Michelle Spence-Jones Withdraws Local Court Motion in Re-Election Case, Takes It to Appeals Court

Her attorney told a judge she was withdrawing her motion, and moving directly to the Third District Court of Appeal

By Steve Litz
|  Monday, Apr 29, 2013  |  Updated 10:46 PM EDT
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Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones wants her case fast-tracked to an appeals court, so on Monday she withdrew her motion challenging a local judge's decision preventing her from running for a third term. Spence-Jones and her political rival, the Rev. Richard Dunn, spoke about the case.

Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones wants her case fast-tracked to an appeals court, so on Monday she withdrew her motion challenging a local judge's decision preventing her from running for a third term. Spence-Jones and her political rival, the Rev. Richard Dunn, spoke about the case.

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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 Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones wants her case fast-tracked to an appeals court, so on Monday she withdrew her motion challenging a local judge's decision preventing her from running for a third term.

"We feel that it is important for the community to know, and the residents to know, that we're pushing this thing and not dragging it out in the lower courts," Spence-Jones said.

Monday's motion hearing lasted less than five minutes.

In a previous ruling, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jorge Cueto decided Spence-Jones maintained her qualification requirements as the District 5 commissioner at all times during her two terms. Therefore, she has served two full terms and cannot seek a third in November's election.

Spence-Jones maintains that her term was interrupted because she was twice suspended from her commission seat while she faced bribery and grand theft charges.

Because of those interruptions, she says, she is entitled to run for a third term.

Spence-Jones was exonerated of the charges and reinstated.

A twist in the civil court case came when Spence-Jones claimed that Judge Cueto was part of an investigation involving her when he was a lawyer with the State Attorney's Office several years ago.

Cueto subsequently said that he was not part of the investigation, but removed himself from the case "to avoid any taint of impropriety in the process."

Spence-Jones filed a motion for a rehearing with a different judge. As soon as that proceeding started Monday afternoon, her attorney told the judge she was withdrawing her motion, moving directly to the Third District Court of Appeal.

The case came about after Spence-Jones' political rival, the Rev. Richard Dunn, sued her to stop her from running again.

Dunn is running for the District 5 seat, and may end up on the ballot against Spence-Jones, if she wins her appeal.

Dunn said he doubts that will happen, however.

"I think it is pretty hard to overturn two judges who have interpreted the charter as saying Michelle Spence-Jones is term limited," he said.

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