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Lawyer seeking judgeship in Florida.

An Iranian-American attorney is running for county judge in Florida's Seminole County, challenging an incumbent judge who was recently reprimanded by the State Supreme Court.

Former Assistant State Attorney Amir Ladan, 38, currently in private practice, is running in Seminole County which is just northeast of Orlando in the August 24 primary. If he wins that and is elected to a six-year term in the November 2 general election, Ladan will become the first Iranian-American elected to any office in Florida.

Ladan was born in Evanston, Illinois, but moved to Seminole County when he was 12. He graduated from Lake Howell High School before attending Rollins College, where he majored in political science. He then went on to law school at the University of Miami, where he received his law degree, and was admitted to the Florida Bar in April 1998.


In 1998, Ladan took a position as an assistant state attorney for Lawson Lamar, the state attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit. As an assistant state attorney, Ladan prosecuted cases ranging from low level misdemeanors to felonies. In 2001, Ladan left to co-found the firm Carsten & Ladan with his trial partner Keith Carsten. The firm focuses on criminal cases and consists of four attorneys.

Ladan is one of four candidates in the primary His opponents are former Seminole County Attorney Greg Hass, workers compensation specialist Fred Schott, and current Seminole County Judge Ralph Eriksson.

The incumbent judge has drawn such opposition because the Florida Supreme Court voted in February to reprimand him for misconduct. The Judicial Qualifications Commission last year said the judge intentionally threw a man in jail to punish his lawyer. It also said he was "cavalier and insensitive" to several people who appeared before him one day asking for domestic violence injunctions. The commission also said he had turned away people who had no lawyers, misleading them into thinking they needed independent witnesses to corroborate their accounts.

Ladan has received endorsements from more than 30 attorneys and business leaders. Lawson Lamar, still the state attorney there, threw his support behind Ladan. In his endorsement letter, Lamar wrote, "In my opinion, you possess the experience, character and respect for the rule of law that a proper judicial temperament requires. I am honored to endorse your candidacy for Seminole County Court Judge."

County courts in Florida are low level courts that try misdemeanors, but not any felonies, and civil cases entailing claims of less than $15,000. They also handle other matters such as small claims and landlord and tenant disputes.

In an interview with the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA) and its connected PAC, the Iranian American Political Action Committee, Ladan was asked why he decided to run for public office.

"I have been an attorney since 1998 and have spent the past 12 years practicing criminal law throughout Central Florida. I had the privilege of beginning my legal career as a prosecutor in Orlando. That experience not only taught me a great deal about how to be a trial attorney, but it made me proud to serve the community in such a meaningful and personal capacity....

"While building a successful business has many rewards, I wish to serve my community in a greater capacity. It is in that vein and with that commitment to service that I wish to be elected to the bench," he told PAAIA.

Ladan also focused on the incumbent judge. "When the judiciary fails to conduct itself in a way that honors the law and respects those that appear before it, it does more than impugn the institution of law, it violates the public trust. Judges hold a place of special esteem in our society. They are the embodiment of the checks and balances inherent in our government which safeguard and ensure that no branch of government overstep its bounds. I pledge to uphold the integrity of the court and the letter of the law."

Ladan told the Iran Times, "My focus will be to ensure that all those that appear before me are treated with dignity and respect and that due process is afforded to all in an even and fair manner. Equal justice under the law should not be a mere aspiration, but a fundamental right." Ladan's campaign website is: home.
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Title Annotation:Diaspora: Around the globe
Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Date:May 21, 2010
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