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 her attorney would file a motion to ask Cueto to step away from the case and order a new hearing in front of another judge.
"The judge should have never been assigned to the case, or should the judge have accepted the case, knowing he was part of the investigative team in a criminal case against me?” Spence-Jones said.
She questioned how the judge could be impartial, given the circumstances.
Cueto said he is not able to comment.
"Judge Cueto thanks you for the opportunity to comment; however, he must decline, as the judicial ethics canons prohibit judges from commenting on pending cases," spokeswoman Eunice Sigler said in an email.
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. Judge Cueto, siding with former commissioner the Rev. Richard Dunn, agreed Tuesday 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.
Dunn’s attorney, J.C. Planas, said the issue concerning the judge was discussed with Spence-Jones' attorney and that this is "nothing but an underhanded tactic by Michelle Spence-Jones.”
An exchange of emails showed that Spence-Jones and her attorney were aware that the judge was previously employed at the State Attorney’s Office.
“Judge Cueto was once a prosecutor in the public corruption division. He left that post in 2008 when he was elected judge,” Planas wrote.
“It will be my position that there is no reason to move for disqualification,” responded Spence-Jones’ attorney, Bruce Rogow.
Spence-Jones said they knew he worked at the State Attorney’s Office, but she claimed that only after the decision went against her did she find out Cueto had been on a prosecution team targeting her.
“During that hearing he never disclosed he was a part of a criminal investigation against me,” she said.
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