Politics

Jorge Labarga Sworn In as First Cuban-American Chief Justice

By: Jim Turner News Service of Florida | Posted: July 1, 2014 3:55 AM
Jorge Labarga

Jorge Labarga

Jorge Labarga became the first Cuban-American to lead the Florida Supreme Court when he was sworn in as chief justice Monday. Labarga, 61, whose family immigrated to the United States after the Cuban revolution, became the state's 56th chief justice and the fifth from Palm Beach County.

Growing up in Pahokee and later West Palm Beach -- where he became a circuit judge and was briefly involved in the 2000 presidential recount -- Labarga noted that his parents instilled American values into their children.

"They raised children who were taught firsthand the beauty of our constitutional form of government, and children who learned through the experiences of their parents, that for democracy to work, the concept of justice must be applicable, available and accessible to all citizens," Labarga said.

His parents did not attend. Labarga said his father, who is 96, has health issues and his mother, 86, remained in West Palm Beach.

The passing-of-the-gavel ceremony at the Supreme Court continued the tradition of justices electing the next senior member who has yet to hold the chief justice position. The position is for two years.

Labarga replaces outgoing Chief Justice Ricky Polston, 58. Polston remains on the court, though he has applied to be the next president at Florida State University.

Polston administered the oath to Labarga. Labarga's wife of 34 years, Zulma Labarga, held the Bible.

Justice Barbara Pariente, who also came from Palm Beach County, described Labarga as witty and having a talent for storytelling, but also as a careful, detail-oriented jurist who uses his unique life experiences.

Pariente noted that when the court ruled in March that undocumented immigrants cannot be admitted to The Florida Bar, Labarga "reluctantly" agreed with the majority but offered his own strongly worded opinion that called on the Legislature to change state law to allow so-called "Dreamers" to become attorneys.

"The Legislature heard your words and passed legislation that allowed this applicant to be admitted to the Florida Bar," Pariente said, referring to an immigrant who was the subject of the court case.

In that opinion, Labarga wrote there were many parallels between his own life and the applicant in the case -- the difference being that his family was "perceived as defectors from a tyrannical communist regime," while the applicant "who is perceived to be a defector from poverty, is viewed negatively because his family sought an opportunity for economic prosperity."

As chief justice, Labarga, who has served on the court since 2009, will preside over oral arguments and become the point man for the state court system, which has sometimes been at odds with the Legislature over funding.

Among his priorities, Labarga said he wants to make the courts more accessible to all Floridians.

Labarga has also said he intends to continue the policies of Polston and former Chief Justice Charles Canady, who considered it their priority to find the necessary funding for the judicial branch of government.

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, the first Cuban-America to hold that statewide position, attended the event for Gov. Rick Scott, who spent the day focused on veterans at events in Tampa and Fort Myers.

"The nature of this historic date is not lost on me," Lopez-Cantera said. "My grandfather came over as an attorney from Cuba. He had to start over in his 40s, going to law school, learning English while in law school. It was always his greatest pride to pull out his Bar card and say he was a member of the Florida Bar."

Labarga, the state's second Cuban-American justice, arrived in America when he was 11 and could only speak Spanish. His family settled first in Pahokee shortly after the Cuban missile crisis.

He recalled living in Cuba when the dream of an American-style democracy "turned into a Marxist nightmare."

Labarga earned his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Florida before starting his law career in 1979 as an assistant public defender in West Palm Beach.

After stints in the state attorney's office and at a private firm, he helped found Roth, Duncan & Labarga PA in 1992. In 1996, then-Gov. Lawton Chiles chose Labarga as a circuit judge in Palm Beach County, where he served in the family, civil and criminal divisions.

Then-Gov. Charlie Crist appointed Labarga to the 4th District Court of Appeal in December 2008, only to elevate him to the Florida Supreme Court several weeks later.

Labarga retained his seat with 59 percent of the vote in 2010 despite being targeted by some social conservatives.

The social conservatives were angry that Labarga and fellow Justice James E.C. Perry, also up at the time for retention, were among the justices who voted to kick an amendment off the 2010 ballot that would have given voters the opportunity to oppose involvement in the federal Affordable Care Act.

 


Tags: News, Politics

Comments (4)

Bill
12:53PM JUL 7TH 2014
I have never set foot in Switzerland but I'm 3rd generation, so I'm Swiss-American, right? Or am I some sort of cheese experiment, gone awry?
protected child abusers
2:54PM JUL 2ND 2014
In 1989 Gary Borders (Now sheriff of Lake County) and his friend Don Brown who along with his family owns The Bridges of America Florida Department of Corrections vendor early release facilities and prison ministries opened the Green Isle Ranch for wayward boys near Clermont in South Lake County.
That same year Gary Borders come to Lake County to run the Lake County Jail. Rumors of boys having sex with each other and being sexually abused at Green Isle was on the streets of Clermont and Groveland almost from the beginning.
In 2000 a none year old boy was sexually abused by older boys and a houseparent. His parents removed him from Green Isle. Don Brown convinced the parents if they would return him he would get the boy special treatment and protect him from further abuse. They retured the boy to Green Isle where he was once again sexually abused. In 2001 they hired Attorney Keith Mitnik who was raised in Tavares. He filed a lawsuit against Green Isle. That lawsuit was heard before Lake Circuit Judge William Law whose wife Julie Law was the Attorney of Record for the Green Isle Foundation at the time. Judge law dismissed the case in favor of his wife’s employer Green Isle.
In October 2006 founding Green Isle Board member Gary Borders become the sheriff of Lake County. In 2008 complaints surfaced that Green Isle had been feeding rancid food including frozen maggots and over working the boys at the Green Isle Thrift store. The ranch closed. Soon State Attorney Brad King announced he could find no criminal wrong doing on the part of Green Isle and the ranch reopened under new management.
On November 21, 2009 five boys ranging from 12 to 16 years old reported to the Green isle administrator that they had been sexually assaulted over the summer (from July to early November) by an older boy who had recently left the ranch. They all said he threatened their lives if they told on him and that was why they were only now coming forth. Green isle administrator Rev. Steve Zepp called 911 immediately and reported the crimes to the Lake Sheriff’s Office (Sheriff Gary Borders). A deputy sheriff went to Green Isle and took a through report including handwritten statements from Rev. Zepp and the five victims who all “initialed the yes box” in “do you want to prosecute?” the responding Deputy also notified the DCF Child Abuse hotline from the ranch. Rev. Steve Zepp was gone from Green Isle in 48 hours after dialing 911. He only says “over an disagreement with management!” Insiders at Green isle said it was over his calling 911 without consulting his management.
Absolutely nothing was done for these five little rape victims. By February 3, 2010 some of them had attempted to commit suicide and the sheriff’s office had reportedly responded to those calls and again took no actions on behalf of the victims! The original report was Lake Sheriff’s Office Case Number (09 191988) No records have been found regarding the attempted suicide calls, but entered into that case is the following: On February 3, 2010 at 4:07 PM Lake Deputy Walker responded to a call from Paula Whetro the new Green Isle Administrator regarding the fact that she was receiving threatening & harassing phone calls, text messages and emails from a disgruntled former employee (house parent) Clayton Berkey (and his wife Angela) who still had keys to the boys cottages. Why was this entered into the report of the rapes?
Then by 5 PM that date Clayton Berkey was on all the local television breaking news stories relating over and over the plight of the five boys being held at Green Isle for seventy-five days after reporting they had been brutally sexually abused by the older boy over the summer. Then Green Isle insiders released a flyer with the rapist named by all the victims pictured right next to Sheriff Borders in July 2009 around the time the rapes began. Later a retired Captain who was a direct report to Jail administrator Gary Borders for fifteen years reported in all those years he never heard Gary Borders mention his involvement at the Green Isle Boys Ranch.
According to the report (09 191988) the next day after the leaks of the rapes was exposed on local television Sheriff Gary Borders sent two of his detective teams to Citrus County to interview the suspect who had been named in the original report over 75 days earlier. The FDLE reported that Sheriff Borders Office arrested the rapist on February 9, 2010 for four counts of sexual battery, one count of Lewd & Lascivious and one count of Battery.(The sheriff’s office report marked out the box “cleared by arrest” and in fact indicates the case was not filed for prosecution because it liked enough “probable cause for and arrest!” FDLE also reported that on May 20th, 2010 the rapist pled no-contest and was later sentenced to community control. Anonymous Lake Courthouse rumors reported the case was numbered (2010-CJ-000185) and the sentencing by Circuit Judge Michael Takac occurred on may 26, 2010.
Bu October 2010 – The convict at large was receiving traffic citations. On March 3, 2010 – (Just 13 months to the day that his crimes were leaked to the public) the convicted rapist who was supposed to be serving community control in Citrus County , Florida had an injunction for protection against dating violence filed against him in Citrus County by the father of another juvenile victim. As required by the courts the petition alleged a history of violence against this juvenile. (They won’t even take a complain for just one act of violence against a person) The petition described events such as assault with a motor vehicle against the parents of the juvenile and two Citrus County Sheriff’s Office Deputies reports of violence was contained in this request. Any of the calls to the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office should have turned up the fact that the violator was on community control and should have violated that judgment. The request for injunction for protection should have violated the judgment of community control, but it did not and the petitioners request for protection against dating violence was denied.
By November 16, 2011- The protected rapist was still at large and received a careless driving citation for an accident resulting in damages. From that day forward this protected species – protected by Sheriff Gary Borders and his friends in the fifth circuit of Florida has laid low and off the grid.
Over the last several years a large group of people has been following the horrors of the Green Isle Boys Ranch and the involvement of those who conspired for over two decades to keep their little secret of the abuses of those who were unfortunate enough to have been “students” at the Green Isle Boys Ranch.
Can you imagine anyone working side by side with fellow employee’s (for fifteen years) and not once mentioning to that fellow employee that he was involved in this great boys ranch to help the unfortunate and wayward boys and invite that fellow employee to join in this great worthy cause? Some of Sheriff Borders employee’s was pictured with him in the flyer (where he was pictured with the rapist) Summer 2009 – why was some employee’s invited to Green isle while others never even heard of it?
This nightmare of horrors reopened in 2011 under true new ownership and recently it was closed down again (this time by DCF – thank God they finally done their job) The only reason they closed it down so fast this time is the new owner was not politically connected the power house that Sheriff Borders and his friends has been connected too since the middle 1980’s.
And now the local oligarchs are trying to convince animal lovers that Sheriff Gary Borders can manage the Lake County Animal Services more efficiently and more ethically than its present and previous management teams have. What possible morals and ethics can a human have who as the sworn sheriff of this county and (by his employees who are nothing more than extensions of his power as sheriff) takes the obviously certifiable and authenticated reports of the brutal rapes of five little boys and sits on it and does nothing – no immediate arrest; nothing! Even after his employee’s are called back to the scene of the crimes (more than once) where the victims are still being held because they have attempted suicide (not just threatened suicide). Those of us who follow child abuse cases have seen more than enough documented evidence regarding the 30 + years of Gary Borders and his involvement with Green Isle Ranch, The Osceola Boys Clubs and other functions “where the boys are” to know we do not want Gary Borders around young boys. Therefore we would be inclined to believe animal lovers likewise would not want him to be in charge an animal shelter making decisions regarding the life and death of animals when he has shown by documented evidence (in reports obtained from his own office) that he does not enforce the laws against child rape. And he show no concern about children who are trying to take their own lives because he has failed to protect them from his abusive friends.

This is not politics – this is the plain hard facts concerning the true history of the man who runs our sheriff’s office. He was handed this job on a silver platter because of and not in spite of his history.
Anyone who disputes these facts (unless Sheriff Borders has destroyed -09 191988) you can obtain a copy of the entire report by public records request. The rapist is named in this report. Then you can also obtain the continued criminal actions of the rapist (who was supposed to be on community control) by obtaining Citrus County Sheriff’s Office and Clerk of the Courts reports. Then ask yourself why is this young man at large and not required to have been registered as a sex offender or predator?
Bill
12:51PM JUL 7TH 2014
This has what to do with the new Florida Chief Justice?
abusers are protected species!
6:35AM JUL 1ST 2014
We the people of Florida will never win the war against child abuse as long as the system protects the abusers and not the children. This is literally just one case out of hundreds here In Florida where the abuser is protected by the system. Enough information is being provided so as any ethical person with average intelligence can verify the enclosed information for validity!
Taken directly from public records formerly available on-line:
On 1/20/2013 - MICHAEL JOHN MORROW was arrested by Leesburg, Lake County, Fl Police and booked in to the Lake County Jail - Booking #:13000734-Case #:-Inmate ID:60711 – DOB: February 1986. Place of birth: Omaha, Nb. [Franklin Scandal territory]

He was charged with: LEWD LASCV BEHAVIOR - MOLEST VIC LESS 12YOA OFFENDER 18 YOA OR OLDER and, ADDED: SEMINOLE CO: PC-VOP: GRAND THEFT

On 2/23/2013 – The arrestee posted a $500. Bond and was released for jail.

On 2/25/2013 – The charges against this defendant was dropped by Fifth Circuit Chief Judge Don Briggs, without comment!

12/4/2013 – Lake County Florida Circuit Court Case# 2013 DR 002421 – Name Exempt vs. Morrow, Michael John [an injunction for protection against sexual violence is filed]

12/6/2013 – Case is heard by Circuit Judge Heidi Davis! Remarks entered into docket as reference #4: Order denying petition for injunction for protection against sexual violence; court notes: The parient’s (sic) may supplement the petition to include they are filing because they feel their daughter needs this protection, not because DCF told them to file. Court will be willing to review it again; copies to petitioner by mail.

Who is this protected species? Other Lake Judges have been flippant with this man on other criminal charges as well. On 2/6/2013- Judge Donna Miller -NOLLE PROSEQUI –drug charges
On this person!

But this is blatant disregard for the safety of a child under the age of 12 years old by Judge Heidi Davis’ remarks it is apparent after the Chief Circuit Judge dropped the charges against the 28 year old attacker the parents of this sexually abused child , went to DCF – who apparently advised the parents to seek this “injunction for protection against sexual violence” in circuit court. The results of which are not only appalling, but could possible lead to the death or continued abuse of this child. What if we hear the parents of this child have taken the law into their own hands? The system would never admit they have protected this sexual offender of a child under the age of 12 years! They will blame the parents for going berserk and taking the law into their own hands.

Once this case was brought to the attention of certain persons all “official Records” of this arrest as well as his drug related arrest #12009378 on 10/10/2012 disappeared from the Lake Jail website. Likewise “Circuit Court Case# 2013 DR 002421” (containing the disparaging remarks of Judge Davis) disappeared from the website of the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Lake County Florida website as well. Maybe Leesburg Police still have a record of this arrest?

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