Defense Language Institute-Russian 1986
SUNY @Oswego, NY- Russian Language and Lit, Dobro Slovo Honor Society 1988
St Thomas School of Law- JD 1993, Moot Court, Law Review
I take care of my civic duties privately. I was raised to believe that boasting publicly of my charitable works destroys the charitable nature of the work, making the acts appear selfish and done for approval.
I do engage in public work for change, for instance in the case of Mr. Larry Thompson. In that instance, myself and two others heard that a 61 year old Hospice patient had been jailed for failing to pay the court costs in a suspended drivers license case. Instead of holding press conferences and TALKING about the problem, we started a go fund me page and collected the necessary money to pay off all of Mr. Thompson’s court costs so that Collections Court could never jail him again. Since then, Collections Court has been discontinued.
Describe your philosophy of the judicial role, the qualities that are most important for the role, and the greatest challenges to the role.
The Role of a judge is to know the law, and to apply it impartially. Our system relies on the consent of the governed, and for that to work all of our citizens must feel that they have been listened to and treated with the same respect and dignity as any other citizen. In addition, the practical nuts and bolts of the position requires the knowledge of how to run a courtroom efficiently, so that there is time for everyone to be heard. Courtroom experience, and knowledge of the rules of court, as well as their fair application, is critical to accomplish these goals. Challenges to the fair administration of justice can come from preconceived ideas, as well as favoritism. Special interest groups or organizations that help a judicial candidate obtain the position often expect special treatment in return for their contributions or endorsements. This should be avoided at all costs, as it leads to the appearance of partiality. Our citizens will not believe that everyone will be treated equally before a judge if private organizations or special interest groups are openly calling on judicial candidates to compete for those groups’ support or endorsements, and that a judicial candidate’s only path to the bench is to pander to those groups for their support or endorsement.
Briefly describe a case or a legal issue on which you worked of which you are particularly proud, or is reflective of your legal ability and work. (limit 150 words)
I had a Civil Forfeiture case that involved the State attempting to take a house worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, because the client had grown marijuana in the house. I argued that while the State was entitled to compensation and punishment, the remedy of taking nearly half a million dollars worth of real estate was unfair and disproportionate compared to the crime committed. The Appellate Court faced a great deal of pressure from law enforcement agencies and Prosecutors from across the State of Florida. The Appellate Court ruled in my client’s favor, and changed how the courts deal with forfeiture in the entire state of Florida.
What, in your opinion, is the most important U. S. Supreme Court decision? Why? (limit 150 words)
Gideon V. Wainwright (1963). This case guaranteed that anyone accused of a crime, and facing imprisonment, was entitled to be represented by an attorney. This case arose from a Florida prosecution. Gideon hand wrote a one page statement to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court listened, and ruled in his favor. This case also led to the creation of the Public Defender offices, first in Florida, then around the country. Because it applied first to Florida, we have the oldest, and one of the best, Public Defender system in the United States. Gideon v. Wainwright is a shining example of the American justice system, not just here, but to the rest of the world.
What do you perceive as the greatest obstacles to justice, if any? Why? (limit 150 words)
Favoritism and Bias. Every human being has these flaws, and it can be difficult to recognize those flaws within ourselves, much less overcome those flaws. That leads to unfairness and corruption in our legal process. Everyone who works in the legal system needs to be vigilant to fight their own preconceptions or biases, and to continually strive to keep those preconceptions from unfairly influencing our justice system. It is so important to the Rule of Law that everyone can expect to be treated equally, with respect and human dignity, so that justice applies equally to all. Fairness and equality before the law is only possible if we, who work within the justice system, act without favoritism or bias.