The general public just has no idea how difficult the job our elected circuit court judges have. Specific to this foreclosure crisis, the banks have exponentially increased the case loads our judges are expected to hear, while at the same time the Florida Legislature has effectively cut their salaries, reduced their staff and reduced the pay for the staff that remain. The working conditions and the working environment for these public servants is demanding and difficult.
Most times the disputes and arguments heard by these judges are weighty and significant. By and large the people that are arguing in front of them are very intelligent, very prepared. These attorneys are also usually supported by competent and organized support staff, paralegals and assistants. They have a team of support players and resources to support the effort.
Our judges on the other hand largely head into battle each day alone and not properly supported. For hours on end, they and their staff are forced to sort through the roughly 368,000 foreclosure filings that are a mess of contradictions and confusion. Then, in the middle of all this, they stop work on all these cases to preside over a two week long, gut wrenching trial where a young family lost an infant in a medical malpractice case. For two weeks, the judge alternates between hearing devastating emotional testimony then days of technical, complex medical testimony. And then it’s right back int the foreclosure quagmire. A disturbing parade of hard luck stories, job loss, divorce, misery.
As a judge you undoubtedly feel moved at times by the gut wrenching stories. As a member of the community, you are not immune to the very difficult economic circumstances ripping across this country. Aside from what you see in your courtroom, you suffer the same economic uncertainty as everyone else. As a judge you know family members, friends, co workers who are suffering the same very real tragedies that hear about for eight hours a day, every single day. But even if a homeowner or a good defense attorney presents compelling evidence and testimony, you are handcuffed and boxed in by appellate court decisions that force your hand in so many areas. Wearing the robe means you’re a judge first and foremost, your duty is to the law and as conflicting as it must be sometimes, you must serve her before the heartaches you see pouring out before you.
And you are provided no room for error, especially the reversible kind. Just think about it, how would you like to have every single word out of your mouth reduced down to writing? And how would you like to have every single word and every single decision you make picked apart by a team of extraordinarily intelligent and extremely gifted superiors who not only probably have many more years of experience then you do, but also have the benefit of lots of time and a whole lot of dedicated support staff, bright young lawyers and teams of judicial assistants that can ponder and second guess for months over a decision that you made late in the day in an instant? Every single word you speak, every word you write, subject to intensive critical review. Not just the final, formal decision at the end of the trial, but every decision, every fork in the road, every thought in your brain along the way. Examined under a microscope. Picked apart and attacked. Publicly. For all the world to see and read about. Forever. And if the appellate court Monday morning quarterbacking isn’t bad enough for you, the press is always standing by ready to pounce on any judgment call that you don’t get exactly right….and they’re not bound by the law when making their criticism of your work.
Given all of this, how would you like to walk into a highly charged and very difficult environment every single day and listen to people arguing and battling bitterly?
Now as you think about all that, I want you to slip on the black robe, enter the courtroom and get prepared to do this job. The transcript that follows provides just a brief perspective on the difficult job our judges do. The fact of the matter is many of the issues our trial courts are facing are new and novel, complex and confounding. There are oftentimes no definitive guideposts or opinions you can rely upon for the answers. Listen as this judge drills down into a 30 year practicing lawyer, demanding out of him answers and details, no vagueness or generality. He’s drawing the very best out of the lawyers that are standing in his courtroom and really pushing everyone to work at least as hard as he is. Listen to this judge’s command of the facts and the law and consider that while the lawyers in front of him may have only a few hundred cases, this judge is responsible for many thousands of cases. This is a great example that shows why our judges are deserving of so much respect……