A report in the Daily Business Review by Jordana Mishory details the background of the newest judicial selections by Governor Crist:
Fort Lauderdale solo practitioner Carlos Rodriguez has been appointed to the Broward bench, which saw three Hispanics unseated in the last election cycle. Gov. Charlie Crist appointed Rodriguez and General Magistrate Barbara McCarthy as the county’s newest Broward Circuit judges Tuesday.
McCarthy and Rodriguez will fill vacancies left by the October deaths of Judges Howard Zeidwig and Charlie Kaplan. The two new judges interviewed with Crist on Tuesday. Rodriguez was born in Cuba and came to Florida with his family when he was 6. He said in an interview that if his father hadn’t been smart enough to get out of Cuba after Fidel Castro took over, he would have been cutting sugar cane instead of practicing law.
Rodriguez said he is most looking forward to giving back to the community in his new role as judge. “When I say I want to give back to the community, there’s some debts to it because of that experience,” Rodriguez said of the people who helped him succeed. Rodriguez worked at the Broward public defender’s office from 1980 to 1985 before joining Fazio Dawson for 2½ years. He has been a solo practitioner since, handling criminal and insurance defense work and personal injury and medical malpractice cases. He primarily represents plaintiffs. Rodriguez becomes a judge after being selected as a finalist five times by the Judicial Nominating Commission — three times in the late 1980s and twice last year.
In a written statement, Crist commended Rodriguez for his years working in both the civil and criminal arenas. “He is also very active and involved in the Broward County community, and I believe he will use those experiences to judge cases with restraint and balance,” Crist wrote.
McCarthy has served as a general magistrate for nearly five years. She has worked in the family, dependency and civil division. Currently she hears circuit and county civil cases, and also complex business cases. Prior to becoming a general magistrate, McCarthy practiced municipal law with the city of Fort Lauderdale. She also worked as a prosecutor with the Broward state attorney’s office and a 4th District Court of Appeal clerk for then Judge Barry Stone. McCarthy, who grew up in Long Island and went to college in Massachusetts, spent nearly eight years as a special education teacher before going to law school at St. Thomas.
McCarthy said being a judge was a “long-time dream” and said she was both honored and elated when she was appointed. Her interview with Crist on Tuesday, followed by her subsequent appointment, was the first time she met the governor. “Barbara McCarthy’s proven track record as an educator and as an attorney handling a variety of civil and criminal cases makes her an ideal choice for this post,” Gov. Crist said. “I am confident she will use her experiences in the classroom and the courtroom to rule from the bench with patience, humility and fairness.”
These two appointments come in the midst of a major push for diversity on the bench by the governor’s office. Crist has twice rejected a list of nominees for the 5th District Court of Appeal because it contained only white attorneys and judges. He has encouraged JNCs around the state to provide him with a diversified slate of finalists to choose from. But in Broward, judges with Hispanic names did not fair well at the polls in 2008. Many lawyers complained that the Hispanics were being unfairly targeted. All three Hispanic judges who drew challengers — Pedro Dijols, Catalina Avalos and Julio Gonzalez Jr. — lost during the August primary. Gonzalez was the highest-rated judge in a Broward County Bar poll of lawyers.