FORT LAUDERDALE – Florence Barner touched on a case backlog, distrust of the justice system in minority communities, and truancy and juvenile traffic crimes as issues she would like to address if she is successful in her bid for a seat as a judge in the Broward County Court.
Barner is competing against three candidates for one of the open seats in the Aug. 30 state primaries. Broward County voters will be asked to decide several circuit and county court judges’ races at the Aug. 30 state primaries, including five elections pitting challengers against currently sitting judges in the county and 12 candidates hoping to capture one of four open seats.
Barner is relying on her experience to win her votes.
“My greatest strengths are my experience, perspective and temperament,” Barner told the Florida Record. “A county court judge must be ready to preside at a civil or criminal trial on day one. My experience of being a successful criminal and civil trial attorney for nearly 10 years practicing in nearly every county in the state of Florida distinguishes me from the rest of my opponents in this election."
Barner said a judge must stay abreast of new cases and stay on top of new research studies as they pertain to sentencing, a practice she has already adopted in her daily work.
“A good judge knows the law, but a great judge knows the history of the law, the legislative intent behind the law, and how the subtle nuances of the law work as applied to a specific set of facts,” Barner said. “I also know how to try a case, criminal and civil, jury and non-jury, and how the changes in the rules of evidence affect how a case is tried and how evidence is presented so that a just and fair outcome is achieved.”
Barner said she would propose changes in the Broward County judiciary in connection with case backlogs that often require individuals to wait months for a hearing date. Among her proposed solutions is using court call or other telephonic appearance services in order to reduce the number of people physically in the courthouse, and allowing litigants and attorneys to have access to an online scheduling system.
Barner says the issue of distrust among minority communities stems, in part, from the fact that the county’s nearly 30 percent African-American population is not adequately represented in the judiciary.
“Diversity is not just about race or ethnicity; it is about diversity of gender, race, ethnicity, age, socioeconomic status and life experience,” Barner said. “Diversity is required because it allows for different views and perspectives to be heard. Judicial diversity is valued because it increases public confidence in the courts, provides decision-making power to formerly disenfranchised populations, (and) is essential to ensuring equal justice for all.”
To address truancy and juvenile traffic crimes, Barner said she would propose a unified system where one judge handles these cases and litigants "with a bit more care, just as they do in the circuit courts." Barner said this would also ensure consistency in sentencing and lead to more positive sentencing outcomes.
“Truancy is a serious problem that affects a child’s prospects for decades, and our current system fails to address the underlying reasons why a child is not attending school regularly," Barner said.
Barner began her legal career as an assistant state attorney (ASA) in the State Attorney’s Office in Broward County in 2006. After more than three years with that office, she joined the law firm of Weitz & Schwartz PA.