Miami-Dade Judge Removes Himself From Michelle Spence-Jones Re-Election Case

The judge spoke during a hearing on Tuesday

By Myriam Masihy
|  Tuesday, Apr 16, 2013  |  Updated 3:56 PM EDT
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Spence-Jones Cannot Seek 3rd Consecutive Term: Judge

NBC 6 South Florida

Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones

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Michelle Spence-Jones Says Judge Who Ruled Against Her Shouldn't Have Been Assigned to Case

When Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jorge Cueto ruled that Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones could not run for re-election, he failed to disclose that he had investigated her when he was a lawyer in the State Attorney's Office, Spence-Jones said Thursday. She said he shouldn't have been assigned to the case, and questioned how he could be impartial, given the circumstances. Cueto said through a spokeswoman that he is not able to comment because of judicial rules. Emails showed that Spence-Jones and her attorney were aware that the judge was previously employed at the State Attorney's Office, but she claimed that only after Tuesday's decision went against her did she find out Cueto had been on a prosecution team targeting her.

Spence-Jones Cannot Seek 3rd Consecutive Term: Judge

Judge Jorge Cueto ruled Tuesday that Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones is prohibited from seeking a third consecutive term in office.
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Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jorge Cueto has removed himself from Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones's case on whether she can run for re-election.

"After reading and hearing allegations in the media impuning this court's judicial ethics without any party having the courtesy to serve any paper or mtoion on the court prior to one and one and a half hours ago, this court moves sua sponte this morning to disqualify itself from any further action in this case to avoid any taint of imprpriety in the process," Cueto said in an order.

Spence-Jones had said the Cueto had investigated her when he was a lawyer in the State Attorney’s Office. Her attorney had previously said he would file a motion to ask Cueto to step away from the case and order a new hearing in front of another judge.

During a hearing on Tuesday, Cueto said he spoken a prosecutor in the State Attorney's Office, who assured he was not part of the investigation.

At issue is whether Spence-Jones, who won two commission elections, is eligible for a third consecutive election because she had been suspended by the governor for much of her second term. Cueto, siding with former commissioner the Rev. Richard Dunn, agreed that since she had been elected twice she was not eligible for a third term. Term limits prevent commissioners from running for more than two consecutive full terms.

Dunn was appointed to fill Spence-Jones' seat while she faced bribery charges. Spence-Jones returned to office when she was exonerated.

Dunn is now running for the District 5 seat.

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