With the trial in luxury auto dealer Norman Braman's lawsuit against Miami-Dade County, the city of Miami and the Marlins set to begin Tuesday, the timetable is in flux again.
At the request of Braman's attorney, Bob Martinez, Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Pedro Echarte Jr. recused himself Thursday from the case he has overseen for months, because Martinez said in court papers that he discovered Tuesday he had a distant familial relationship with Echarte. Echarte's mother is related to Martinez's sister-in-law.
Already hampered by the case, which targets the $3 billion downtown redevelopment megaplan that includes a Marlins ballpark at the site of the Orange Bowl, Marlins representatives were none too pleased with the timing of Thursday's decision. Braman has lost on a couple of points in the case in the past week, and Marlins President David Samson accused Braman of trying to deflect attention from a case he can't win.
Samson said he was “flabbergasted” at the timing of the request for the recusal.
“I just think it’s sad. It’s a waste of taxpayers money," Samson said. "It’s the desperate musings of a man who knew he couldn’t prevail."
The timing may seem unusual, but I'm told there's no way Braman's legal team would move forward if there were even an inkling there could be a conflict.
The case has been reassigned to Circuit Court Judge Jeri Beth Cohen, who is holding a status hearing in the case on Friday afternoon. Perhaps then we'll learn a new date for the trial.
“Miami-Dade County continues to be confident with its case and hopes the trial can continue moving forward in a timely fashion,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez said in a statement. “Important timelines and funding streams are attached to this package of critical public works projects which are designed to improve the quality of life of County residents. In the short-term, these projects can provide an important economic boost in an uncertain economy, and get jobs on the street when they are needed most.”
Samson says plans for the ballpark are proceeding on schedule. The Baseball Stadium Agreement approved in February specified that definitive agreements on specifics such as construction management and financing, must be in place by July 1. But the county, city and Marlins have agreed to wait until after the trial in the Braman case.