and ethical. Previous employment will also provide hints – whether they were a public defender (who generally represent those accused of a crime who can’t afford an attorney) or state prosecutor can say a lot about their idea of justice, and you can take it from there on whether you agree with it.

VIVIANNE DEL RIO

Legal experience: del Rio is an assistant state attorney, and has been with them for 26 years.

Endorsements: del Rio has a long list of endorsements from local politicians; as well as the League of Prosecutors; Police Benevolent Association; AFL-CIO (a major federation of unions); Christian Family Coalition; United Teachers of Miami Dade College; Latin Builders Association

See her website

RENEE GORDON

Legal experience: Trial attorney who has spent 22 years in the public defender’s office. Part of that time, she also ran a private law practice.

Endorsements: Gordon has a long list of individual endorsements that includes scores of Miami-Dade’s African-American leaders. She was also endorsed by the Miami Herald in August (the November endorsements aren’t out yet), SEIU of Florida, and United Teachers of Dade

See her website