Last time I stumbled past the endless row of t-shirt shops on Duval Street in Key West, one shirt in particular caught my attention. It read, “A good lawyer knows the law. A great lawyer knows the Judge!”
I couldn’t agree more. For better or worse, the brand of justice you receive in a criminal case depends significantly on which judge has been assigned. Some judges are notoriously more lenient under certain circumstances. Some are generally less lenient. Some refuse to split a sentence between incarceration and probation while others do in almost every case. Some have been perceived as pro-State, while others are perceived as pro-defense. Some look, talk, act and sentence the same way every single day. Others are across the board inconsistent. Some will read every letter you send them prior to a sentencing hearing, while others rely mainly on what they see and hear in court. Some will hammer a defendant who goes to trial and loses. Others will not. Some follow the law as it is written. Others follow their gut as to what they think it should mean today.
People hire lawyers to advocate on their behalf and to explain their options to them. If a lawyer does not have experience with and knowledge about the Judge and his particular track record, an integral piece of the puzzle is missing when it comes to helping a client determine what is in their best interest. It is important to find out before you hire a lawyer how well they know a particular jurisdiction and the judge that is assigned. Often, lawyers who come in to a county or circuit from another jurisdiction are unpleasantly surprised to find out the local customs that are adopted and implemented. A lawyer that is uninformed can only lead to a client that is uninformed.
In the 19th Circuit, the County Court Judges pretty much stay put in their assignments. (That said, the Martin County Court Judges have recently changed the way they divide their cases upon the recent appointment of the Honorable Curtis Disque – Congratulations Judge Disque!) But Circuit Court Judges rotate fairly frequently. Below is a link to the new judicial assignments starting in January, 2013. The lawyers of the Ferraro Law Group have been defending clients in the 19th Circuit since 1974. If you are currently scheduled to appear in one of these courts and would like to know more about how a judge rotation in January can affect your case, do not hesitate to give us a call.