Category Archives: Politics

U.S. Birthright Citizenship, the Diplomatic Immunity Exception, and the New Jersey born, University of Alabama Student turned ISIS Recruit, Hoda Muthana

International media has spotlighted the controversial case of Hoda Muthana–a New Jersey born University of Alabama student turned ISIS recruit. Having become disenchanted with her adopted extremist ideology, and now being responsible for her 18-month-old infant, Ms. Muthana wants to return to her native U.S. home and face justice for her criminal acts.

The U.S. Department of State is demurring her request for a passport, passage, and prosecution, and is further insisting she was never a citizen of the United States at all. Her father has filed suit on her behalf citing that she was born in the United States, has been issued two passports by the United States, and has never had her citizenship previously questioned.

Noting that the Department of State is not arguing Ms. Muthana renounced her citizenship during her odyssey of terrorist accessory to Damascus, outside observers are understandably confused.

For reasonably archaic reasons explained below, this case could be decided on one question of fact: Did her father, Ahmed Ali Muthana, have diplomatic immunity in the United States at the time of her birth?

To answer this question I will define “birthright citizenship,” explain the Parental Diplomatic Immunity Exception, and conclude by applying the law as it exists today to the facts of this case.

Birthright Citizenship Defined

The United States is among few countries in the world that offers “birthright citizenship.” The origin of this right is Section 1 of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which in part declares: “All persons born . . . in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.” The general rule, therefore, is if a person is born within the physical territory of the United States (including U.S. territories, and in many cases, overseas U.S. embassies, and U.S. military bases) that person is automatically a citizen of the Land of the Free.

If a suicide bomber births a baby en route to her high profile target at a D.C. children’s hospital, that baby enjoys an unequivocal right to U.S. citizenship, no matter how deplorable a parents’ behavior.

The Parental Diplomatic Immunity Exception to Birthright Citizenship

There are, though there is no reason any normal person would have ever heard of them, exceptions to birthright citizenship.

The exception relevant to this case: If the child is born physically in the United States, but is shielded by diplomatic immunity through the diplomatic status of a parent, the child is not “subject to the jurisdiction of the United States” and is therefore not entitled to birthright citizenship.

Therefore, if Ahmed Ali Muthana, a former Yemeni diplomat to the United Nations, enjoyed diplomatic immunity at the time of his daughter’s birth, the government’s argument goes, then Ms. Muthana has never been, and continues not to be, a U.S. citizen.     

Hoda Muthana was born after her father ceased to be a diplomat, but before the United States was notified that he was no longer a diplomat.

Ahmed Ali Muthana was a Yemini diplomat to the U.N., living in the United States (for International Law purposes, the country a diplomat lives in is called the “host country” and the country he represents is the “origin country.”)  As a Yemini diplomat, he was shielded from the jurisdiction of his host country (the United States) by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1961)–more casually referred to as “diplomatic immunity.” His term of office ended on September 1, 1994, more than a month before, his daughter, Hoda Muthana, was born on October 28, 1994. The U.S. Mission to the U.N. was notified that Mr. Muthana was no longer a diplomat on February 6, 1995–more than three months after his daughter was born.

The question of law is this: Does an outgoing diplomat lose jurisdictional immunity from a host country at the time the diplomat’s origin country (in this case Yemen) ceases to recognize his diplomatic status, or at the time the host country is given notice that he has ceased to be a diplomat?

There is a necessary prequal question to this that requires the reader to journey into the obscure abyss of transnational conflict of law: What if Yemen ceased to recognize Mr. Muthana as having diplomatic immunity on September 1, 1994, but the United States, for its own jurisdictional purposes, recognized it through February 6, 1995.?

U.S. courts, in determining jurisdiction at the time of Hoda Muthana’s birth, will apply the Law of the United States even if they conflict with the Law of Yemen.

Absent superseding language in the Vienna Convention or a relevant treaty to which both the U.S. and Yemen are signatories that postdates any contradictory U.S. federal statute, a U.S. court would use U.S. Law to determine the date of cessation of diplomatic immunity.

As the reader may guess, a court in Yemen may find it more convenient to rely on the Law of Yemen.

(Please note that, though beyond the scope of this Essay, there are frequent circumstances when U.S. courts will apply the laws of other jurisdictions to domestic proceedings.)

In determining U.S. Law, a court would look for guidance in the language of U.S. treaties and statutes. If a court finds relevant direction from both a treaty and a statute, U.S. Constitutional Law requires the court to apply the language of the treaty or statute that came into effect later in time. (Federal statutes and treaties are coequal in authority, so if one contradicts the other, the law created later governs as if it repealed the contradictory language of the other.)

U.S. law likely terminates diplomatic immunity at the time a diplomat leaves his official capacity as recognized by the origin country.

The Vienna Convention, relevant treaties and federal statutes, seem silent on the question of the effect of a delay of notice to a host country on a former diplomat’s diplomatic immunity. Absent authoritative caselaw, international custom, or a history of relevant behavior between the U.S. and other Vienna Convention signatories, courts will reluctantly consider public policy.

Public policy strongly supports the view that the U.S. retroactively terminates its recognition of diplomatic immunity at the time a diplomat leaves his official capacity as recognized by the origin country.  This is necessary to avoid the potential of the absurd result outlined below.

When discussing the subject of diplomatic immunity the question often arises: “What if a diplomat goes on a killing spree in the host country?”

Since diplomatic immunity is a right held by the origin country, and not a right held by the diplomat, the origin country can, and often does, waive the diplomatic immunity of a wayward agent abroad.  It cannot do this, however, if the unstable agent is not actually recognized by the origin country as having diplomatic status.

Let’s assume that Yemen stopped recognizing Mr. Muthana’s diplomatic immunity in September of 1994 but that the U.S. generously extended it’s recognition to February 6, 1995 when it received notice of his ceasing to be a diplomat several months prior.  With Yemen unable to waive a right it does not acknowledge exists, Mr. Muthana would, arguably, be unprosecutable for any bad behavior in the United States during the interval.

To avoid such an absurd result, the U.S. would need to recognize the date Mr. Muthana left his role as diplomat as the effective date of his loss of diplomatic immunity whenever the U.S. was served of actual notice that he was no longer recognized by Yemen as a diplomat.

Such is the policy that should be followed whether a recently-ex-diplomat kills a baby, or procreates a new one into existence on U.S. territory.

Since Hoda Muthana’s father did not have diplomatic immunity at the time of her birth, she was both born in the United States and subject to its jurisdiction making her a citizen with the right to return home and subject to U.S. prosecution.

This case is more straightforward than commentators and pundits argue. U.S. law likely requires the Department of State to recognize Ahmed Ali Muthana as loosing his diplomatic immunity on September 1, 1994–more than a month before his daughter was born in New Jersey–making both him and her subject to the jurisdiction of the United States at the time of her birth. The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution therefore bestows upon her birthright citizenship which, absent a revocation of citizenship, survives her treasonous behavior.  She and her child are entitled to admission to the United States where she would be immediately taken into custody for her crimes.

Ironically, should it be determined that she is not a citizen of the United States, while she would effectively become a stateless individual, the U.S. would also be giving up jurisdiction to put her on trial for what would otherwise be her crimes against the United States.

Her practical alternatives are therefore these: Be imprisoned in the Land of the Free, or just be free.

Irish Citizens Abroad Returning Home to Vote for Marriage Equality

Ireland is hugely predicted to vote "yes" in today's constitutional referendum on marriage equality.

Ireland is hugely predicted to vote “yes” in today’s constitutional referendum on marriage equality.

Huge numbers of Irish citizens are returning from abroad to vote “yes” in today’s constitutional referendum on marriage equality. Is it just because they want to be there for a historical moment?

Maybe, but also, probably because that is the only way they can vote. In Ireland, a voter must vote in person and be named on the official registry of voters.

There are exceptions for military, national guardsman, diplomats and their spouses, whom are eligible to vote by mail. Potentially also eligible are people with disabilities, students studying away from home, people who work abroad, prisoners (yes, prisoners can vote in Ireland), and residents of hospitals and nursing homes.

Those living abroad are ineligible to vote because their names are not on the official registry of voters. Thus, they have to return “home” to vote.

Another tidbit U.S. citizen’s may find interesting, certain categories of non-citizens are able to vote in specific elections. Non-citizen residents can vote in local elections. British citizens may vote at Dáil elections (lower house of Irish Parliament), European elections (such as elections for European Parliament) and local elections. E.U. citizens can participate in European elections and local elections.

If you happen to be reading this and you are Irish, in the U.S., not only don’t U.S. citizens have to vote in person, political parties and candidates actively encourage “early voting” (limited voting stations sometimes open weeks in advance of the official “election day.”) and vote-by-mail, a program which is open to any U.S. citizen and also begins weeks in advance of the official “election day.” The reason for this is it allows political parties and candidates to track who had voted and concentrate further messaging toward those known to have not yet voted. The reason voters like it is because it allows them more flexibility in how and when they vote. Conversely, many political activists wait to vote in person on election day because then they continue to get campaign mailers until the day of the election and thereby know what the opposition is messaging.

Residents of most U.S. territories may also vote in U.S. elections provided they reside in the U.S. at the time of the election. Anybody convicted of a felony may not vote in any election until their civil rights have been restored. In some jurisdictions this happens automatically upon a prisoner’s completion of sentence (including non-incarceration probation and payment of fines and restitution) and in others there is a formalized application process.

Non-citizens are ineligible to vote in all elections without exception. The mere notion of such an idea might make a very socially conservative’s head explode.

To learn more about voting in Ireland you can visit here.

My Condolences to Singapore on the Passing of Founder Lee Kuan Yew

Lee Kuan Yew, founder and former Prime Minister of Singapore, 1923-2015

Lee Kuan Yew, founder and former Prime Minister of Singapore, 1923-2015

Dear Singapore:

The world has lost a giant today. A political strategist of the highest intellectual caliber, he is survived by three children, including current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (who I have had the honor to meet), seven grandchildren, and the proud and prosperous island nation he founded, cultivated, and governed.

To all my Singaporean friends, colleagues, teachers, and leaders whom I have had the privilege to serve, learn, teach, research, organize, and bond over a meal or drink with, I offer my deepest heartfelt grief, sadness, and respects on the passing of your nation’s founder, Minster Mentor Lee Kuan Yew.

Minister Lee was an iconoclast with a vision to turn a small, poor, vulnerable and recently occupied island into an economic powerhouse with respect for the rule of law, gender equality, religious tolerance, and ethnic harmony.

While there will always be debate about his means–he used both carrot and stick to bring and retain power, authority, and order–there can be little reasonable debate about the ends. While there is a wealth gap (as there is in the country where I write this and almost everywhere else in the world), and an odd clause in our countries’ bilateral free trade agreement requiring Singapore to legalize chewing gum for “medicinal” purposes, where once were a collection of sleepy undeveloped villages–like the ones that remain today in nearby countries which are presently embroiled in political and religious conflict and with even more pervasive economic troubles–today is a multi-cultured cosmopolitan metropolis where CEOs of banks pick up their chicken rice from the same stall as the migrant workers who built your city-state at a wage (albeit with unequal bargaining power) they negotiated. Literacy is high (in multiple languages) and distributed without discrimination. The government is transparent and is quickly responsive to its citizens (though they encourage them to voice their grievances in a rather controlled and courteous manner suspicious to those in some other wealthy, stable nations).

Though he has left this world, he has left Singapore with a hugely gifted, talented, and potentially more liberal son in Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Under his stewardship, I am certain investors, nations, foreign talent, and all of Singaporeans can look forward to continued stability, prosperity, and the always achingly slow, but inevitable evolution toward liberalization of civil and political human rights.

As the only lawyer (that I know of) practicing in Florida with a law degree from the National University of Singapore (LL.M. in International and Comparative Law) I will continue to advocate Floridians to invest in a Singapore that invested in me.

It is Singapore that allied with the United States during the cold war, is our partner in free trade, uses much of its huge Sovereign Wealth Fund to invest in the United States and its partner countries and in return encourages U.S. foreign investment by offering low (sometimes no) tax rates on income earned in Singapore.

Very importantly, Singapore kindly provides a safe harbor and home to the U.S. Navy’s sailors and ships of the 7th Naval Fleet.

With love, friendship, and respect,

Richard Junnier, Esq. (NUS Alumni, 2009 cohort)

Richard Junnier's 2009 gradation ceremony at the National University of Singapore College of Law with an LL.M. (a legal post-doctorial masters' degree) in International and Comparative Law.

Richard Junnier’s 2009 gradation ceremony at the National University of Singapore College of Law with an LL.M. (a legal post-doctorial masters’ degree) in International and Comparative Law.

Richard Junnier with Simon Chesterman at the reception celebrating the graduation of the 2009 NYU@NUS cohort. Mr. Chesterman is currently Dean of the National University of Singapore and is considered one of the world's foremost experts on International Law. Richard was his research assistant.

Richard Junnier with Simon Chesterman at the reception celebrating the graduation of the 2009 NYU@NUS cohort. Mr. Chesterman is currently Dean of the National University of Singapore and is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on International Law. Richard was his research assistant.

Then replace your staff with professionals!

Duval Clerk of Courts Ronnie Fussell, photo from http://www.jaxdailyrecord.com/showstory.php?Story_id=544620

Duval Clerk of Courts Ronnie Fussell, photo from http://www.jaxdailyrecord.com/showstory.php?Story_id=544620

“Duval Clerk of Courts Ronnie Fussell said none of the clerks felt comfortable with performing gay marriages.”

I have an idea. Fire the staff members who do not want to do their jobs and replace them with people who can be professional whatever their personal beliefs!

You can read the full article here!

Mark Bogen is an excellent choice for Broward County District 2 Commissioner–Election Today (Yes, on a Thursday)

Primary Night with Charlie Crist and Annette Taddeo, Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six

Primary Night with Charlie Crist and Annette Taddeo, Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six

Dear voters of Broward County Commission District 2:

I know it’s a Thursday, but you have an election today for County Commissioner!

I encourage you to vote for Mark Bogen.

Mark is a well known condo/elder law attorney and he has represented the residents of Wynmoor and about half of century village for more than a decade. They absolutely love him. And because he didn’t think it right to ask older folks on fixed incomes for contributions, he spent an enormous amount of his own money in his effort to fulfill a lifelong dream of helping his neighbors and community in the capacity of an elected official.

He’s one of those rare good guys who enters public service without any motive other than thinking it would be neat to serve. He compliments this with a depth of experience and expertise that no other candidate in the race can offer.

Finally, one of my closest friends, Matthew Isbell, is the campaign’s field director, which might make me a bit biased, but there are numerous objective indicators of Mark’s excellence.

Because this is a December election being held on a Thursday, voter turnout will be virtually non-existent, (under 5,000 votes) so your vote really, really, really matters in this one.

You can learn more about Mark here.

To find out if you live in Broward County Commission District 2, look here.

To find your voting precinct, visit here.

To find out why in the hell there is an election scheduled between Thanksgiving and Christmas on a Thursday, visit here.

Thank you!

Though I disagree with you, Congratulations to Rick Scott and Pam Bondi on their reelections

The view outside "Verde."  It is, I must say, an appropriate artistic expression for Miami politics.  When the new owner of the iconic Miami Herald Building was refused permission to build a casino, he spontaneously exploded half his building to treat tourists with a  perpetual view of what he thought about the government's decision.

The view outside “Verde.” It is, I must say, an appropriate artistic expression for Miami politics. When the new owner of the iconic Miami Herald Building was refused permission to build a casino, he spontaneously exploded half his building to treat tourists with a perpetual view of what he thought about the government’s decision.

However you voted, thank you for voting!

Congratulations to Rick Scott and Pam Bondi on their reelections this evening, and congratulations to their staffers, volunteers, and those of my friends who supported them.

Though I disagree with the voters’ decision tonight, I respect that in a democracy it’s up to the people and the people have spoken. I have spent too much time in the field of conflict zones watching elections be decided by guns to feel differently.

To my friends who share my disappointment tonight, another Election Day is two years away and though I am proud of our efforts we will simply have to do better next time.

All of us want Florida to succeed so now is the time for those who share my disappointment to come together and support our elected government in our capacity as the loyal opposition.

Let us support our democratically elected government in its earnest attempt to create jobs and let us respectfully oppose them when their ideas, as we perceive them, are detrimental to our defenseless and oppressed, working poor, middle class, and our environment.

Thank you to Allison Tant Richard and the rest of the FDP leadership team for fielding the most qualified personnel available. Rick Minor in particular did an amazing job defining the issues for Florida voters. Omar Khan is the best campaign manager in the business today.

Charlie Crist and George Sheldon were great candidates!

Everyone did their job as best they could and the votes just weren’t there.

Defeat isn’t calculated by those who lose an election, it is defined by those who gives up.

Winners always soldier on, and because we are winners, that is just what we shall do.

The fun never stops!

Today is Election Day, Vote!

Campaigning in Leon County during 2012 early voting

Campaigning in Leon County during 2012 early voting

Today is election day and everyone has done their job.

Thousands of volunteers from around the state have made phone calls, knocked on doors, pestered you to sign petitions and hundreds of others will be driving the disabled to the polls today as they have been for the last ten early voting days.

Absentee ballots were tracked and mailers (occasionally making accurate statements) were made and sent.

Prospective voters have been bombarded with television ads of democrats distancing themselves from Obama while posing with a gun and insisting they’ll defend the Second Amendment. Some republicans meanwhile, in apparent seriousness, explained that the “myth” of global climate change is “proved” false because God said he’d never flood the world again after Noah’s aquatic adventure in antiquity with two of every animal.

Debates were had on live television. . . Even a small portable fan famously did its job.

Attorney General Pam Bondi takes her campaign so seriously that, with Governor Scott’s blessing, she rescheduled the execution of Marshall Lee Gore so she could attend a political fundraiser.

Democracy in a free and imperfect society is not an inexpensive affair.

$473,137,991.31 has been contributed from 1,533 political organizations and committees during the 2014 Florida General Election cycle. Of that, $458,702,602.49 was spent. This is in addition to what the actual candidates and campaigns spent. If you wish to kill what’s left of your soul, you can find where the money came from and where it went by searching through the Florida Division of Elections database here. In county races, judicial races, soil and water conservation districts, and community development districts, you need to go to your local supervisor of elections website to track down their financial reports–a list of each county supervisor’s website by county in alphabetical order can be found here. For information about municipal (mayor and city commissioner) fundraising you will have to call the municipal clerk for your city as only some will publish those documents online.

Lots of money has been expended in fighting for your attention.

They chose their government with guns.  (Mass graves in the Bosnia Hillside. I traveled here in 1999.)

They chose their government with guns. (Mass graves in the Bosnia Hillside. I traveled here in 1999.)

Overseas, more than 160,000 U.S. troops are defending our safety, security, freedom to engage in very imperfect speech, and our right to vote from foreign and domestic threats.

There are ninety-five people who are vying to be responsible for those troops and who otherwise claim to have a vision for our nation’s future. They are running for the United States House of Representatives in 27 Florida congressional districts. If you happen to live in Florida’s Second Congressional District, I would particularly like to highlight the candidacy of moderate-Democrat Gwen Graham–an attorney and education advocate who happens also to be the daughter of popular former Florida Governor and Senator Bob Graham. You can visit her website here to learn more.

Five names will appear on the ballot for office of Governor, with a further five candidates available for election as write in candidates. These are the websites for the two major political candidates, Charlie Crist and Rick Scott.

Many people will leave the rest of the ballot blank. Consider not doing this. Importantly, we get to decide who our state’s chief prosecutor is–which is pretty neat!  Also, if you plan on voting for Amendment Two (medical marijuana legalization) than you had better stay in your voting booth long enough to vote for George Sheldon–because, in my opinion, if Pam Bondi is reelected she will do everything in her power to prevent the implementation of medicinal marijuana no matter the will of the voters or the will of medical practitioners!  These are the websites for the major political candidates for Attorney General, George Sheldon and Pam Bondi.

As respected political commentator Matt Isbell explains, as most real power over our daily lives is wielded by local government, it is important to focus on your local county commission races. His extensive analysis can be found here. Or, if you prefer to wait a day, it’ll probably end-up being cut and pasted on Politico, the Daily Kos, or the Huffington Post. He grew up in Cooper City, and really hopes incumbent commissioner, and part-time alleged cartoon super-villain, Jon Sims gets voted off his boyhood local council.

I have also prepared individual county guides in local, judicial, and special district elections for Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and Leon counties.

In any event, whoever you support–everyone has done their job.

Now it is our turn to do our job.

Vote!

If you have trouble voting, call 844-FL-Votes.

Richard Junnier behind the scenes

In 2012, Attorney Richard Junnier served as Chair of the Leon County Democratic Party and Executive Committee. He practices law throughout the state of Florida, often on issues related to election and campaign finance law. His law firm’s website is www.JunnierLaw.com.

Leon County Guide to County and Special District Elections (November, 2014)

Campaigning in Leon County during 2012 early voting

Campaigning in Leon County during 2012 early voting

Remember to vote early.  Here is a list of all Early Voting Sites in Leon County.

Thank you for visiting the Adventure Lawyer’s “Leon County Guide to County and Special District Elections.”

This guide is intended to help undecided voters throughout Leon County identify relevant information relating to potentially otherwise unknown candidates when deciding which individual most deserves your vote. It lists all candidates for each contested county, judicial, and special district board election appearing on the November 4, 2014 ballot.

Using the Guide

Campaign Websites

Directly under each candidate’s name is a link to their campaign website or their campaign Facebook page.  If a candidate has both, the link generally attaches to their website which will then contains its own link to their campaign Facebook page, if they have one. If I was unable to find a candidate campaign website or a campaign Facebook page, there will be the statement “No Website Found.”

Campaign Finance Records

Directly under each candidate’s link to their campaign website or Facebook page, or the words “No Website Found,” is, when available, a link to each candidate’s most recent campaign finance report as of October 30, 2014. This link is titled “Latest Campaign Finance Report.”  If I was unable to find a posting of their most recent (or any) posting of the candidate’s campaign finance report, instead of a link, you will find the statement “No Campaign Finance Information Found.”

Because whether or not their campaign finance reports are published timely by third parties is beyond the reasonable scope of responsibility of the candidate, it may be appropriate not to hold their status of “No Campaign Finance Information Found” against them.

Political Affiliation

Except for judicial races, the political affiliation of each candidate, as recorded by the Leon County Supervisor of Elections, is stated next to the name of each non-judicial candidate. Though these are non-partisan races this information is provided for voters who are strongly affiliated with a particular political party and wish to vote for members of that party in local non-judicial offices.

In a very few instances I was unable to confirm a candidate’s voter registration status, and therefore, their party affiliation (if any). For those few candidates the words “Could Not Confirm Voter Registration” appear in place of their party affiliation. In almost every case they are probably registered, they just may not have updated a name change or they may have a name submitted for the ballot that is different from their legal name–such as when someone gets married, takes her spouse’s last name, but keeps her maiden name for election purposes due to its familiarity with voters. Also, sometimes, their name has simply been misspelled in the database.

In other words, consider not penalizing the candidate just because we couldn’t divine the universe of possibilities when looking up candidate names through the database.

For those candidates stated as “NPA,” that simply means that their voter registration states that they have “No Party Affiliation.”

Incumbency

Some voters believe that incumbents should be retained if they perceive that the current Commission or Board is doing a good job as a whole. Conversely, dissatisfied voters  may wish to “vote the bums out” (though please consider first making sure that the incumbent on the ballot hasn’t been the one trying to solve the problem.) Therefore, if a candidate is an incumbent, it is so stated next to their names.

Outlier Candidates

For the vast majority of candidates, the only information the Guide provides are their names, party affiliation, and, when available, links to their campaign websites or, as of October 30, 2014, their latest campaign finance reports.  Occasionally, however, there is an outlier candidate worthy of special attention.

Sometimes, it’s a positive highlight members of the general public may not commonly know: Leon Soil and Water Conservation District Two Candidate Stan Peacock is considered by those who work with the board to be one of the most competent, thorough, and committed member that the Board has ever had.

Unfortunately, other times, a candidate may have a noteworthy unorthodox past or demeanor, that those who do not often pay close attention to local politics may not be aware: Leon Soil and Water Conservation District Two Candidate William Helmich‘s sole occupation is as an ultra-right wing conservative consultant, and he can’t even be bothered to file campaign Finance reports. (He has simply not filed his previous four reports even though large amounts of money are being spent.)  Three people, including myself, called the Supervisor’s office to verify this wasn’t just a paperwork snafu.

In the event that a candidate may be an outlier, a small note is made beneath their name, campaign website link, or phrase “No Website Found,” and their Latest Campaign Finance Report or phrase “No Campaign Financial Information Found.” The representations and accusations are not my own, so I include a link to news reports (and one Youtube video) in citation of the statements made. In these cases, I hope you will do further research on your own.

All statements are intended as statements of opinion and are not statements of fact. I have done my best to exclude negative nonsense.

Personal Notes

Because Leon County is where I live and where I base my law practice, I occasionally have worked with, or have a personal relationship with, a candidate for public office. Usually my opinion is a positive one–most people who are active in Leon County politics, whatever their personal beliefs and opinions, are outstanding human beings and truly dedicated to public service. In a very few cases it’s a negative opinion.

In any event, if I have worked with or know the candidate personally, I offer a brief personal note of what I know about them.

Personal notes may not include links, because they are my personal opinions formed through experience and not something I learned through secondhand sources.

Also note that as I am a past chair of the Leon County Democratic Executive Committee–I might be biased!

Media Coverage

When available, I offer a link to the Tallahassee Democrat or WFSU’s analysis of each race.

Senator Bill Nelson at the  National High Magnetic Field Laboratory--Leon County is a place that believes in science.

Senator Bill Nelson at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory–Leon County is a place that believes in science.

First District Court of Appeal Judicial Retention Races

You can find information on the judges who are up for judicial retention at the Florida Bar’s website here.

The Leon County Commission

At-Large, Group Two:

The Tallahassee Democrat endorses Nick Maddox.

Curtis Baynes DEMOCRAT
Campaign Website
Latest Campaign Finance Report

Nick Maddox (Incumbent) DEMOCRAT
Campaign Website
Latest Campaign Finance Report
Personal Note: Nick has always been one of my favorite Commissioners to work with and he cares deeply about Leon County. He was instrumental in funding the Leon County Mental Health Court and countless other initiatives.

District One:

Bill Proctor talks with the Tallahassee Democrat.

Weser Khufu’s Rebuttal to the Tallahassee Democrat’s Endorsement.

Weser Khufu DEMOCRAT
Campaign Website
Latest Campaign Finance Report

Bill Proctor (Incumbent) DEMOCRAT
No Website Found
Latest Campaign Finance Report
Personal Note: I have worked with Commissioner Proctor on several issues, particularly those related to social mobility, mental health, and veteran affairs.  At public meetings he expresses his District’s frustration through bellicose language and tone–he wants to make it clear to his constituents that he is fighting for them–but when the cameras shut off and the crowds disperse, in my experience, Commissioner Proctor works respectfully, pragmatically and diligently with his colleagues and community activists.  He is also one of the most enigmatic folks I have ever (and it was always a pleasure) worked with.

Leon Soil and Water Conservation District

Learn more about the Leon Soil and Water Conservation District here.

Here is WFSU’s coverage of these races.

District Two:

Stan Peacock (Incumbent) DEMOCRAT
Campaign Website
Latest Campaign Finance Report
Personal Note: It is my experience that Stan is considered by pretty much everybody who works with the Board to be the most competent, thorough, and committed member that the Board has ever had. He has a degree in biology and a doctorate in Optometry. One of the candidates in the District Four race suggests that there are no science experts on the Board–considering Stan’s eminent qualifications, that is not a fair assessment.

William Helmich REPUBLICAN
No Website Found
Latest Campaign Finance Report
Caution: Bill Helmich sends out mailers attempting to betray himself as a Democrat when he is actually Vice Chair of the Republican Executive Committee of Leon County. Although he is spending large amounts of money, we don’t know who it’s from, because he hasn’t filed a campaign finance report with the Supervisor of Elections since September in an apparent naked flouting of Florida Campaign Finance Law. (Three people, including myself, called the Supervisor’s Office to verify this claim.) He once tried to create havoc at one of my Democratic Executive Committee meetings by storming in yelling nonsense about yard signs but–oops–choose to try this at meeting dedicated to a Sheriff and State Attorney candidates’ forum. When he abruptly popped in he was confronted by a largely uniformed audience–the protest deescalated quickly. He once sent a letter to my leadership team claiming I broke an election law by quoting a statute but omitting the text that very plainly mangled his argument into nonsense. His letter is here. My response is here. I followed it up by spending 10K on a second round of “If you like Rick Scott, than you’ll love Steve Stweart ads.” I never heard back from him after that. Bill Helmich should not be trusted to supervise our county’s water supply.

District Four:

Ryan Truchelut NPA
Campaign Website
Latest Campaign Finance Report

Brian Lee DEMOCRAT
Campaign Website
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Personal Note: Brian helps run an alternate-energy/environmental NGO and has demonstrated an ability to persuade conservative legislators and a “I’m not a scientist” Executive Office of Governor to do basic things to prevent the whole of south Florida from being submerged under the ocean before the next fiscal quarter. He has also proven his ability to raise money through both fundraisers and grant applications. He has been volunteering and actively engaged with the community for many years. Brian was also a key player in President Obama’s 2008 north Florida campaign.

Capital Region Community Development District 

Learn more about the Capital Region Community Development District here.

Seat Three:

Eli Nortelus (Incumbent) DEMOCRAT
Campaign Website
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Luis Rojas REPUBLICAN 
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Note: If you scroll through his campaign contributions list, you might note an issue with where most of his donations are coming from.

Piney Z Community Development District

Learn more about Piney Z Community Development District here.

Seat One:

Delores Ann Pincus REPUBLICAN
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Hugh Hauck REPUBLICAN
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Note: Though it is of little relevance to a community development district race, if you care, Mr. Hauck is endorsed by Personhood Florida, a pro-life political action committee. 

Seat Three:

Johnny Patrick Devine DEMOCRAT
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Cheryl Hudson (Inclumbent) REPUBLICAN
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Rick Scott Rescheduled an Execution so Pam Bondi could go to a Fundraiser

Pieter Bruegel's ("little") Tower of Babel

Pieter Bruegel’s (“little”) Tower of Babel

In August, 2013, Governor Rick Scott rescheduled the execution date of Marshall Lee Gore from September 10th to October 1st.

Marshall Lee Gore raped, strangled, and stabbed Robyn Novick and dumped her body in rural Miami-Dade county. Marshall Lee Gore also killed Susan Roark after a chance encounter at a convenience store.  Susan Roark was 19.

Their names were Robyn Novick and Susan Roark.

Why would Governor Scott delay the execution of a teenage murdering maniac?  Was it because the Supreme Court was concerned that Gore was too mentally ill, thereby reducing his moral culpability and personal agency, (so the argument goes) to execute?

No.

Rick Scott delayed the execution of a rapist-murderer because on the day of the scheduled execution, September 10, 2013, Attorney General Pam Bondi had also scheduled a campaign fundraiser.

There was a conflict in her schedule you see–so she decided to change the date of what she presumably considered the less-important affair–the execution of the murderer of Robyn Novick, 30, and Susan Roark, 19.

It was her kickoff fundraiser, so perhaps she was concerned about the arrangements her wealthier supporters had made? Maybe she felt uncomfortable asking them to rearrange their calendars to accommodate an execution?

I wonder if the families of of Robyn Novick and Susan Roark thought it was inconvenient for themselves to rearrange their calendars to accommodate a political fundraiser? Or, instead, did they think it one further indignity for their loved one’s memory to endure?

It was a parting shot from the state of Florida expressing we don’t really care about you; we just pretend for the cameras. 

Governor Scott says he didn’t know the Attorney General’s reason when she asked for the delay.

I guess Rick Scott didn’t believe that the lives of  Robyn Novick and Susan Roark were even important enough to ask why.

But they were still going to kill somebody over it–provided they could agree on a convenient time.

As somebody who works and researches human rights issues, both domestically and in the field, I believe that a legitimate government should never kill its citizens. However, if there is going to be an execution, this is how it should take place.

Therefore, it’s not that I’m angry that this person lived for another three weeks; I would have been content to have let him breath until his natural death provided it be behind bars. I’m angry about why–this evil who was so evil he didn’t know he was evil–breathed the extra three weeks.

If you do support the death penalty and wonder why the Supreme Court allows appeal after appeal about the Constitution’s “cruel and unusual clause” and the “arbitrary application” argument–this is why.