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Commentary, sarcasm and snide remarks from a Florida resident of over thirty years. Being a glutton for punishment is a requirement for residency here. Who am I? I've been called a moonbat by Michelle Malkin, a Right Wing Nut by Daily Kos, and middle of the road by Florida blog State of Sunshine. Tell me what you think.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Knuckleheads of the Day award

Today's winners are Broward County Chief Judge Dale Ross and County Clerk Howard Foreman. They get the award for allowing a secret docket for court(usually divorce cases) for County Judges and other elected officials. From Today's Miami Herald.

Any divorce that lands in court goes on the public record -- except the divorces of some judges, elected officials and other big shots, whose cases are hidden on a secret docket in Broward courts.

Take the 2003 divorce case of Circuit Judge Thomas M. Lynch IV, or the 2001 divorce of County Judge Ginger Lerner-Wren. Public records don't show that either judge got divorced, much less what's in the files.

The same goes for the 2002 divorce of Miriam Oliphant, Broward's supervisor of elections until she was removed from the post. Or, for that matter, the 2001 divorce of North Broward Hospital District Chairman Paul Sallarulo.

Those files are among more than 100 civil cases since 2001 that have not been on any public records in Broward. The Miami Herald got a list of the files Monday under court order, after the newspaper sued for the release of case numbers and party names. However, the cases themselves remain off the public record, and no further information about them is available at this time.

The use of a secret docket in the first place goes against the basic tenet that courts should be open to the public. But the high-profile names on the docket further raise the question of whether some people get special treatment and are spared the indignity of having the details of their divorces open to all eyes.

Thomas Julin, a First Amendment lawyer in Miami, said he suspects that those who benefit from placement on secret dockets ask for it in the first place.


But Lynch, Lerner-Wren and some of the other parties on the list said they never requested their divorce cases be kept secret.

Lynch, in a phone interview, said he had no idea his 2003 divorce wasn't on the public docket. In fact, he said, neither he nor his former wife, Bonnie Gray Lynch, even requested that the files be sealed.


When cases are sealed, the information within them is closed off, except for the most basic details like names and case numbers. Sealing is legally permitted under certain circumstances; for example, to protect innocent third parties, such as children.

But secret docketing goes a step further, because it means that to public eyes the case does not exist. No state rule authorizes judges to put cases on a secret docket. And a federal appeals court has said the practice is unconstitutional.

Nobody in the Broward courts has taken responsibility for the secret docketing.

The Lynch and Lerner-Wren divorces were both overseen by Judge Lawrence Korda. His office was closed Monday, and he could not be reached for comment.


Even now, after the release of the list, the cases remain hidden. The clerk's office has no plans to put them back on the public docket.

Said Vanessa Steinerts, the clerk's general counsel: ``There was no further action ordered by the court.''
Of course no one wants to take responsibility for setting up a special justice system for their friends and cronies. Since Foreman is in charge of these records and Ross in charge of Broward Courts, the blame falls on them. They're both disgraces to the offices they hold. Ross can't even control the knucklehead judges in Broward or makes excuses for him.

Justice is supposed to be equal. Not multi-tiered because of your job, or who your friends are for. Secret dockets corrupt a system that should be squeaky clean for it administers justice for the people of Broward County. For failing to uphold the laws they are supposed to enforce, Howard Forman and Dale Ross are today's knuckleheads of the day.

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Cross Posted to Bullwinkle Blog

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