Voting For Judges: A 2020 GuidePosted on: August 5, 2020
Confused about who to vote as judge in Florida?
Here are some of the things we like to see when voting for judges.
It is that time of year again when you are asked as a voter to decide who you want to be a judge.
The difficulty is that many of you have never stood before any of these judges and have no experience with the courtroom. Additionally, you often have never met the judges and know anything about them. With the COVID-19 pandemic this year, there is even less opportunity to meet the individuals running for judge at local events. Lastly, all of the judicial races are rightfully non-partisan races so you cannot vote based on party affiliation. Therefore, you really have no idea how to pick and who to pick.
We are often asked who we support for judges, and we are always happy to provide the names of the individuals that we support. This year, we recently posted on our Facebook page the individuals in Seminole and Orange county that we are supporting for judge.
The next question that we are asked, however, is why we are supporting certain individuals for judges. That is probably the most important question and something that we feel requires some explanation. So, we want to tell you what characteristics we like to see when voting for judges.
What Makes a Good Judge
Experience is one of the most important aspects of being a judge. The more experience a lawyer has before running for judge, the better chance that the lawyer has experienced enough legal issues to help her find her way around the courtroom.
Experience on the bench is important as well. We like experienced judges who have sat through countless hearings and trials. This experience is invaluable when the judges are making decisions. Judges often are required to make snap decisions, especially in trial. Decisions on ruling on objections made during trial have to be made immediately and more importantly, correctly.
The judge must also be an expert on the rules of evidence. While this expertise can come through extensive learning, no one walks out of law school a true expert in evidence. The best way to become an expert is by trying cases. So, we look for individuals who have been in the courtroom and understand the rules of evidence. Oftentimes, some of the most experienced attorneys in trials are those that have worked in criminal law because they have been in so many trials.
The next trait that we look for in judges is the willingness and eagerness to learn. Some of the best new judges—while lacking in on-the-bench experience—are excellent judges because of their insatiable desire to learn. These judges spent countless hours outside of the courtroom familiarizing themselves with the area of law in which they are working. These judges do independent research on topics to better familiarize themselves with the issues.
The best judges are the ones who come to the courtroom prepared. It is invaluable to have a judge come to a hearing having read the motions, responses, and the associated case law for the hearing. Then, the discussion at the hearing is a summary of your argument and specific points you need to make. This works better than educating the judge on the issues.
Additionally, the judge then is well prepared to ask specific questions and address issues that he may have with the pending motion or response. This type of preparation takes a lot of time for these judges, but the best ones do it consistently.
Another trait that we look for in judges is an even temperament. Judges are deciding difficult issues where the involved parties (even the attorneys) can get emotional with their positions. We look for a judge who can respond without getting angry with the individuals or attorneys.
These judges cannot express their frustration with a party and instead need to stay neutral. This is especially important when the judge is making rulings before a jury. Jurors look to the judges as their guide during trial. So, if the judge is expressing frustration with one party, the jurors will pick up on that and may think the judge favors that party and thus push their verdict toward the party favored by the judge.
One of the things we are often asked is whether the judge is conservative or liberal and how do they rule. The issue is not where their politics may be, because the best judges take their personal views out of the courtroom. Instead, it is about fairness.
Is the judge fair and does she follow the law? If she does this, we can be assured that we are getting a fair result for our clients, even if we may disagree with her political leanings.
Lastly, we like judges who admit when they have made a mistake.
We all make mistakes. As attorneys who may be trying a case for several days, it is unusual to not have a slip of the tongue or a mistake in what or how you say something.
As discussed, judges are making rapid-fire decisions. Sometimes, as they later consider one of their decisions during a trial, the judge decides that the ruling provided was wrong. A judge who acknowledges the mistake and makes an effort to correct it is doing the right thing for the parties.
Get The Vote Out!
We applaud everyone who is a judge and those who want to become a judge. It is truly a civil service because they work very hard making difficult decisions all day.
Yet voting for judges is just as important. As a voter, you get to have a say in who represents your ideals, from the Senate floor to the courtroom. And you’re taking the time to read this guide, which means you’re taking this job seriously.
You can also educate yourself by reading each judge’s website. This will give you a better idea of their platform as well as their approach to judicial duties.
A group we are involved in, Central Florida Trial Lawyers Association, did judicial forums. These run about an hour and feature a Q&A session with the judges in competing races. We would be happy to send any of you a link for the judges.
We hope this little bit of information helps you make your decision. Please get out and vote!