Auto Insurance Company Creates Political Committee in Miami Race
“An auto insurance company that regularly fights cases in court has created a political committee and spent almost $227,000 in support of two incumbent Miami judges [who ran in this] Tuesday’s election,” according to David Ovalle at the Miami Herald. “The large infusion of money from Citizens for Judicial Fairness, created by United Auto Insurance, appears to be a first in a local judicial election, and has sparked a bitter election battle against the industry’s perpetual courtroom foe: personal injury lawyers, who have now established a rival committee.” Lawyer Hector Lombana resigned as campaign treasurer for Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Rodney Smith in protest of the insurance company’s activities. “It’s worrisome when you have an industry that is constantly in court exercising its financial muscle in the election for those who are going to judge it,” said Lombana. Along with Judge Smith, the committee also supported Miami-Dade County Court Judge Nuria Saenz. The challengers who ran against these incumbent judges are both personal injury lawyers, who, Ovalle states, often represent motorists and clinics in lawsuits against auto insurance companies. Consultant Bob Levy, who represented both judges, “points out that elected judges have long enjoyed legal donations from individual lawyers who appear before them.” But lawyer Alan Alvarez, who is representing a plaintiff in one of nearly 300 cases involving the company currently pending before Judge Saenz, argues, “the appearance of impropriety and undue influence on behalf of United Automobile Insurance Company upon Judge Saenz is overwhelming.” Judge Smith won his race and will retain his seat. Judge Saenz lost and will be replaced by personal injury lawyer Victoria Ferrer.
Got this from the Brennan Center, which covers the justice beat, i.e., what is going on in our courts. This is awful, given that if the insurance industry is able to put their own judges on the bench, you who might be injured in a automobile accident could have a rough time suing for damages.
Blame the Supreme Court for this one, too. (We have so much for which we can blame the Supreme Court, don’t we?)