Court News - 2016
Judge Stanford Blake, Eleventh Circuit, Presented with Chief Justice Award for Judicial Excellence
The Chief Justice Awards for Judicial Excellence, established in 2015, recognize one county court judge and one circuit court judge who demonstrate exceptional commitment to the judicial branch and who personify judicial excellence, embodying qualities such as strength of character, integrity, fairness, open-mindedness, knowledge of the law, sound judgment, professional ethics, intellectual courage, compassion, and decisiveness. These prestigious awards are presented by the chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court at the annual education programs for each level of the trial court. At this year’s Annual Education Program of the Florida Conference of Circuit Judges, Chief Justice Labarga presented the 2016 Chief Justice Award for Judicial Excellence to Judge Stanford Blake, Eleventh Circuit. (Broward County Court Judge Robert W. Lee received the Award for Judicial Excellence at the Annual Education Program of the Conference of County Court Judges of Florida in July.)
Judge Blake was appointed to the Eleventh Circuit Bench in 1995. Letters supporting his nomination for this award praise him for his “fairness and efficiency” and for his “genuine compassion for the people and parties that appear before him.” They commend his “rare mix of humor, intelligence, courage and diplomacy” and call him “a man of stature, a man of compassion, of a strong ethical and moral compass and one who has a unique understanding of the human condition.” And they appreciate him for having “improved our court system, our community and our world.” Judge Blake is widely acclaimed both for his efforts to “advance the highest ideals of justice” and for his service outside the justice system, “as a member of the larger community.”
As a jurist, Judge Blake has consistently been a teacher, mentor, and role model for many of his circuit colleagues. In many ways, he is the consummate judicial resource: when his fellow judges seek advice and assistance on issues of procedure and substance, they go to Judge Blake, whom they call “a judge’s judge” and their “go-to judge.” But Judge Blake is also admired for his efforts to improve the justice system outside his circuit. For instance, his colleagues appreciate his many years as a judicial leader and educator: he served on the executive board of the Florida Conference of Circuit Judges (20 years) and has been a faculty member for the Florida Judicial College (20 years) and the College of Advanced Judicial Studies (10 years), and he has taught numerous courses for the Florida Conference of Circuit Judges.
Moreover, he is committed to sharing his knowledge and expertise with future lawyers: he has taught litigation skills at the University of Miami Law School (18 years), “helping law students hone their skills and nurturing the ideals of professionalism as they prepare to enter the practice of law.” And the lawyers who appear before him also appreciate his knowledge of the law and procedure—and his courtroom demeanor: “His reputation in the legal community for fairness and diligence ranks him among the very finest trial judges in the State of Florida”—indeed, he “is always the top rated judge in the local judicial bar polls,” the letters of support disclose.
In addition to serving the justice system with the highest distinction, Judge Blake generously shares his time and energy with numerous civic organizations, among them, the Haven School for the Developmentally Disadvantaged, the Biscayne Bay Kiwanis Club, and the Transplant Foundation (he even donated one of his kidneys to his brother in 1996).
As several letters of support emphasize, Judge Blake’s “contributions have been made without any desire or expectation of recognition. This is the truest measure of an outstanding public servant—to find reward in the very act of service.” To read more about Judge Blake’s accomplishments, please follow this link to the press release.
Judge Robert W. Lee, Broward County, Presented with Chief Justice Award for Judicial Excellence
The Chief Justice Awards for Judicial Excellence, established in 2015, recognize one county court judge and one circuit court judge who demonstrate exceptional commitment to the judicial branch and who personify judicial excellence, embodying qualities such as strength of character, integrity, fairness, open-mindedness, knowledge of the law, sound judgment, professional ethics, intellectual courage, compassion, and decisiveness. These prestigious awards are presented by the chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court at the annual education programs for each level of the trial court. At this year’s Conference of County Court Judges of Florida, Chief Justice Labarga presented the 2016 Chief Justice Award for Judicial Excellence to Judge Robert W. Lee, Broward County. (The circuit judge receiving the Award for Judicial Excellence will be honored in August, at the Florida Conference of Circuit Judges.)
Appointed to the Broward County bench in 1997, Judge Lee is called “a dedicated individual who has worked tirelessly towards improving our legal system and educating the public that he serves.” Judge Lee’s accomplishments are indeed far-ranging, but his achievements in two areas especially stand out: he has authored numerous informational and educational guides to support the work of his fellow judicial and quasi-judicial officers, and he has created several innovative court programs.
A prolific author, Judge Lee conceived and regularly compiles the Florida Small Claims Rules Annotated, which provides comprehensive summaries of every reported case to date involving each Small Claims Rule. Now in its fifth edition, this document is made available without charge to county court judges, law libraries, and attorneys affiliated with the Small Claims Committee of The Florida Bar; it is also posted on the Florida Bar and the flcourts websites. Judge Lee also drafts the annual Civil Traffic Infraction Case Law Update; now in its eighth year, this indexed update is made available to judges and civil traffic hearing officers who attend the annual DUI Traffic Adjudication School. In addition, he just completed the Judge's Guide to Florida PIP Discovery for presentation at the 2016 Conference of County Court Judges of Florida.
Judge Lee has also devised various court initiatives and programs to improve the administration of justice. Most notably, in 2013, he instituted the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit’s Teen Traffic Court, a unique program that focuses on education over punishment in an effort to improve teen behavior. For teens who participate in Teen Traffic Court, the consequences, which are designed to reflect their age and the nature of their infraction, fall within a wide range: they may be required to pay a fine, attend a driving course in person rather than taking it online, attend traffic school, perform community service, abide by a curfew, and/or write essays or letters of apology. So far, more than 1,500 teens have successfully completed the program, which is now in its second year. In addition, as a Jury Qualifying Judge for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, Judge Lee designed a program to increase juror yield by holding jury duty scofflaws accountable.
Judge Lee is also a judicial mentor, a Judicial Management Council member, the Civil Division Chair, a faculty member of the Florida Judicial College, and the chair of the Education Committee of the Conference of County Court Judges of Florida. He is described as “always trying to make things better, not only for his colleagues, but for the legal system and public as well.” And as his nomination letter states, “He does all of the above quietly, without any expectation of or need for recognition.” To read more about Judge Lee’s accomplishments, please follow this link to the press release.