A group of Florida trial lawyers are throwing their support behind Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham and are encouraging their colleagues to do likewise, according to letter obtained by Florida Politics.
The letter details how many in the legal community were disappointed by major losses at the top of the ballot in past gubernatorial elections — but in 2018, they expect Democrats to have a shot at the Governor’s Mansion and see Graham as the best option in the four-person primary.
Among their reasons for selecting the Graham over her opponents was her 2014 victory over then-U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland in the old CD 2.
“All of us vividly remember the disappointments of 2010 and 2014. Republican waves rolled across the nation, giving Rick Scott just enough momentum to eke out narrow wins in his races for Florida Governor. But 2018 is different,” they wrote.
“In 2014, Gwen was one of only two Democratic challengers in the United States to defeat Republican incumbent members of the United States House of Representatives. She won a challenging North Florida district that also voted for Rick Scott. In fact, Gwen’s margin was 7 points greater than Obama in 2012 and 5 points better than Crist in 2014.”
The letter is signed by:
— Wayne Hogan, a Jacksonville personal injury attorney who was on the legal “dream team” that sued Big Tobacco in the 1990s, ending in an historic $17 billion settlement for Florida.
— Howard Coker, another Jacksonville trial lawyer and frequent member of the “Top 100 Florida Super Lawyers.”
— Mike Maher, a medical malpractice specialist in Orlando, former President of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, and another member of the Big Tobacco lawsuit “dream team.”
— John Romano, a Palm Beach County personal injury and product liability attorney.
— Bob Kerrigan, a Pensacola personal injury attorney who also was on the tobacco case “dream team” and advised members of the state Senate during the 2000 presidential election lawsuit.
— Curry Pajcic, a former prosecutor and now plaintiffs’ attorney in Jacksonville who was a finalist for U.S. Attorney, Middle District of Florida.
— Rod Smith, a trial attorney and partner at Gainesville’s Avera & Smith who served as the 8th Judicial Circuit’s State Attorney in 1993-2000.
— Mike Haggard, a Coral Gables personal injury attorney who is “the only plaintiff’s personal injury attorney to secure three separate $100 million dollar verdicts on behalf of individual clients,” his website says.
— Holt Harrell, a Jacksonville personal injury attorney “named a Rising Star by Super Lawyers each year since 2010,” his website says.
— Don Hinkle, a Tallahassee personal injury lawyer, now pursuing a high-profile case against Gov. Rick Scott, alleging the multi-millionaire governor hasn’t properly disclosed his wealth under the state constitution’s “Sunshine Amendment.”
The attorneys also highlighted Graham’s platform on the courts, writing that she “strongly believes in the Florida constitutional mandate that ‘courts shall be open to every person for redress of any injury, and justice shall be administered without sale, denial or delay.”
“Gwen’s clear support for access to the courts is coupled with her determination to appoint the best possible judiciary as Governor. She supports efforts to remove politics from the judicial selection process by restoring balance to the appointment of Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) members.
“Gwen plans to appoint judges on their qualifications and willingness to decide cases on their merits, not because they align with some ideological agenda. She strongly believes the next governor, Democrat or Republican, has the constitutional right to appoint the next Supreme Court justices. And if Governor Scott attempts to exceed his authority and make those appointments, Gwen will take him to court in her first day in office.”
The letter then encourages fellow trial lawyers to pitch in to Grahams campaign or political committee “as soon as possible.”
Graham faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Orlando-area businessman Chris King and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine in the Democratic Primary.
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis have declared on the Republican side, with House Speaker Richard Corcoran expected to enter the race in the coming weeks.
Earlier in the race, many prominent attorneys chipped in to Corcoran’s Watchdog PAC, but now that he lacks control over legislation that could impact the legal community, it’s yet to be seen if the trial attorneys will continue to support his political committee or if they’ll follow their historic approach and begin to line up behind Graham or another Democratic contender who is more in line with their agenda.
Here is a copy of the letter:
Trial attorneys support Gwen Graham by Peter Schorsch on Scribd