Robert Montgomerie: Penoso vs. Sharrit

August 25, 2014 3 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Penoso vs. Sharrit - The Race for Judge of Florida's 4th Circuit Court: The race for the 4th Circuit Court is going to be a seat going to the individual with the most money, as any other elected position in the country. Judges races are a bit more peculiar in that candidates are limited in what they can say in political speeches, so it makes it hard for voters to decide who they want sitting behind the bench in the wake of Judge Stetson stepping down.

It was reported recently that Anthony Paul Penoso, a hopeful in the race for judge, was running a campaign without signs according to a recent article in the Florida Times Union. That unfortunately isn't true as there are signs in the Riverside area. The attorney and former author of "How to Not Get Burned By Internet Dating and Mail Order Brides: A Guide for the Potential Victim (Volume 1) Spiral-bound – Laser printed, June 1, 2007" - for sale on - has a very prominent sign on Riverside Avenue promoting his campaign sponsored by an organization called "Responsible Citizens to Elect Anthony Penoso" - who ever they may be. He reported that he has $6,400 in his war chest to get elected as opposed to his opponent, Mike Sharrit, who has the blessing of such notable civil libertarians as Angela Corry and Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford, who has $177,000. No doubt Jacksonville, and the State's, legal system will be as "fair and impartial" in criminal proceedings with Sharrit, (pun intended) but one has to wonder what Mr Penoso may offer in contrast.

With Sharrit we can, with reason, expect the typical Florida hardline in lock step with our State Attorney who in the past promised to hand out a million years of jailtime for any criminal offense. That is unless one is George Zimmerman, but of course if one is a Marissa Alexander, Florida's Castle Law doesn't apply. Sharrit will be a sympathetic ear those helping to get him his spot on the bench, but would Penoso facilitate "a fair and impartial trial" to those in front of him?

In 2010 Penoso ran as a Republican against Corrine Brown for the US House of Representatives, a campaign he predictably lost, largely as a result of the district she is in, but what was most profound was how he conducted himself during the campaign. What was especially off-putting are the comments he made during a speech in Clay County.

"To be quite frank and honest with you I don’t think somebody with a lighter skin tone than me will be able to take a district away from a race it was gerrymandered for. It was gerrymandered for an African-American to be elected to Congress. It’s going to take A LOT (his emphasis) to overcome that burden with her constituents. A negative campaign will not work. I will commend Corrine Brown because, if you ask firemen, if you ask policemen, she brings the bucks here. They are behind her one hundred percent, OK? She’s done a somewhat commendable job."
- Anthony Penoso at a Candidates forum in Orange Park in 2010

He followed this comment up with an even more incendiary remark.

"Now, I’ve got stories about her with her foot up on her desk — bare feet, eating a bucket of chicken. But, you know what? That’s not going to win an election. You’ve got to convince her constituents that you’ve got a different plan, that she needs to sit down."
- Anthony Penoso at the same forum.

One doesn't have to be a fan of Corrine Brown to see that an individual who would make these kind of comments is not exactly the kind of person who should preside over criminal proceedings. In a position where people's live depend on a fair trial, it is wise to believe that an individual willing to make these kinds of comments, even if only playing to a crowd of bigoted yokels in Clay County, does not have the ability to be impartial and objective in a criminal court?

The immigration attorney said during the 2010 campaign that he supported much of what the Tea Party supports - increased border patrols and border fencing among other things - and cited, to justify his optimism that he does have a chance in the next election, the recent upset of incumbent Eric Cantor by David Brat; the economics 101 professor who forgot what college he majored from in seminary studies. Luckily in running for a judgeship Mr Penoso has benefited from the rules against commenting on legal rulings and cases by those running for the office of judge.

Clearly anyone hoping that reform of the business of law, in this generation at least, in Florida should not be expect that it will come from a new breed of legal professionals interested in bringing fairness in presiding over cases. The race for the seat of Florida's 4th Judicial Court will be between a vested member of the status-quo, and an immigration attorney with a Tea Party sentiments, and the former author of a book discussing how he was rooked out of $75,000 from a Romanian lady he hoped to make his mail order bride. If there is a write-in box on the ballot one may be served by enlisting one's best friend - even if it is a pet.