On the Bench: Duval County Judge Rhonda Peoples-Waters

In 2021 she became the first Black woman elected judge in Duval County.


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  • | 12:00 a.m. November 3, 2022
  • Law
  • The Bar Bulletin
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Who or what inspired you to become a lawyer?

I am from Selma, Alabama, which is well-known for its place in history related to voting rights for African Americans.

Early in my life, from my daily surroundings, I learned the power of the justice system.

I initially wanted to be an FBI agent and then got some amazing offers in college to go to law school.   

Who or what inspires you?

My parents, Ronald and Winona Peoples, both inspire me.

They are retired educators who sacrificed so much for my brother and me.

My parents worked two or three jobs each my entire childhood.

As well, my grandfather, Coley Chestnut, was the janitor at my high school and he inspired me to treat all people with dignity and respect.

Lastly, my daughter and our youth inspire me to push beyond my own fears so that they may have more doors opened for them.   

How do you relate your undergraduate degree to your practice on the bench?

My undergraduate degree is from Fisk University.

I earned a Bachelor of Science - Business Administration degree with a concentration in financial economics. 

Studying financial economics taught me to focus on details and that skill is useful every day on the bench.

Also, my financial background is valuable with my assessment of many civil cases and a few criminal cases.  

What community service have you pursued and why?

Community service is extremely important to me.

I truly enjoy giving back to my community.

As a former Jacksonville Area Legal Aid board chair, D.W. Perkins Bar Association president, Jacksonville Ethics commissioner and with my role in many more organizations, I learned that my community service not only lifted others, but it lifted public trust in the legal community.

My most recent community service activity was packaging much-needed food with my daughter this past summer with our sorority.

I love that our youth also get to learn the value of giving back.     

What is your favorite book?

The Bible. 

Do you have any special talents?

The gift of talking and enjoying life. 

If you weren’t a judge, what do you think you’d be?

An FBI agent or detective just like on “Law and Order.” 

Have you traveled anywhere exotic?

I have traveled to Hawaii (Maui, Honolulu and Kauai), Cabo San Lucas, Punta Cana and many other places. I look forward to adding more locations to this list. 

If you could meet someone from history, who would it be and why?

I would want to meet Harriet Tubman.

She is my hero. I would love to hear from her how she gained the courage to lead so many out of slavery.  

What’s your favorite food?

Fresh fish, shrimp and french fries.  

What’s your favorite holiday?

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it brings so many of our families together.