Monday, December 11, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Rubio's tea party test for judges

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio continues to let his desire to appease Republican conservatives get in the way of sound judgment. Rubio has withdrawn his support for William Thomas' nomination to the federal bench. Thomas is an openly gay, black circuit court judge in Miami-Dade County who is opposed by Republican conservatives seemingly for his personal characteristics. Rubio's reversal is unjustified, and he should reconsider.

The senator's professed reasons for dumping Thomas are paper-thin. He claims to be concerned over Thomas' "fitness" for the bench on the basis of the judge's "judicial temperament" and questions whether Thomas is too lenient toward criminals. Rubio didn't have those concerns when he first joined Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in recommending Thomas to President Barack Obama for an opening on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida more than 10 months ago. At that time, Rubio was a rising tea party star and hadn't yet helped pass a bipartisan immigration bill that angered his conservative base.

Now his strategy to make amends to his supporters blocks the advancement of a promising jurist. Thomas came through formal vetting with no red flags. He was rated "well qualified" to be a federal district court judge by the American Bar Association, and he has the respect of his peers within the legal profession, some of whom have written Rubio in support. The League of Prosecutors, a group of current and former prosecutors based in Miami, is among Thomas' supporters.

Rubio cites two criminal cases of concern. He says Thomas went too easy on a driver in a hit-and-run killing of a bicyclist. The defendant received a 22-month sentence. That may appear lenient on the surface, but this case presented problems for the prosecution that led to lesser charges. The sentence is within the guidelines, and the lead prosecutor in the case and the administrative judge for the 11th Judicial Circuit criminal division wrote letters to Rubio defending the fairness of the sentence.

Rubio also points to a gruesome rape and murder case in which Thomas ruled a confession inadmissible because the Miranda rights of two of the five defendants were violated. An appeals court partially affirmed that judgment. All five defendants in the case were convicted or pleaded guilty, and Thomas sentenced one killer to death.

Rubio was able to veto Thomas' elevation to the federal court because the two home-state senators have to agree on a judicial nominee for the confirmation to proceed — a tradition that should be revisited if this kind of obstruction results. Thomas would have been the first openly gay African-American male on the federal bench. He would have occupied a seat that has been open for more than 18 months, and filling it has been designated a judicial emergency. Now the screening process will have to start again, apparently to find someone who passes Rubio's tea party test.

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Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trumpís risky move

President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

It has been 1,979 days since all heck broke loose in the flood insurance industry. Apparently, that just wasnít enough time for Washington to react. So with the National Flood Insurance Program set to expire on Friday, itís looking increasingly likel...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17

Editorial: St. Petersburg should raise rates for reclaimed water

Raising rates on reclaimed water in St. Petersburg is an equitable way to spread the pain of paying for millions in fixes to the cityís dilapidated sewer system. The city has no choice but to start charging utility customers more as the sewer bills c...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17