Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers - Miami Chapter

Statement by the FACDL-Miami Board of Directors

President: Michael T. DavisPresident-Elect: Dianne E. Carames       Vice President: Lauren Field KrasnoffSecretary: Zena X. Duncan Treasurer: Keyla SmithExecutive Director: Arlen Santamaria

The Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers – Miami Chapter is compelled to condemn any false and misleading statements that attack a fundamental right we serve to protect. 

Candidates take their positions and experiences directly to the voters, and the community chooses who they believe is better qualified for the job. Of course, suitable candidates can disagree on ideas, but all candidates promise to uphold the principles and laws of the Constitution. Canon 7 of the Judicial Code of Conduct governs the behavior expected of judges and candidate for judicial office. While FACDL – Miami does not endorse any candidate for judicial office, we do expect compliance with Canon 7 from the judges and judicial candidates in this State.  This statement is not an endorsement of any candidate. It is an endorsement of the constitutional principles that our organization exists to protect. 

In this year’s judicial elections, Judge Fred Seraphin, a Black Haitian American, and the first Haitian American judge in Miami-Dade County, was politically attacked, not for his qualifications or record, but over an arrest that never led to a criminal charge. When he was a student in college, Judge Fred Seraphin was arrested. After an investigation by the New York Police Department, he was released and never charged with a crime. Judge Seraphin has spoken at length about the incident and shared numerous details over the past three decades as an attorney and Judge in our community. 

During this campaign, a political PAC named “Proven Leadership for Miami-Dade County” released advertisements using this prior arrest to attack the character of Judge Seraphin. However, they fail to mention that he was released after his arrest, that he was never charged with a crime, and that he has shared the story of this arrest numerous times. The stigma that follows the arrests of Black men within our community perpetuates the systematic and individual racism that our organization fights against every day.

Elections are about people, but they are also about principles. The principle of innocent unless proven guilty is fundamental to our shared criminal justice system. It applies to all members of our community. It was a part of our country’s formation, an idea whose luster should never be diminished. 

FACDL – Miami is a collection of attorneys who dedicate their careers to defending the constitutional rights of everyone in our community. We think it goes against the rights and protections of every citizen to attack a candidate based on an arrest. It is troubling that someone would strike at such a fundamental legal principle in a campaign for Judge. 

Every campaign will end with a winner and a loser. However, the entire community loses when these fundamental constitutional principles are attacked for cheap political points.

FACDL – Miami stands with the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. Bar Association, the Miami-Dade branch of the NAACP, and the Haitian Lawyers Association in its condemnation of this attack. We call on all candidates to affirm their commitment to the Constitution’s words and principles and condemn campaign tactics that attack our shared ideal of innocent unless proven guilty.