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On August 30, 2016 our votes will be judged

Black-Canidiates-for-judgetOn August 30, 2016 our votes will be judged

“The time is always right to do what’s right.” (Martin Luther King Jr.)

By Tony Freeman

In a memorable speech, several decades ago and at the height of the Civil Rights movement,

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminded American people of the continuing struggle for justice. Specifically, in October 1964, during his visit to Oberlin College (Ohio), he told his audience that “the time is ALWAYS right to do what’s right,” urging them to take action and to commit to VOTING.

Rev. King made several visits to South Florida during the Civil Rights movement. Actually, three years after the Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955-1956) and five years before his “I Have a Dream” speech, he spoke at the Greater Bethel A.M.E. Church in Overtown, Miami, a church that still exists today. Miami News mentioned that on Feb. 12, 1958, as the representative of the Southern Christian Leadership Council’s Crusade for Citizenship, he addressed an “overflow crowd,” talking about VOTING RIGHTS. During his speech, he reminded the citizens of South Florida that they needed to be “free” and that the right to vote was the only way to achieve freedom and to make their voices heard at the local, regional and national level.

According to him, minorities in America could not afford being inactive in the voting process. For too long, they have been left in “shameful indifference” because they have not participated enough in the electoral process.

Therefore, they have ended up with no or very little state and local representation in their constituencies.

The crusade for voting’s main target has been to empower minority citizens at the ballot box.

Through the ballot box improvements are earned potential, economically and educationally.

Today, even though the historic obstacles to minority voting rights (literacy tests and poll taxes) have been eliminated, a key provision of the 1965 Civil Right law has dealt a major blow. Three years ago, the Supreme Court struck down the heart of the 1965 voting rights law by a five (Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr.) to four vote (Justice Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan). Justice for all has been undermined. The High Court ruled Section 4b “unconstitutional” because that provision, according to them, relied on decades-old data.

Nowadays, despite substantive improvements in our condition, we still have a long way to go. Some legal barriers have been broken down but injustices continue to plague our communities. People are confronting social, financial and legal challenges. Those who are at the bottom of the economic ladder find themselves languishing in eternal poverty in the midst of American affluence. Many do not have adequate housing and are the victims or perpetrators of violence.

Case in point: Broward County Florida Judge Barbara McCarthy – gives rich kid pass in killing of two British businessmen: Broward County Florida Judge Barbara McCarthy gave the son of a wealthy businessman two years’ probation in the killing of two British businessmen, while in another courtroom a man convicted of killing a pedestrian was given 9 years in jail. Justice by pocket-book for a judge who was re-elected to her appointed position in August 2010.

Sunday June 5, 2011

This is why more accepting voices of diversity are needed to represent minorities in the judicial system in Broward County. Like Dade County, it has a growing number of minority voters.

The stakes are high in the upcoming 2016 primary judicial elections. For those who are not familiar with the demography of that area of South Florida, it is worth noting that people of African descent represent 28 percent of the population and the percentage increases every year. However, at present, only six Black judges out of 90 are sitting on the Bench and two of them are about to retire.

At the same time, around 27 percent of the Hispanic population makes up the demographics in Broward County. Nine Hispanic judges are presently on the Bench. Additionally, other groups from various ethnic backgrounds constitute about 12 percent of Broward demographics. Therefore, the minority has become the under-represented majority.

Indeed, these are shocking statistics. Under representation in Broward County’s justice system is blatant especially in view of the growing diversity of its inhabitants. So the urgency of having more qualified minority circuit court judges serving the community is a matter not to take lightly because it impacts people’s everyday lives.

In Broward County, judicial diversity is a real issue. Hence, the reality is that in the criminal justice system, the majority of defendants are people of color or other minorities that are not properly represented on the Bench. We are talking about fairness and understanding differences and sensitivities as opposed to complete indifference to the humanity of other voices.

Right now this is the situation of Black judges in Broward County: Kal Evans is the only Black incumbent judge with an opponent. Haccord Curry, Florence Barner and, Alfreda Coward are all running to be elected; Coward is running for Mary Rudd-Robinson’s seat due to retirement. Judge Elijah Williams and Ken Gillespie have no opponents and Judge Ilona Holmes is retiring in 2018.

Haccord Curry, Jr., Esq. is running for Circuit Court Judge, Group 15. Curry has a spirit of fairness and objectivity in the Broward community, other minorities and the population at large. He has roots in Miami-Dade in Coconut Grove where his family is amongst the original Bahamian settlers.

In 1982, he obtained his undergraduate degree in Political Science from Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania and went to Law School at St. John’s University in New York.  Coming to South Florida in 1991, he worked for the Department of Juvenile Justice.  Four years later, he took and passed the Florida Bar. For 22 years, he has been employed by the State of Florida. He has practiced as Legal Counsel to the Secretary of the Department and has brought about social justice to ALL, making a positive and impactful change and caring for the betterment of youth.

Civil trial attorney, former Broward prosecutor and a mother of two, Florence Taylor Barner has thrown her hat into the political arena by announcing her candidacy for Broward County Court Judge in Group 3. Barner has built a reputation in Broward County as a trial attorney in both civil and criminal courtrooms, and her dedication to the practice of law and the respect with which she treats her colleagues is reflected by her rating of AV Preeminent by Martindale-Hubbell (a rating bestowed on fewer than 7 percent of attorneys nationwide).

Florence was born and raised in South Florida and has lived here all of her life. As a law student at the University of Florida, she got “behind the scenes” insight into the daily life and responsibilities of a Judge when she worked and learned under the tutelage of both Judge Jennifer D. Bailey and Judge Ohlman. Florence was also part of a team that aided indigent clients in the pursuit of post-conviction relief based on trial court irregularities in sentencing.

Alfreda D. Coward is a partner of Coward & Coward, P.A., a law firm in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. She practices with her sister, Kimberly D. Coward, primarily representing indigent clients in the areas of criminal law and family law. During her fifteen years as an attorney, Ms. Coward has had well over 100 jury trials. Some of these trials were recorded and aired on Court TV, MSNBC and NBC Dateline.

In addition to Coward & Coward, Coward currently serves as the co-founder and executive director of One Voice Children’s Law Center. One Voice Children’s Law Center is a non-profit organization that represents kids that have pending matters in the dependency, delinquency and/or educational systems. She also served as an adjunct professor at FIU College of Law teaching educational advocacy. Coward is a graduate of the University of Florida, where she received her Juris Doctorate degree in 1995 and her Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology in 1992. Coward is a member of The Florida Bar. She is also admitted to practice in the United States District Courts for the Northern, Middle and Southern Districts of Florida.

Judge Kal Evans, 38, of Fort Lauderdale, served as Assistant State Attorney for the 17th Judicial Circuit since 2003. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and his law degree from Nova Southeastern University. Evans filled the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Joseph Murphy. On Aug. 4, 2014 Evans was appointed by Governor Rick Scott. As an assistant state attorney Evans was best known for successfully prosecuting Matthew Bent in 2012 for his part for attacking and burning a child.

These careers are examples of dedication to improving the ills that affect our society in a spirit of fairness and practicality.

Today, “The time is right to do what’s right” again. The significant gains of the civil rights movement are won by people and their votes.

On Aug. 30, 2016, it will be time to decide whether to stay home, not to make arrangements to find some time off in our schedule or to come to the realization that many sacrificed their lives to exercise their right to vote. For minorities, not participating in the voting process is perpetuating decades of civil non engagement that will translate in more social, economic and judicial hardships and in never having adequate representation in court.

Hence, go to the nearest precinct pay a small price to bringing about change in our community and the court system. This is not the time to squander votes and to be lethargic. If we want better representation in court, we must act, building on the legacy and sacrifice of Martin Luther King Jr. So we have no excuses not to exercise our duty as citizens to empower our voices in the court system!

Action speaks louder than words.




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