Nine Candidates Seek Three Seats On Circuit Court

When the filing period for judicial races closed last month, three retiring circuit court judges in the 15th Judicial Circuit have set up three three-way races that voters will weigh-in on during the primary election on Aug. 28.

The six-year, non-partisan terms can be won in the primary if a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the votes cast. If no one receives 50 percent, the top two candidates move on to the general election ballot.

The Town-Crier reached out to the candidates who qualified and asked them to describe their background, why they are running and why voters should choose them.


Candidates Scott Ryan Kerner, Alcolya J.L. St. Juste and Jordan H. Jordan have qualified for the ballot to replace retiring Judge David French in the Group 13 seat.

“I am running for circuit court judge because I believe in seeking the truth, pursuing justice and serving our community,” said Kerner, brother of County Commissioner David Kerner. “Born and raised in Palm Beach County, I am very passionate about this community. I have more than 10 years of litigation and trial experience in our Palm Beach County court system.”

Kerner believes his legal experience makes him a strong candidate for the bench.

“As a civil trial attorney, I focus on complex litigation matters and ensure the rights of individuals are protected and everyone is treated fairly. I understand how a courtroom works, how cases are heard efficiently and how to ensure impartiality and the rule of law are upheld,” he said. “My trial and litigation experience distinguish me from my opponents and will allow me to serve effectively on the bench from day one.”

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St. Juste said that her run for the bench stems from her desire to serve the public.

“As a third generation Palm Beach County native, the community is important to me,” she said. “My upbringing and experience has led me to a desire to be a public servant. My experience as a civil litigation attorney has provided me with the understanding of the complex needs of the circuit court.”

She feels that her background also makes her a strong candidate.

“I have an understanding of the law and the application of the law,” St. Juste said. “I am qualified, having previously been vetted by the Judicial Nominating Commission and selected for consideration for appointment.

St. Juste summed up her comments saying, “I am prepared, day one, to serve this great county and its constituents with fairness, diversity and equality.”

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Jordan has been a civil trial lawyer for 21 years and a chiropractic doctor for 32 years. He is also a Florida Supreme Court-certified mediator, Florida Supreme Court-qualified arbitrator and has clerked for two circuit court judges.

“I have litigated cases in numerous trial courts and appellate courts around the state,” Jordan said. “I have the required legal experience to be an outstanding judge.”

This is Jordan’s third time running for a judicial post.

“Being a judge has been a lifelong ambition,” he said. “I have a deep passion for justice and would make absolutely certain all rulings are consistent with our constitution, the Bill of Rights and Florida law.”

Jordan said voters should choose him because, “My campaign is not about me, it’s about you and your right to receive a fair trial, your right to be treated equally, your right to be respected and your right to receive justice.”

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In Group 18, Maxine Cheesman, Marybel Reinoso Coleman and Joseph “Joe” Maryuma qualified for the ballot in the race to succeed retiring Judge Peter D. Blanc.

Cheesman lost a previous bid for the bench in 2014.

“As a 22-year resident of Palm Beach County and an attorney in good standing for more than 12 years, I have the temperament, qualifications and experience to serve as a circuit court judge,” Cheesman said. “In my private practice, I litigate in the areas of real property, fair housing, bankruptcy, probate, employment and contract law.”

She also offers unique experience from beyond the legal profession.

“I also have 25-plus years of experience as a scientist, chemist, hydrogeologist and former director with the South Florida Water Management District. I am uniquely qualified to preside over complex cases dealing with water resources, the Ag Reserve, Everglades restoration and other environmental issues,” Cheesman noted. “I also have a long history of community service. In 2012, I was awarded the ‘And Justice for All Pro-bono Award’ by the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County.”

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Coleman believes that she brings unique life experience as well as legal experience.

“Palm Beach County has been my home for 47 years, immigrating from Cuba at age four,” she said. “My parents sacrificed and worked hard so that I could enjoy the freedoms and opportunities offered by our constitution. I have a passion and love for the law and desire to protect those freedoms through public service.”

She also brings decades of legal experience.

“I have 25 years of legal experience, 23 of those years in circuit court, practicing and litigating in all five divisions,” said Coleman, who is married to Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Major Eric Coleman. “I have the knowledge and experience to ‘hit the ground running.’ I want to ensure that everyone has a voice, that their voice will be heard and treated with respect, and that justice will be dispensed efficiently, impartially and compassionately.”

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Maryuma wants to take his work as a public defender to the next level as a circuit court judge.

“I am running for judge because I want the legal system to be fair, respectful and efficient for all persons. My goal is to work hard for the taxpayers of Palm Beach County,” he said. “As an assistant public defender, I have been in court almost every day for the past 12 years. I have had more than 100 trials and handled close to 5,000 cases, including homicide.”

He is also active in the community.

“In my spare time, I volunteer for the Take Stock in Children organization, mentoring middle school children,” Maryuma continued. “I am a career public servant and devoted husband and father. I am also proud and honored to be endorsed by the Florida National Organization for Women.”

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Candidates Henry Quinn Johnson, Michael McAuliffe and Sarah Willis qualified to run for the Group 25 seat being vacated by retiring Judge Catherine M. Brunson.

Johnson’s background includes being a 20-year trial attorney with more than 100 jury trials and as a retired U.S. Army JAG officer.

“I am qualified, experienced and a proven leader ready to serve,” he said. “I bring efficiency, fairness, equity and provide the needed diversity for the representation of all people of Palm Beach County.”

Johnson feels that he brings a well-rounded background to the race.

“My background includes both civil and criminal trials as a former prosecutor and assistant attorney general, criminal defense attorney and as a civil attorney in all divisions of the circuit court,” he said. “As a 27-year combat veteran, my experience has taught me independence and selfless-service. I have devoted my entire career to service, to protecting and preserving the rights of others. As a judge, I will uphold the American values of the judiciary with integrity while being fair, consistent and principled.”

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McAuliffe is no stranger to elected office in Palm Beach County, having won a countywide race to be state attorney in 2008.

“I wish to be a strong example to my three children as someone who serves others and uses one’s talents to make a positive contribution to the community,” he said. “I seek a judgeship to help preserve the rule of law in our democracy and to protect the rights of the weak and the powerful to be heard on equal terms.”

McAuliffe also feels he brings unique experience.

“I have worked for 29 years as a trial lawyer, including successfully prosecuting the leader of the Louisiana Ku Klux Klan and 13 other klansmen,” he said. “I served as the elected state attorney in Palm Beach County, leading 125 lawyers in court, as a federal prosecutor, and as a company general counsel. I also have taught law school at Duke University (winter session) and George Washington University.”

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Willis brings years of experience as a prosecutor to the race.

“I have the qualifications and experience to serve as your circuit court judge. As an assistant state attorney in the Special Victims Unit (SVU), I handled complex, high-profile criminal cases involving capital sexual battery, rape, homicide, child pornography, child molestation and aggravated child abuse,” she said. “As an assistant statewide prosecutor for the Florida Attorney General, I handled complex multi-jurisdictional criminal cases involving organized crime, murder, money laundering and child pornography.”

Willis noted that she has litigated more than 85 jury trials and presided over hundreds of bench trials and final hearings.

“Recently, as a general magistrate and child support hearing officer for the 15th Judicial Circuit, I presided over hundreds of circuit court cases involving post-judgment family issues, including child support, establishment of paternity, alimony and mental health issues,” Willis added.

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