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FL: Law school dean tells students how to vote because it’s ‘what lawyers must do’

By   /   October 4, 2012  /   News  /   15 Comments

By Yaël Ossowski | Florida Watchdog

AN ORDER?: Vanderwyden tells students they must vote to uphold judges because it’s “what lawyers must do”

ST. PETERSBURG — An assistant dean at the University of Miami School of Law encouraged students to vote to retain Florida judges in next month’s merit retention election, documents reviewed by Florida Watchdog reveal.

William VanderWyden, assistant dean for professional development, urged law students to vote yes on retaining state Supreme Court Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince because it is “what lawyers must do.”

“When you vote this fall, a very important section of the ballot involves judicial merit retention,” wrote VanderWyden in an email sent to all of the law school’s 1,200 students. “I encourage you to study the process and also to vote to retain the friends of justice on the Supreme Court of Florida. This is what lawyers must do.”

Watchdog.org obtained the email after concerns were raised by school and community members that the email could violate portions of the school’s faculty handbook on political advocacy and advertising.

“Neither the University of Miami or the Law School take official position on issues which have been put to the electorate to decide,” said UM School of Law Dean Patricia D. White. “Assistant Dean VanderWyden appropriately forwarded to the law school student body a usefully explanatory and nonpartisan statement by The Florida Bar about how judicial elections work in Florida. He should not have added his own editorial comment. He has sent the student body list serve an apology.”

The school’s 2012-2013 faculty manual states that “the University is itself a non-profit institution and it is not in a position to make gifts or devote its resources to advertising solicited by other similar organizations,” although a spokesman pointed out that VanderWyden is not technically a faculty member and is therefore exempt from the terms of the handbook.

LAW: A faculty member at University of Miami law school has been advocating voting for justices in next month’s merit retention election

VanderWyden’s email addresses judicial retention, one of the most controversial political issues facing Florida voters this fall. Justices appointed by the governor must undergo a merit retention election every six years, allowing the voters to decide whether they remain on the bench.

Groups such as Restore Justice 2012 and Defend Justice from Politics have contributed vast amounts of campaign advertising in the merit retention fight, educating voters on what is at stake in the election and inspiring editorials and motions of support across the state.

In the email, VanderWyden forwards a message by The Florida Bar that seeks to “inform Florida’s voters” about the merit retention election, but prefaces it with his own commentary on the money being raised to oust the three state Supreme Court justices.

“Among those up for merit retention are three justices of the Supreme Court of Florida. Money from outside the State of Florida is poured into the process to unseat judges in our state and across the Nation,” VanderWyden wrote.

Yaël Ossowski is Florida Bureau Chief for Watchdog.org. Contact at [email protected]

[UPDATED 6:41 p.m.]



Yaël formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.

  • The professors in todays colleges are so liberal that if I had it to do all over again I would not have sent my child to a Liberal Arts college even though it had one of the highest ratings in the U.S.

  • Mike Lander

    Did he send this to the student body or to the faculty? This article says faculty.

  • Mike Lander

    Uh Pat, It’s a “Liberal” Arts college. What did you think?

  • Where is the e-mail, that we may read it for ourselves?

  • you guys edit fast.Why haven’t you posted the actual email just as fast? Where can I see it?

  • Send them to one of those great “Jesus” schools

  • If this is soo important to you and your readers, then post the email or take this fake news story down. If you have the email in it’s unedited form, show it or shut the heck up. I know you are right there reading this ’cause it ain’t like you have a life, you certainly re-edited your article the MOMENT, I mentioned the fact that it said it was sent to the faculty. So where can I read this momentous EMAIL?

  • Gotta run. I’ll check back in abit to see if you got facts or bullshit.

  • Florida Reader
  • marshaj

    He doesn’t mention the million dollars the justices have raised to fund their efforts to be retained!

  • hmmmmm …. one of the highest ratings in the U.S. and liberal, I wonder what that means???????

  • Mya

    He should be Shame on a “spokesman” to find a loophole exempting him from punishment. Perhaps if the University won’t take any action, the Florida Bar might want to consider it.

  • Michael, settle down, if you look at the third paragraph and click on the word Email it’s linked there. You can see it in all it’s glory. Believe it or not. But jeez 4 posts in the same time frame frantically demanding to see the email, lighten up.

  • Are you reading the same article, It distinctly says Student body.

  • What the Dean did was correct in maintaining the balance of power in the state. There is the Judicial, the Legislative and the Executive office which is the governor. The removal of these judges aim to get rid of the judicial and weaken the judicial process, therefore increasing the power of the governor. This was the right thing to do and I support the Dean. He should be commended for teaching students what governing is all about! Hooray to the Assistant Dean William VanderWyden. He should get a raise and a promotion. This is one of the many reasons the University of Miami is such an outstanding Law School!!