Former Miami Judge Ain't No Writer

As a lawyer, Barbara Levenson leaped head first into some controversial free speech battles. In 1987, when she was chairwoman of the American Civil Liberties Union's legal panel, she protested the placing of a 100-foot-tall cross at Tamiami Park during Pope John Paul II's visit to Miami. Two years later, Levenson played an instrumental role in fighting some of the more draconian measures of the Reagan administration's drug policy, including the seizure of leisure boats that turned up minimal traces of narcotics, including vessels that just had marijuana seeds in cabin ashtrays.

When Levenson was elected Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge in 1992, the University of Miami law school graduate entered another realm rich with story potential. For instance, she presided over the 1997 trial of Roosevelt Jean-Louis - convicted of brutally murdering his girlfriend - and the 1998 proceedings of Jivonn Ysbeck, a teenager convicted of murdering famous Haitian soccer player Formose Gilles. From the bench she saw juries acquit former high school band teacher George Creer III on felony charges that he had sex with a student, as well as Raul Rodriguez, a Cuban robber who confessed to shooting and killing Elaudio Santiago. Before retiring in 2004, she pioneered a program that placed ex-offenders with employers, yet, ironically, drew the wrath of Brothers of the Same Mind, a black activist group that accused Levenson of singling out their members.

Yet it seems Levenson failed to draw on her stellar experiences while penning her first novel, "Fatal February," a Miami-based thriller set to hit bookstands next month. Levenson's tome introduces readers to her made up heroine Mary Magruder Katz. In a shockingly underdeveloped, thin plot line, Katz is a criminal defense attorney who spends her days banging her shady Cuban developer lover Carlos Martin while representing Lillian Yarmouth, an ultra-rich Coconut Grove socialite accused of murdering her ultra-rich husband. Levenson's yarn turns out to be as predictable as the vultures circling the Flagler Street courthouse.

--Francisco Alvarado

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