Monday, August 13, 2012

Sigh. I'm revoking my endorsement for Judge Plogstedt.

I hate to do this. Hate, hate, hate it. I've met Judge Plogstedt several times, and like her personally. She has done a lot of great work to support our alma mater, the University of Florida College of Law. But there have some shenanigans in this race, and I am no longer willing to sign my name to it.

Plogstedt's campaign sent out a mailer attacking her opponent, Adam McGinnis, as "unproven and inexperienced" because he graduated in 2005 and for being supported by "special interest lawyers." Ironically, they mailed a copy to McGinnis, embedded below:

Plogstedt "special interest attorney" mailer

First of all, graduating in 2005 means that McGinnis has been an attorney for about seven years, and that isn't exactly "inexperienced." I graduated in 2003 and many of the members of my graduating class are now becoming partners in law firms, running for elected office, joining start-up companies, or seeking a spot on the bench themselves. A 2005 graduate is not too inexperienced to be a judge.

It's the second claim that bothers me more. It is becoming far too common to attack anyone with a license to practice law as a "special interest attorney" or a "trial attorney." It is an overly broad brush and unfair to the many honorable people in this profession, besides the fact that anyone who ever represented any sort of business or has ever appeared in a courtroom seems to get attacked with this silliness.

Worse, if the Plogstedt campaign wants to attack her opponent for support from "special interest attorneys," why did the campaign accept the maximum donation from former Congressman Alan Grayson? The Grayson contribution was made on August 6, 2012, timed to not show up on any campaign finance report until the last one. You can read the campaign finance reports here at the Orange County Supervisor of Elections' website.

I've heard rumors that the campaign is attempting to bring partisan politics into the race. Besides the fact that both Plogstedt and McGinnis are registered Republicans, partisan politics have no place in judicial elections.

I have not met Adam McGinnis so I'm not going to endorse him, but I am sadly revoking my endorsement of Judge Plogstedt. It is not OK to attack a seven-year attorney as "inexperienced" and if "special interest attorneys" are a problem, the campaign should not have accepted a last minute maximum donation from Alan Grayson.

I've deleted Judge Plogstedt's name from my list of endorsements. If she runs for office again, and her campaign avoids such hypocritical attacks, I'd be happy to consider supporting her, but with the nastiness coming from Alan Grayson this year, such as his interference with the District 9 Republican primary (see here and here), I just cannot sign my name to a campaign that accepts money from him and then says her opponent is supported by "special interest lawyers."


  1. You are a breath of fresh air!

  2. When I met her earlier this year at a women's lawyer function, I was unaware of who was running against her. I asked her who her opposition was, since she was talking about it, and she replied "A seven year lawyer!" with this awful disdain. Well, I am a seven year lawyer, and I took great offense to it. She acted like someone who was practicing that long could not possibly handle the difficulties of county court. Please! Also, when she was first elected to the bench, she was a ten year lawyer. Not a huge difference, in my mind. It pains me to not vote for her, as a UF alum and a woman, but, between that exchange and the way she behaves in her court, I just cannot.

  3. Thank you for awaking those who are uneducated! McGinnis for Judge!


  5. Having had a couple of days to digest this race and the comments above as well as conduct some research of my own, I am of the opinion that Judge Plogstedt’s position should have been given more recognition and not summarily dismissed as partisan politics.

    Judge Plogstedt accused her opponent of being supported by special interests. The public records show that the vast majority of those contributing directly to his campaign were personal injury lawyers and doctors from around the State including Miami, Gainesville, Tampa, Boca Raton, etc. The ECO raised in excess of $47,000 in the final three weeks of the campaign and a staggering total of over $73,000 since June 29, 2012. $40,000 of this figure was donated by one lawyer (also a personal injury lawyer) alone. The combined figure of monies contributed directly to the campaign and monies contributed to the ECO, excluding the amounts contributed by Mr. Mcginnis, far surpassed the $37,000 raised by Judge Plogstedt - an amount to be respected in any County Court race. The public records also reveal that the ECO hired a high profile PR firm out of Tallahassee.

    Obviously the interests of the doctors and personal injury lawyers are not apparent from the public record and speculation as to why this group would want to see Judge Plogstedt replaced is irresponsible and unprofessional. I expect in time this question may be answered. Regardless of whether special interests truly were resent, we must be mindful of their existence and power. And if they are present in a judicial race, it is our duty to support those on the bench that stand up against them. If our Judges cannot have the confidence that they will be supported when then take a stance against special interests then we all lose. Qualified persons capable of objective decision making will not risk stepping out of private practice to seek a position on bench due to the fear of being removed by those wielding the power and financial backing to do so if the decisions are not compatible with their interest. Our court system will lack the impartiality we all expect.

    One final point regarding the position taken by Judge Plogstedt that Mr. Mcginnis was not qualified. I agree with Sarah that many 6 year lawyers possess the qualifications necessary to accept a position as a County Court Judge. But my expectation would be that these lawyers do not focus in one area of the law as narrow as traffic tickets. Mr. Mcginnis held himself out to the public as a lawyer specializing in traffic tickets and never seemed to argue to the contrary in his campaign. As such, I understood Judge Plogstedt to suggest that because of this fact, Mr. Mcginnis could not possibly have the diverse understanding of the law necessary to competently oversee the vast range of cases that come before a County Court Judge.

    In summary, we have lost a qualified and impartial judge and dedicated volunteer in our community. I hope we have gained one as well in the election of Mr. Mcginnis and wish him the best. However, I also hope that in future elections, people take the time to truly look behind the representations of the candidates to better understand what is truly involved in the race. Billboards, advertisements and flyers are a starting point. But we need to do more. We should take the representations of the candidates and seek to establish their truth as opposed to assuming their falsity. Otherwise, we might as well flip a coin before walking into the voting booth.

  6. I don't know Judge Plogstedt, and have never met her. I do know Adam McGinnis though, and while he is a nice guy, that is not the criteria to be a judge. How can he know anything about the rules of criminal procedure, which is the most important thing for a judge to know, when his "experience" has been in dealing primarily with traffic tickets?

    From my understanding, the reason he ran, with the full support of local defense attorneys, was because Judge Plogstedt followed the law and allowed the Intoxilyzer breath results in as evidence in DUI prosecutions. (Ask any of the lawyers in the courthouse about this; it is common knowledge.) Normally, this wouldn't be a big deal, since the breath result is accepted in more than 90% of other counties in the state routinely. But Orange County is the land of milk and honey. Defense attorneys can charge high premiums to get DUI charges reduced to reckless driving, so the way they do it is by litigating nonsense that would get laughed out of court in most other jurisdictions in Florida, except Orange County (and Seminole...see a pattern here?).

    Don't believe me? I have sat as an observer in numerous county court courtrooms. I encourage you to do the same. It will open your eyes. If you don't want to do that, then talk to any of the court personnel, who will tell you about the absolutely frivulous nature of the motions that get filed in DUI cases. In Orange County you can file the exact same motion on every case, word for word (except for the defendant's name and case number), and if the judges do anything about it they will lose their seat in the next election. So they don't. Try filing the same motion in each case in Duval, or Hillsborough, or Lake, or Brevard, or Alachua, and see what happens. Better yet, ask yourself why these attorneys don't file these motions in these other counties, and don't even practice there. You would think that the same motions would be filed elsewhere in Florida, if they had merit, or are Orange County attorneys just so much smarter than everyone else in the state?

    Remember, frivulous motions require police officers to come to court, which means less officers on the street. And we wonder why the crime rate in Orange County is so high. It is sad. Here is a rule of thumb: if the defense bar is backing a judge, vote for the other guy, because he is probably doing something right.

  7. As a person who has gone before this traffic ticket attorney cum Judge..I can honestly say that I miss Judge Plogstedt. McGinnis is clueless on the bench, misintreprets the law and turns simple evictions into grand mal trials. Why not just have Martinez in there by himself as much as McGinnis leans on him for advice!

  8. I regret to read the March 28th poster. The fresh air is forcing you to work harder and not lean on years of potential cronyism. I welcome the new breed and hope better ethics come to it and clean of the corruption.


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