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Letters to the Editor

Heads Up!
Normally I love Jim DeFede's column, but he really missed the boat in suggesting we drop a loaded cargo container on Elian Gonzalez ("A Modest Proposal for Elian Gonzalez," March 30). The real question is how to off the munchkin while doing the most damage to the Great Bearded Satan. The answer should have been obvious: Brothers to the Rescue should fly the little scamp over Castro's presidential palace in Havana and shove him out the plane's window. There are three possible outcomes, all of them good!

1) Cuban jets shoot down the plane after being told it contains Elian, in which case we can show the world that Fidel really didn't want Elian back. Fidel is shamed before the world, is deposed, and the Mas Canosa family can go back to Cuba and begin oppressing the peasants again. Victory!

2) The plane makes it to Havana and Elian's fall is broken by landing on Fidel himself. Elian lives, Fidel dies, and the Mas Canosa family can go back to Cuba and begin oppressing the peasants again. Victory!

3) The plane makes it to Havana and Fidel, looking awfully spry for his age, manages to duck out of the way of the falling Saint Elian. But we can again show the world that not only did Fidel not want Elian returned, he wouldn't even give his life to save a child. Fidel is shamed before the world, is deposed, and the Mas Canosa family can go back to Cuba and begin oppressing the peasants again. Victory!

Any way you look at it, this is a win-win situation. No defenestration, no peace!

Name Withheld by Request
Coral Gables

DeFede: Tomorrow's Rafter Boy?
I usually read DeFede's articles looking for his off-beat vision of reality in this city, but this time he has gone to the gutter, making a mockery of a human drama that touches most of your readers very deeply. Where does he come from, anyway? What kind of person would make such mockery out of this painful story? Maybe he needs to go to Cuba for a few years and then attempt to escape in a raft, or just move to Alaska and not listen to the news if he's so tired of hearing about the daily struggle of the Cuban people trying to reach for freedom.

If DeFede hates Cuban exiles so much, he is definitely in the wrong place.

Alicia Rodriguez
Miami

A Portable Feast
In the world of the lunchero, the food is hot, the drinks are cold, and the turf wars are downright dangerous
By Victor Cruz

Yum, Yum, Yum
After reading Victor Cruz's article "A Portable Feast" (March 23), I was reminded that in the past I occasionally bought from a roach coach as an expedient, but never more. One day from my car I watched as a roach coach lunchero relieved himself on the side of his truck (the silver part where the food is), tucked it back in, then without a hand-wash or so much as a wipe-off, return to handling unwrapped food.

Enjoy your sandwiches. That special flavor is a true taste of Third World Miami.

Stephen Hanas
Pembroke Pines

Courting Disaster
Judge Cindy Lederman, champion of justice and advocate extraordinaire, bends the rules on the bench
By Tristram Korten

Her Honor: Smeared
I read Tristram Korten's "Courting Disaster" (March 23) with absolute astonishment. As an eighteen-year veteran of the juvenile court system, 7500 hours and eight years as a volunteer, and ten years as a staff member of the Guardian Ad Litem program, I have never experienced a smear campaign of this caliber.

I have been privileged to work and learn from nationally recognized icons of the juvenile court system such as William Gladstone and Seymour Gelber. Most of us who work here agree Judge Cindy Lederman is a jurist in that tradition. Judge Lederman has been honored by national organizations of her peers and by civic and charitable programs whose focus is the best interest of children. As the administrative judge of the juvenile courts, she manages not only the dependency (abused, abandoned, and neglected) court but the juvenile delinquency court as well. At the same time she handles a huge calendar overseeing thousands of children and makes life-altering decisions on a minute-to-minute basis. Judge Lederman, while fiercely protecting children's rights, is always judicial and appropriate. She runs a smooth, well-ordered courtroom, and those of us -- defense attorneys, clerks, service providers, et cetera -- who work with her on a daily basis admire and respect her.

Judge Lederman, and I believe rightly so, has differed in legal opinions with some of the attorneys mentioned in Mr. Korten's article, and when their actions have been unprofessional and/or inappropriate, she has excused them from her courtroom. If these attorneys do not agree with the judge's rulings, there are professional options available to them such as appeals or complaints to the Bar Association. Instead, and probably because there is no legal basis for their complaints, they chose to smear an outstanding judge in a newspaper article. In doing so they smeared themselves, the other attorneys who labor here for small remuneration, the employees, and the hundreds of unpaid volunteers who work here because they passionately believe they can help a child.

Mr. Korten could have presented a more balanced picture of Judge Lederman and the Miami-Dade juvenile justice court system and not based his article solely on the opinions of these court antagonists. He would have better served his newspaper and its readers if he had informed the public of the huge, impossible task of helping children in this very diverse community, where so few hands and funds are available to assist these unfortunate children. We should count ourselves blessed that Judge Cindy Lederman is in the forefront of those who work tirelessly to help make a better life for our forgotten children.

Rita Widom Swichkow
Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida
Guardian Ad Litem Program
Miami

Her Honor: Tireless, Steadfast, and Just
New Times had done a great disservice to a devoted public servant by erroneously characterizing Judge Cindy Lederman as "draconian" and a person who bends procedures. Judge Lederman is anything but harsh, barbarous, and manipulative, contrary to Tristram Korten's portrayal of her. She deserves as much praise as possible for performing an exceptional job in a most difficult position. Her decisions are just and stabilizing in an environment of mistrust and entrenchment.

She is tireless, not ruthless. She is steadfast, not merciless. Her reassuring smile shines down from her elevated bench for those who need encouragement the most. Her professionalism is impressive. She deserves our respect and gratitude for taking on the heart-wrenching job of righting wrongs done to children, society's defenseless victims. "Courting Disaster" ignored the most important words in her job description: "In the best interests of the children." This article was not written in the best interests of the children but in the interests of a few lawyers who have a gripe.

It would be prudent for New Times to stick to its excellent restaurant reviews rather than publishing a recipe for judicial sabotage concerning the most honorable Judge Lederman.

Rosalyn Kaplus
Aventura

Her Honor: Fair, Respectful, and Expeditious
Although the attack article by Tristram Korten initially and correctly describes juvenile court Judge Cindy Lederman as a "champion of justice and advocate extraordinaire," he goes on to denigrate her conduct in the courtroom based, apparently, only on reports from attorneys with axes to grind. I am a former child-welfare professional with eighteen years' experience in the South Florida area. I know Judge Lederman from personal experience in her courtroom and through her reputation among my child-welfare colleagues.

One may not always agree with Judge Lederman's decisions, but accusing her of draconian behavior is unjust. Her courtroom is the model of fairness. She listens to everyone and evaluates carefully before rendering a decision. She is always respectful of all parties.

Given the emotional intensity of the competing issues in a family-court environment, maintaining a level of decorum is always a challenge. Matters are not helped by the lack of professionalism exhibited by some of the attorneys who have appeared before Judge Lederman and were required to behave appropriately. From the sound of the comments, these are probably the only attorneys Mr. Korten spoke with.

As someone who has spent a lot of time in the family courtroom, I applaud Judge Lederman for her commitment to really moving things along because there is an overriding need to expedite cases. It is in the best interest of the child to do so, because no child should languish in the care of the state. It is also the law!

I think Mr. Korten and New Times owe Judge Lederman an apology. You also owe your readers an apology for not insisting on a more balanced and thoroughly researched story.

Elaine Yonover
Miami

Her Honor: Zealous Advocates Welcome
Tristram Korten's article implies that zealous advocates are not appointed in Judge Lederman's courtroom. That is untrue. There are many excellent, zealous advocates who continually get appointed in Lederman's courtroom. As a defense attorney who frequently practices in juvenile court and before Judge Lederman, I have clashed with her in plenty of cases, and have even tried cases before her for clients I knew the judge did not particularly care for. However, despite my disagreements with the judge or her apparent dislike of some of my clients, I do not believe those things affected her rulings, nor have they affected the number of cases to which she appoints me. Furthermore, while Judge Lederman's rulings can sometimes have harsh consequences, I personally have always been treated with respect in her courtroom.

I have always felt New Times offered an intelligent alternative to the "one voice" we all grew up with in Miami. With that alternative, however, comes responsibility. Anyone can print trash.

Lucrecia R. Diaz
Miami

Go West, Young Developer
The item in "Riptide" (March 23) about Miami-Dade County moving its building department to far West Miami-Dade should incense everyone living in unincorporated Miami-Dade. I understand the zoning department also will be part of the move. Whose boneheaded idea was this?

Not only is this move the antithesis of urban infill, but as county administrator Pete Hernandez admits, it perpetuates urban sprawl. As if that were not enough, it is contrary to the best interests of the people. While no one enjoys going downtown to county hall to get information about the latest nasty zoning application for their neighborhood, at least it is centrally located, on a rapid-transit line, and is accessible from the much-touted busway in South Miami-Dade. After all, isn't that the intent of rapid transit: to get people out of their cars?

Is the county really advocating more cars on the road as people try to conduct their building and zoning business? Or is this an attempt to make it more difficult for communities to keep their fingers on the pulse of building and development?

Mr. Hernandez's statement -- "We are trying to get the services closer to the people" -- is pure balderdash. I suggest a more accurate statement would be to strike "people" and substitute "builders." Bringing services closer to the people is accomplished through incorporation, not by moving county offices to the western fringe.

Pat Hanson
South Miami-Dade


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