He joined the bench Feb. 1 after appointment by Gov. Ron DeSantis to succeed Circuit Judge David Gooding.
Who or what inspired you to become a lawyer?
I wasn’t good enough at chemistry and math to complete a genetics degree. In high school, I thought I wanted to major in genetics until I saw the course work required for the major. English was my second favorite area of study, so I pursued that. Law was a natural fit. I’m one of the odd birds that actually enjoyed law school. I enjoy the intellectual challenges law presents and the push and pull between them and law’s practical realities that must still be met.
Who inspires you?
The felony Bar and courthouse personnel. The rubber meets the road in a felony courtroom. I have the utmost respect for the lawyers who put themselves into it every day, the bailiffs who keep things orderly and safe and the clerks who keep up with an overwhelming amount of information on the fly. It’s a critical societal function that requires coordination and cooperation from many sides to work.
How do you relate your undergraduate degree to your practice on the bench?
English prepares you for high volume reading and writing and then applying that reading to your writing. In law, reading critically and expressing yourself clearly and concisely is essential.
What community service have you pursued and why?
I’ve been involved in a couple of different nonprofits over the years at the board level, an elder and volunteer at church and volunteering for the Alzheimer’s Association where my wife, Michelle, is the vice president of public policy. I used my legal skills to help my church with some difficult legal issues, and I worked overnight shifts at the cold weather homeless shelter. Our whole family will be at the Jacksonville Walk to End Alzheimer’s on Nov. 6. Serving the community is one of the great contributions a citizen can make and invariably provides its own rewarding experience.
What is your favorite book?
“Lost in the Cosmos” by Walker Percy.
Do you have any special talents?
During my spring semester of my third year of law school, I got very good at fishing for selective trout in slow moving water. The Tennessee Valley Authority was repairing a weir dam in the Clinch River tailwater. This caused river conditions to be the same, day after day for about two months. I fished pretty much every day and ran what amounted to a repeatable, ongoing experiment in fly tying and presentation. It yielded a unique mayfly pattern and some techniques that work incredibly well anywhere in similar conditions. The experience showed the value that practice, attention to detail and open-minded observation play in developing a skill to a high level.
If you weren’t a judge what do you think you’d be?
A lawyer. How’s that for concise and clear? Truly, though, I have a hard time seeing myself doing anything else. It’s been good.
Have you traveled anywhere exotic?
I have been fortunate to travel quite a bit in the Caribbean and Central America. Barbados, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua top the list for exotic. I prefer to get outside of the tourist areas and enjoy the local culture. I like to cook, and Caribbean and Central American cuisine show up frequently on our table.
If you could meet someone from history, who would it be and why?
I’ve studied the Constitution and the founding era quite a bit. I would enjoy speaking with James Madison to plumb his thoughts on how U.S. history has played out under the Constitution.
What’s your favorite food?
What’s your favorite holiday?
New Year’s Day. It’s relaxed and low-pressure, with plenty of good food to eat and football to watch.
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