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Young lawyers urged to apply for JNCs

Senior Editor Regular News

Young lawyers urged to apply for JNCs

Senior Editor

Incoming state Rep. Alex Andrade, a Pensacola Republican and YLD member, is issuing an unusual challenge to fellow beginning lawyers.

Rep. Alex Andrade Andrade wants more young lawyers to apply for service on the state’s Judicial Nominating Commissions — not despite their lack of experience, but because of their unique perspective.

The relatively obscure but influential JNCs play an important role in shaping the judiciary by vetting applicants to fill interim vacancies on the bench and forwarding lists of finalists to the governor.

“When you look at appointing county court judges, who are the attorneys who are likely to appear before them the most?” Andrade asks. “It’s the young attorneys who are a year or two out of law school and who are practicing at the public defender’s or state attorney’s office.”

That being the case, Andrade says, “who better to know what kind of temperament is needed in a judge than a young attorney?”

Andrade, an associate with Moore, Hill & Westmoreland, knows how important the work is. A lawyer since 2014, he was appointed last year by Gov. Rick Scott to serve on the JNC that covers the First Judicial Circuit. Andrade said now that his primary victory has propelled him to the state House District 2 seat — no opposing candidate emerged — he intends to resign from the JNC.

Andrade says no statute precludes him from serving in the Legislature and on the JNC at the same time, but he wants to concentrate on his legislative work and he doesn’t want to blur the separation of powers between the legislative and judicial branches.

Quote In his brief tenure on the JNC, Andrade said he helped vet candidates for a circuit and a county court judge, and he said he queried the applicants about their attitude toward beginning lawyers. At 29, Andrade won’t be the youngest legislator, but he believes he is the youngest JNC member in Florida.

“Young attorneys know which applicants pull rank at hearings or bully them in phone conversations about cases, and they have an intimate understanding of how older attorneys will act in positions of power,” Andrade said. “When senior attorneys treat you with respect, it’s a very good indicator of their temperament, and young attorneys are the only ones with that perspective.”

Andrade’s public service stretches back to law school at the University of Florida, when he helped prosecute domestic violence cases as a certified legal intern. In his senior year of law school, Andrade served a gubernatorial fellowship in the legislative affairs division of Scott’s Department of Transportation.

Besides his membership in the YLD, Andrade has been active in the Escambia Santa Rosa Bar Association, serving on its executive board and the board of its young lawyer’s division. He has also won awards for his charity, “OnBikes Pensacola,” which has donated 1,100 bicycles to local charities for distribution to indigent children.

Andrade says his challenge to have more young lawyers serve on JNCs works both ways. He wants Florida’s next governor, and The Florida Bar Board of Governors, to consider appointing younger people to the prestigious panels.

“This is just as much a challenge to older attorneys to consider young attorneys for these jobs as it is a challenge for young attorneys to apply,” Andrade said.

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