Two superb Haitian American judges under attack – The Miami Times

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Mainly clear skies. Low around 80F. Winds ESE at 5 to 10 mph.
Updated: July 20, 2022 @ 9:32 pm
Two former educators are going toe to toe for the Florida House District 109 seat.
I have had the honor and pleasure of being a lawyer for 34 years. During this time, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend: a never-ending attack on Black and Haitian American judges.
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Judge Fred Seraphin
Judge Lody Jean
Reginald J. Clyne, Esq.

Judge Fred Seraphin
I have had the honor and pleasure of being a lawyer for 34 years. During this time, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend: a never-ending attack on Black and Haitian American judges.
This term, two such individuals are being battered by who I feel are less competent lawyers, which is about as nicely as I can frame it.
Judge Lody Jean, born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, has a wonderful reputation as a judge. Her challenger, a white woman named Teressa Tylman, a name she has practiced under for 12 years, has recently begun identifying herself as Teressa Cervera. Can you guess why? She wants to win not on her merits, but on ethnic name recognition. A Hispanic surname can get you elected, even if you don’t know the way to the courthouse.
Judge Lody Jean
It is a sad fact that many people vote based on ethnic name recognition. Most voters don’t care about judicial races and the judicial candidates usually don’t have enough money for fancy TV ads or countywide mailers. Thus, a Hispanic surname in a county with a 67% Hispanic population can get you a seat on the bench, regardless of your qualifications both as a lawyer and as an honest human being.
Tylman has practiced law under her maiden name for more than a decade. Her email address, the registered agent for her law firm and the name she’s put on every pleading was Tylman – until she decided to run against Jean. That’s when Tylman decided to change her name to Cervera.
Judges should be morally upright and above reproach, and changing your name to win an election does not reflect the integrity we need on the bench. Please, please, please keep Jean on the bench. It would be a shame to lose someone with years of judiciary and trial experience to a woman who is trying to cheat her way into office.
Judge Fred Seraphin has the honor of being the first Haitian American judge elected to office in Florida. He has an even temperament, kind disposition, integrity and knows the law. He is also someone we need to keep on the bench.
His opponent is from the famous Diaz de la Portilla clan, Renier Diaz de La Portilla. Diaz de La Portilla is someone who I supported when he was on the school board, but you don’t need to be a lawyer with sharp legal acumen to serve on a school board or to be a state representative or commissioner. However, a judge needs some real trial experience, needs to know the rules of evidence and needs to know the law.
When you compare Diaz de La Portilla to Seraphin, it’s like comparing someone on a third grade baseball team to someone who just played for the Yankees in the World Series. Diaz de La Portilla is not fit to stand in Seraphin’s shadow; he’s a politician who just wants to be in elected office.
After serving on the school board, he won a special election to take over the state representative seat being vacated by his brother Alex. He later lost that seat to Juan-Carlos “J.C.” Planas and returned to the school board from 2006 to 2012. Then he ran for state House again and lost to Manny Diaz Jr. In 2014, he ran for judge and lost to Veronica Diaz; in 2020 he ran for Miami-Dade County commissioner and lost to Eileen Higgins.
It seems Diaz de La Portilla simply wants to hold an office, and any office will do. His legal experience comes down to a brief stint at the Miami-Dade County Public Defender’s Office and a few mediations. Seraphin worked at the Public Defender’s Office for decades then ran his own legal practice before returning to the Public Defender’s Office. He has tried, in my rough calculations, 10 times more jury trials than his opponent. He knows the rules of evidence and criminal law, and he has experience as a judge in criminal and civil court. He is, hands down, simply more qualified.
Reginald J. Clyne, Esq.
Although many people do not pay attention to the judiciary, it is an important third branch of government. You need only look at our current U.S. Supreme Court to know that it’s time to wake up and pay attention.
Judges climb the ranks until they can rise to a higher court. Get good, honest people on the bench and you’ll have good, honest judges on your appellate and supreme courts.
For people who live in Miami-Dade who may appear in court one day, you want and need the most qualified people on the bench. So as someone who must appear in front of judges, I beg you to vote for Seraphin and Jean.
You hear me? I am begging!
Reginald J. Clyne is a Miami trial lawyer who has practiced in some of the largest law firms in the United States. Clyne has been in practice since 1987 and tries cases in both state and federal court. He has lived in Africa, Brazil, Honduras and Nicaragua.
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