A judicial consolidation between Monroe County and Miami-Dade could be really disastrous

Dennis Ward, State’s Attorney for Monroe County, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s been going on in the county.

It’s possible there could be a judicial consolidation between Monroe County and Miami-Dade.

Ward said, “You just never know with the legislature and especially the people that are pushing this and it’s being pushed by the governor and the Speaker of the House. When I first learned about it, I said why? You have these Republicans that go around and talk about we’re on a 50 year decline of crime in the state of Florida, which we are and it’s great and fantastic. When something like this comes up, you say to yourself, what hell is this? I asked around and checked and talked to a number of people that have an idea what this is about, and they tell me it’s because the two state attorneys that the governor fired, they’re eligible to run for election in 2024. So that is why we’re changing all the circuits around to make it a little bit more difficult or extremely difficult for them to run again. So other than us being called out in the speaker’s letter to the chief judge of the Florida Supreme Court, you have this whole other thing going on around Tampa and Orlando, and now it’s dragged in a lot of small circuits. It just keeps getting bigger and bigger. And the reasoning behind it, if that’s the case, that’s just unconscionable to put people in these communities in fear of what’s going to happen with their court systems, and how they’re going to have access to the courts. I’m sure that they’re going to have to come out eventually here and talk about it because I don’t see any Republican State Representatives or Republican State Senators coming out and saying, hey, look, this is a this is a crazy idea. This is a stupid idea. This is just some type of retribution. I don’t hear any of that from any of them. The reason behind that is, they’re all scared. They’re afraid of the power of the Speaker of the House, and they’re afraid of the power of the governor. I guess, it’s more important for them to have their own political ideas and pursuits not challenged. As far as the future, the Florida Keys. I’m not one of those people. I care a lot about the Keys, I love the Keys. I love our waters. I love everything about the Keys, our environment, our fish our wildlife. If that’s the reasoning behind this thing, it’s ridiculous. It’s stupid. And I think people that proposed legislation like this should be questioned. Hopefully, we’ll have that opportunity.”

The representatives of residents of the Keys are saying this is not going to happen.

Ward said, “If you look at the history of the legislature here this past year, there are a lot of things that just got rammed through there, whether the people agreed with it or not. That’s what’s concerning is, I’m not even sure that if this committee that’s been established, the Judicial Circuit Assessment Committee, I’m not even sure if they come out and say, hey, look, you know, there’s no reason for this, that their research will be given any credibility. I think it’ll continue to go forward. So I appreciate the comments by our representatives, but I’m not going to wait until March at the end of the session and then have people say, well, you know, they told me, it wasn’t going to go through. I’m not going to wait for that. We need to get active and we need to get motivated as far as this thing is concerned. It’ll be devastating for the Florida Keys. I would imagine that eventually, the Florida Keys will end up like that crime infested, drug infested, beautiful city out there in California, named San Francisco. The minor crimes won’t be taken seriously like we take them here now. I don’t play those games. That’s why we have jails. So, there needs to be some semblance of law in order and these misdemeanor crimes are the glue that keeps our communities together. It needs to be taken seriously. This is people’s lives, people’s livelihood that we’re talking about.”

What would happen to law enforcement?

Ward said, “That’s very demoralizing to a police force. I was a police officer for 29 years. Look around the country. Look what happened to those police departments that were demoralized. Those law enforcement officers left. They went other places. As a matter of fact, our governor offered them positions down here. Hey, come to work in Florida. Come to work in Florida. Sure, come to work in Florida. But don’t go to the Florida Keys, because we’re going to change the whole makeup down there.”

Monroe County Commissioners don’t want to see this happen, either.

Ward said, “Absolutely. The county commissioners are great and it looks like some of the municipalities have put together resolutions and letters that they’re going to send up to Tallahassee. Quite frankly, I think our only savior in this thing is going to be the president of the Senate, Kathleen Passidomo, from over in Fort Myers. I sat up there for the first hearing that is taking public input and watched a state senator stand up and tell us that she’s on the Judiciary Committee for the state of Florida and not one word has been spoken to them about any problem with the circuits. Traditionally, if there’s a problem in the court system, they go to the Judiciary Committee. That’s why they establish one, right? They say, hey, Senators, you may want to take a look at this thing. I’m pretty sure they have one in the House too. I’m pretty sure nobody approached those people, either. Because everyone I talked to the Attorney General, I called her and said, hey, what’s going on? Attorney General Moody. She had no idea this was going on. The incoming Speaker of the House after this term, Danny Perez, who lives up in Miami. I have no idea what you’re talking about. So this is pretty much generated by the Speaker of the House in lockstep with Governor DeSantis. It’s just going to ruin a lot of communities. Especially up in the panhandle, and the north central part of the state, farming communities, other tourist communities. They say hey, you know, you only serve so many people, they tell us under 100,000, but we get close to 5 million people that come into the Keys throughout the year. You look at the arrest records, just go to the sheriff’s website and see how many people are arrested from out of county. I mean, who do you think prosecute those people? They don’t go back to where they came from and get prosecuted up there. No, no, no, we prosecute them here. As a matter of fact, we service more people with less prosecutors and less public defenders than some states in the United States.”

Is there anything else that can be done?

Ward said, “There was a group that formed on Facebook. They’ve gotten decals printed up, that you can put on the windows of your cars. They’ve ordered bumper stickers. They did a lot with the surveys and if you saw that survey and the way it was formulated, you’ve got to say to yourself, what the hell is going on here? The other thing is October 13 is the next hearing where people can voice their opinion again. There’s one September 15. I think there’s another one in October. But October 13, is another one where people can get up and speak and I believe that meeting is going to be in Tampa, but they have virtual capabilities, where you can speak there.”

More information can be found here:  www.flcourts.org

Ward said, “There was 50-something people that spoke at that hearing and not one spoke in favor of this thing. Not one.”