Recently, we’ve seen an encouraging trend in prosecutor accountability. Where state bar associations, courts and internal policies have failed, voters have stepped up to show wayward prosecutors the door. It first happened in Brooklyn. Then in Mississippi. Then in Chicago and Cleveland. You could make a good argument that also it happened in Caddo Parish, La.
One of the more infamous prosecutors still in office right now is Angela Corey in Jacksonville, Fla. There seems to be some momentum building to add her to the list. But Corey — or her party or her supporters — has found a creative way to escape the verdict of voters.
Every voter in the 4th Judicial Circuit should be door-slamming outraged.
Because of a cheap political trick, only Republican voters in Duval, Nassau and Clay counties will have a voice in filling two positions critical to our justice system — state attorney and public defender.
That cheap trick is someone filing as a write-in candidate.
Only Republicans had signed up to run for those two offices.
If that had remained the case, all eligible voters would have been able to vote in those races on Aug. 30 because it would have been equivalent to a general election.
But then came the write-in candidates, whose names won’t even be on the November ballot.
Instead they will be represented by blank lines that can be filled in.
In a wacky ruling last February, the Florida Supreme Court said having those blanks on the November ballot was sufficient to close a primary. . .
What happened in the race for state attorney was particularly sleazy.
Alexander Pantinakis, the campaign manager for the incumbent, Angela Corey, clearly had a hand in filing the papers in Tallahassee to add attorney Kenny Leigh as a write-in candidate in the race.
Corey faces a credible challenge from another Republican. The problem is that keeping non-Republicans from voting in the primary — which, as Littlepage points out, for this race is effectively the real election — results in a huge advantage for Corey. (Are there no Democrats in Jacksonville?)
There were similar shenanigans in the race for public defender, providing an advantage to incumbent Matt Shirk.
By the way, Shirk was elected to office in 2008 on an endorsement from the Fraternal Order of Police and campaign promises to not oppose funding cuts to his own office and to squeeze indigent defendants for money, even if they’re acquitted. All of which really tells you all you need to know about the wisdom of electing public defenders.