Did Charlie Crist sell judgeships? Part Two

Who has less credibility, a convicted Ponzi scheme operator or the Daily Kos? It’s probably a toss-up.

But general lack of credibility and being wrong about a particular set of events are not the same thing. And in the case of the judgeship-selling allegations against Charlie Crist, the Ponzi man and the Daily Kos may well be right.

Scott Rothstein, who pleaded guilty several years ago to running a $1.4 billion Ponzi scheme, has testified under oath that he and Crist had an arrangement whereby in exchange for campaign contributions, Crist named judges to the bench in Broward County who would rule favorably for Rothstein’s law firm. Rothstein’s allegation doesn’t come out of the blue. In December 2009, the Daily Kos reported the following:

Rothstein’s law firm gave $52,000 to the state GOP on July 28, 2008, the same day that Crist appointed Jay Hurley to the Broward County court. A day later Rothstein’s firm donated another $25,000 to the party.

Crist appointed Rothstein to the 4th DCA Judicial nominating commission on August 25, 2008, four days before Rothstein contributed $140,000 to the RPOF. Rothstein and his firm gave $100,000 to the RPOF on January 26, 2009. Crist appointed Judges Carlos Rodriguez and Barbara McCarthy two days later.

The Kos report also mentions the appointment of Spencer Levine to an appellate judgeship. Levine, who at the time of his appointment was Chief Operating Officer of Broward Health, lacked judicial experience and hadn’t even practiced law for several years.

Levine’s appointment was the subject of stories by Bob Norman, a Broward Palm Beach New Times columnist, and Thomas Francis, a reporter for the same paper. According to Francis, attorneys at Rothstein’s firm landed a highly privileged meeting with the executive leadership of the North Broward Hospital District in September 2008, the month after Rothstein was appointed by Crist to the nominating committee for Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeals.

The subject of the meeting apparently was whether to participate in a class action law suit. Levine was at the meeting. The acting general counsel, who normally would make decisions about whether to sue and whom to select as outside counsel, was not. At the time, Levine was seeking the judicial appointment he would soon receive.

Norman’s report is along similar lines, but is more direct. According to his source, a North Broward Hospital District vendor, Rothstein boasted that he had Spencer Levine “in his pocket and that he was going to get him on the Fourth District Court of Appeals.” Which he did.

How did Rothstein know he would “get [Levine] on the Fourth District Court of Appeals”? Given the reports from the Daily Kos and the Broward Palm Beach New Times, Rothstein’s answer — “for certain contributions, people were appointed to the bench” — seems highly credible.

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