Eleven contests for Circuit Court judges will be on South Florida ballots

courts 04.08
Forty-six other judges will be returned to the judicial bench without election opposition.

Eleven judicial contests emerged and 46 judges were returned to their benches without opposition Friday in the five Judicial Circuits serving South Florida.

Lunchtime on Friday marked the ballot qualifying deadline for the 2022 elections. Among the South Florida contests, one judge in the 15th Circuit that serves Palm Beach County had lawmakers calling for his removal over his last term.

Judge John Kastrenakes incited outrage and a New York Times article in 2019 for sentencing a man to 10 days in jail for missing jury duty. And now two qualified challengers — Caryn Siperstein, a Palm Beach lawyer, and Alcolya St. Juste, a West Palm Beach lawyer — are running to unseat him from the job he’s had since 2010.

Four incumbent judges in Florida’s 11th Judicial Circuit, serving Miami-Dade County, drew challengers. Teressa Cervera, a Miami lawyer, qualified to challenge Judge Lody Jean. Brenda Guerrero, a Miami lawyer, qualified to face Judge Robert Watson. And Judge Mark Blumstein also drew a qualified challenger, Ariel Rodriguez, a Miami lawyer. Judge Oscar Rodriguez-Fonts is facing a qualified challenge from Jason Bloch, a Miami attorney.

In the 17th Judicial Circuit, serving Broward County, voters will be asked to decide four judicial contests because of two open seats and two incumbent judges drawing challengers.

Sen. Gary Farmer of Lighthouse Point opted for a judicial contest with two Fort Lauderdale lawyers instead of running again for Senate. He will vie with lawyers Rhoda Sokoloff and Tania Williams for the right to replace retiring Judge Barbara McCarthy.

Coral Springs lawyer Tamar Hamilton, Fort Lauderdale lawyer Denise Kistner and Southwest Ranches lawyer Lorena Mastrarrigo have all qualified to compete for the seat that Judge Sandra Perlman is retiring from after serving her term.

Alejandro “Alex” Arreaza, who practices law in Fort Lauderdale, is qualified to challenge Judge William Haury. And incumbent Judge Andrea Gundersen is facing a challenge from Lauren Alperstein, a Hollywood attorney.

In the 19th Judicial Circuit, which serves Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee and St. Lucie counties, voters will have two contests to consider for Circuit Court judges. Judge Rebecca White drew a qualified challenge from Christian Van Riper, a Stuart lawyer. Leatha Mullins, a Fort Pierce lawyer, who also serves as Magistrate, is competing with St. Lucie attorney Alexander Nelson for an open seat in the circuit.

Meanwhile, all the judges who did not draw election competition when the qualifying deadline expired at noon Friday were returned to office for fresh six-year terms without having to be elected.

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In JC 11, Judges Christina Marie DiRaimondo, Laura Cruz, Marcia Del Rey, Scott Bernstein, Bertila Soto, Tom “Tomas” Rebull, William Altfield, Jennifer Bailey, Barbara Areces, David Young, William Thomas, Milton “Milt” Hirsch, Samantha Ruiz Cohen, Ramiro Areces, Nushin Sayfie, Gina Beovides, Marlene Fernandez-Karavetsos, Zachary James and George “Jorge” Sarduy were returned to their benches without having to face an election.

In JC 15, Judges Dina Keever-Agrama, Howard Kelly Coates Jr, Laura Johnson, “Lou” Luis Delgado, Cheryl Caracuzzo, Laura Burkhart Laurie, Paige Gillman, Renatha Francis, Scott Suskauer, Carline Shepherd, Kirk Volker, Donald Hafele and Lisa Small were returned to the bench without opposition.

In the 16th Judicial Circuit, which serves Monroe County, Judge Timothy Koenig will be returned to the bench without opposition.

In JC 17, Judges Kenneth Gillespie, Elijah Williams, Carlos Rodriguez, Hope Tieman Bristol, Barbara Duffy, Michael Davis, Carlos Rebollo, Michael Lynch, Stacy Ross and Edward Merrigan Jr. were re-elected without opposition.

In JC 19, Judges Michael McNicholas, Janet Carney Croom, Charles Schwab, and Brett Waronicki will return to the bench without facing a contest.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected]


One comment

  • Matthew Lusk

    May 3, 2022 at 9:34 am

    If it takes a year to even schedule a trial, why not increase the number of judges and support staff. More speedy executions will free up money for costs.

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