Justice Watch: Judge Zabel Perfect Fit For High-Profile Gay Marriage Ban Case

, Daily Business Review


Sarah Zabel
Sarah Zabel

Attorneys familiar with the judge assigned to a lawsuit challenging the state's ban on gay marriages say she is perfectly suited for the controversial case challenging a constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2008.

Lawyers and former colleagues describe Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel as a jurist who is no stranger to high-profile cases. She is known for thoughtful legal memorandum and giving due time to both sides.

Zabel also drew the assignment in a civil lawsuit filed against bad-boy celebrity Justin Bieber by a paparazzi who claims he was injured by the singer's bodyguard.

She is also unwittingly in the spotlight because her husband, former North Miami Beach Mayor Myron Rosner, was charged in 2012 campaign financing misconduct involving bus bench ads. His case is pending.

Zabel is running for re-election this year and has received wide support from the legal community, compiling a campaign war chest of more than $80,000, according to state election records.

Attorney Michael Gongora, the first openly gay member of the Miami Beach City Commission, said six couples challenging the state law on constitutional grounds could do far worse than Zabel on this hot-button issue.

"Judge Zabel is a good judge for this case," said Gongora, a partner with Becker & Poliakoff in Coral Gables. "Before she was a judge, she was a litigator and is familiar with family law. She has handled challenges to state laws before and is fair-minded."

Gongora said Zabel will be an impartial judge who will look to apply the law and do the right thing. "Of course, I am hopeful she will overturn this discriminatory ban on gay marriage," he said.

Condo case

Gongora notes Zabel's ruling in a challenge to a state law by the residential association at the waterfront Grand Condominium in Miami. Zabel ruled that a mixed-use condominium association could stay in the wake of 2007 legislative change dictating the makeup of such boards. She was upheld on appeal.

Zabel has served in the civil, criminal and juvenile divisions. While in the criminal division, she presided over the case of Jorge and Carmen Barahona, accused of killing a 10-year-old foster daughter in their care and abusing her twin brother.

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