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Stefanie Moon’s experience puts her above the rest in Circuit Court, Group 38 | Editorial

Stefanie Moon’s experience puts her above the rest in Circuit Court, Group 38 | Editorial
The Sun Sentinel editorial board recommends voters choose Stefanie Camille Moon to replace retiring Broward Circuit Court Judge Ilona Homes.

The crowded race to replace retiring Circuit Court Judge Ilona Holmes may best be known for a legal fight between two candidates jockeying for the top spot on the ballot — a position that curries favor with voters.

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Jason Allen-Rosner’s newly hyphenated last name gives him the alphabetical advantage over Melissa Minsk Donoho, who otherwise would have top billing in a race that includes Linda Marie Leali and Stefanie Camille Moon.

Donoho sued, arguing that a candidate shouldn’t be allowed to combine their middle and last names to get a higher position on the ballot.

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We agree, but think voters on Aug. 28 should look farther down the ballot and pick Moon to be the new Circuit Court judge in Group 38.

Moon’s more than 20 years as an attorney includes a variety of experiences — as a prosecutor, handling civil cases and serving as special magistrate — that would make her a good judge.

“All of us are qualified to do it. All of us would be excellent choices. I think what sets me apart is the variety of my experience,” Moon said during the endorsement interview at the Sun Sentinel. “I have fundamentally done this job.”

Moon, 49, who is married and lives in Parkland, received her bachelor’s degree from Loyola University in New Orleans in 1990, and her law degree in 1994 from the Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge, La.

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She went on to become a state and federal prosecutor in South Florida, handling cases that involved consumer and bank fraud, internet crimes and drugs.

Since 2012, she has run her own law firm in Fort Lauderdale. She specializes in criminal defense, as well as business litigation, including labor claims and medical malpractice defense.

Moon also has served as a special magistrate for the Broward County Value Adjustment Board. In that role, she oversaw hearings for people challenging their property tax assessments and their tax bills.

“I was the face of justice for those citizens; and as such, I believed that it was important for them to feel confident that their concerns, regardless of the level of articulation in expression, were fully heard and fairly considered,” she wrote in her questionnaire.

Moon’s perspective and life experience as an African-American woman also would add needed diversity to the Broward bench, which should better reflect the people who stand before it seeking justice.

Donoho was a close second in our endorsement consideration.

Donoho, 53, leads the Fort Lauderdale branch of the Office of Regional Counsel, which provides legal representation for indigent people when the public defender has a conflict in the case. In that post, she oversees more than 50 attorneys while also handling murder cases.

In her 26 years of practicing law in Florida, she’s worked as both a criminal defense attorney and as a prosecutor. She ran her own firm for 12 years, specializing in criminal defense for death penalty cases.

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Donoho, who is married and lives in Fort Lauderdale, notes that she rose from an “impoverished” childhood, working her way through college and law school by cutting hair and cleaning motel rooms. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Metropolitan State College in Denver, and her law degree from Nova Southeastern University, College of Law, in 1992.

“I understand what it means to work hard and to persevere against the odds, but recognize how difficult this struggle can be for many people,” Donoho wrote in her candidate questionnaire. “I believe that everyone should be responsible for their actions, but must be treated fairly, with understanding and with respect.”

Leali possesses a wealth of civil law knowledge from her nearly 20 years as an attorney, but she lacks the more varied experience seen in Moon and Donoho.

Leali has run her own business law firm since 2013, specializing in bankruptcy and receivership. She also worked for 12 years at the international firm of White & Case, representing corporate clients in Chapter 11 cases. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Florida in 1993 and her law degree from the University of Miami School of Law in 1999. She is married and lives in Fort Lauderdale.

Allen-Rosner, 38, is a former assistant public defender who since 2007 has run his own law firm specializing in criminal, civil and family law. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida in 2001 and his law degree from the University of Miami School of Law in 2003. He is married and lives in Hollywood.

Allen-Rosner was unable to attend the Sun Sentinel candidate interview, but in his questionnaire, he said he’s also served as an arbitrator in securities litigation and as a traffic court hearing officer, experiences that have prepared him to be a judge.

But for us, Allen-Rosner’s hyphenating hijinks is a disqualifying factor. It’s trickery to change your name after 38 years simply to get a better spot on the ballot.

It’s especially concerning for a judicial candidate. How can we expect fairness from someone we can’t even trust to sign the name by which he’s long been known?

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