September 1, 2019 Letters
I read with interest the story in the August News headlined “DeSantis takes judicial appointments seriously.”
Gov. DeSantis appeared as a guest at The Florida Bar’s Judicial Luncheon held during the Annual Convention in Boca Raton. During his remarks, DeSantis “assured his audience that when it comes to appointing judges, he considers diversity a priority.” He proudly pointed to his list of 22 judges that he has appointed and to the fact that half have been either “Hispanic, African American, or Asian American and almost half have been women.”
All of the governor’s statistics were accurate. But, as for “diversity” of job history, nearly 80% of his 22 appointments have been government prosecutors. Of his 22 judicial appointments, no less than 16 have been ASAs, AUSAs, or Assistant AGs; two more were county court judges, and one was an assistant general counsel for several state agencies. Three were from private practice law firms. Guess how many of the 22 judges appointed by DeSantis came directly out of the public defenders’ offices — zero; (one, Judge Stephen Everett, appointed to the Second Judicial Circuit, was both a former ASA and an APD).
Since his appearance at the Bar convention, Gov. DeSantis has appointed four more judges. Three of the four appointees came right out of the state attorney’s office. The fourth, Craig DeThomasis, was in private practice for the past 32 years, but he did serve as an assistant public defender right out of law school 36 years ago.
Message to Gov. DeSantis. There are many very qualified lawyers practicing in public defender’s offices (and with backgrounds out of these PD offices) throughout our state. Several have applied to become judges, on the county and circuit courts, as well as on the appellate courts. Please expand your definition of “diversity” to include some of these highly qualified, dedicated public servants as you continue on your quest to appoint a diversified bench.
Past President, FACDL-Miami
I was reassured by the headline below the fold on page one of the August News: “DeSantis takes judicial appointments seriously.” Then follows a quote from the governor:
“Of the 22 selections, half of my selections have been either Hispanic, African American, or Asian American, and almost half have been women.”
The article quotes the governor’s explanation, at a rubber chicken lunch, for the lamentable lack of ladies:
“We would have 50 percent (women), but I just did two more, and those folks happened to be guys.”
That remark, the article says, was “an afterthought that drew polite laughter.”
I found myself wondering how tall the new judges are, how old, and where they went to law school. I dare not, of course, wonder how competent they are lest I be accused of racism or sexism.
I am neither of those things, but I cheerfully admit to being out of fashion. Both the governor and I attended Harvard Law School. I don’t know how far Harvard had gone down the PC path when he was there. In 1967, when I started, it was a meritocracy except, I suppose, for legacies. Now Harvard is at the cutting edge of political correctness. Other “elite” law schools have followed its lead. Apparently, the loudest voices in The Florida Bar aspire to do so as well.
When I began to practice law in Philadelphia, I was unprepared for the abysmal quality of its bench. I was equally disappointed when I moved to Miami. The appointment process was corrupted by politics in the 1970s. Now it is corrupted by political correctness as well.
Edward B. Greene
Ponte Vedra Beach
Diversity and Inclusion
The July letter of attorney Marcia S. Cohen is a typical PC response to my earlier letter to do away with diversity and inclusion for white female attorneys in Florida.
I practiced law for 48 years out of Miami and know a bit about women attorneys as opposite counsel, co-counsel, or referral counsel. They all were smart, tough, and skilled.
Cohen’s letter does not provide any factual or logical basis for disagreement with my premise, except her unsubstantiated remark that “women lawyers are still not paid equally with their male colleagues for equal work requiring equal or better skills and abilities.”
Does that apply to 1) women lawyers who work for the courts; 2) are appointed by the courts; 3) women who are state attorneys or assistant state attorneys; 4) women who are public defenders or assistant public defenders; 5) sole practitioners or small-firm partners who set their own fees; 6) contingency fee lawyers, or; 7) women who are partners in medium-size or large law firms?
If women associates at large firms believe their contributions are not rewarded sufficiently, my advice is to make a complaint to senior management or go elsewhere to be paid what you feel you are worth.
Richard N. Friedman