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The Florida Bar Journal
November, 2017 Volume 91, No. 9
Leaders of the Judiciary: Recognizing Women Serving as Florida’s Chief Judges

by Michael J. Higer

Page 4

As president of The Florida Bar, it is my pleasure to highlight the recent accomplishments of our sitting judges who have achieved leadership positions. Judges are often the unsung heroes of our Bar. They work in relative obscurity not only performing the functions of their job, but in administrative leadership positions, which require additional responsibility and work. They volunteer as educators for other judges, students, and lawyers; work on volunteer committees in the Bar and for the Florida Supreme Court; and work with community stakeholders to address many of the issues and problems facing Florida’s citizens. All of these additional functions increase their workload and responsibility, for no additional pay. Seeking positions of leadership is a great path to developing management skills, bettering professional reputation, and increasing proficiency in the practice of law and performance on the bench.

As a committed supporter of inclusion and diversity in the practice of law, I applaud the accomplishments of some of Florida’s great women leaders in the judiciary. I would like to focus upon our extraordinary women judges who currently serve as chief judges in Florida.

In July, Chief Judge Krista Marx was sworn in as chief judge of the 15th Judicial Circuit. She is only the second woman to hold this position. While taking on her new duties as chief judge, she also has accepted the role of chair of the Judicial Qualifications Commission. In her dual leadership roles, Chief Judge Marx presides over one of the largest circuit courts in Florida, while also presiding over all investigations of complaints against sitting judges for Florida.

Judge Marx has distinguished herself throughout her career as a judicial educator, a member of several key task forces on substance abuse, mental illness, and citizen safety, and a member of several Florida Bar committees. She has further distinguished herself as a judge. She was invited to serve as an associate judge on the Fourth District Court of Appeal and was nominated for appointment to the Fourth DCA.

Chief Judge Bertila Soto is currently serving as the first woman and first Hispanic chief judge for the 11th Judicial Circuit, the largest circuit in Florida and the fourth largest trial court in the nation. Judge Soto has been central to the success of the Conferences of Circuit and County Judges addressing members of the legislature on the judicial branch. She has educated all branches on the struggle of Florida’s judiciary to manage a high caseload, obtain judicial education, administer the courts, and serve the public.

Chief Judge Sue Robbins became the first woman to hold the title of chief judge in July in the Fifth Circuit, which includes Marion Hernando, Citrus, Lake, and Sumter counties. She has served as chair of the Professionalism Committee for the Fifth Circuit and as a mentor for the D.R. Smith Inn of Court — all with the mission of elevating the practice of law.

Judge Linda Nobles serves as chief judge of the First Judicial Circuit, where she serves Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, and Walton counties in the northwest corner of the state. She recently joined the Florida work group on courthouse security to address public safety concerns in our courthouses.

Chief Judge Elizabeth Metzger presides in the 19th Judicial Circuit, where she serves Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River, and Okeechobee counties.

In July, Judge Leslie Rothenberg took office as chief judge of the Third District Court of Appeal. She is the second woman to hold this position and will be the only woman serving as chief judge of a district court of appeal this term. Judge Rothenberg was a circuit court judge for 11 years, and in addition to her judicial duties, volunteered with youthful offenders and inner-city children, and worked for many years with the Police Explorers of Homestead. She currently sits on the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee and was recently appointed by the governor to sit on the Capital Crimes Commission.

Our two women justices, Justice Barbara Pariente and Justice Peggy Quince, will soon be ending their term on the Florida Supreme Court and retiring from the bench. Both of these extraordinary women have served as chief justice, overseeing changes to rules of procedure, leading numerous committees, conducting attorney and judge discipline and removal proceedings, representing the judiciary in addressing its needs in the legislature, and handling countless other responsibilities.

Join me in congratulating these great women leaders in our profession who have not only distinguished themselves by their service as judges, but have acted as role models in leadership for all aspiring judges and lawyers.

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[Revised: 12-21-2017]