DONNA RHODES: Welcome to Fast5, the official audio series of the 12 Judicial Circuit Court. I'm your
host, Donna Rhodes. This episode we're talking with Sarasota County Judge Phyllis Galen, who joined
the 12th Circuit county court bench in January of 2005. She's assigned to Sarasota County's
south county division, presiding over county civil and criminal cases in that area. Judge Galen earned
her bachelor's degree from the University of North Alabama, and JD from Stetson University College
of Law. Hi, Judge Galen. Welcome to the Fast5, and thanks for joining us.
JUDGE GALEN: Donna, thank you, it's my pleasure to be with you.
DONNA RHODES: So what do you like most about living here in our tri-county area? Or if you came from
another town or state, what drew you to our area?
JUDGE GALEN: Well, obviously I came by way of Alabama originally. And after graduating college moved from
Alabama to Miami, Florida. That's where my husband Clark was born and raised. Stayed there for eight
and a half years. And worked for Xerox for that period of time. He worked actually in court
administration in the 13th Circuit. And ended up -- his parents retired here, we came to visit. Loved
it, loved it, it became the perfect opportunity for him to open up his new business up here in Sarasota,
and for me to go to law school at Stetson. So it was the perfect location, and timing was just right.
And we've never looked back since, 36 years later.
DONNA RHODES: All right. So we have some great spots for recreation. What do you like to do when you get
outside to play?
JUDGE GALEN: Well, I really enjoy the last couple years of walking and biking. So I live in a fantastic
neighborhood that has got just tons of sidewalks and it's very safe. Like to go on Legacy Trail with
the bike, so I bike and walk. Try to walk three to five miles a day after work, bike when I can.
Certainly love to go out on the ocean, going out on a boat is a great thing. But we just have so much to
offer right where I live that it's not that I have to get out and go too far to do something fun or
DONNA RHODES: All right. I've heard a lot about Legacy Trail, I really need to get down there and get
JUDGE GALEN: It is a phenomenal. It is really and truly -- I mean, you're talking about stretching
across our entire county, it is phenomenal. So you do need to check that out, Donna.
DONNA RHODES: Okay. So you talked a little about moving to Miami and it gave you a chance to go to
Stetson, but what made you pursue a legal career?
JUDGE GALEN: Well, that kind of came about from Miami. As I said, my husband was born and raised there.
He had a family neighbor and friend that became my mentor. And the reason being is he had been
Clark's neighbor for a number of years, and after we got married and went about there we continued a
relationship with him. He had been a Miami Dade police officer -- motorcycle cop, if you will. Went to
law school at night while raising a family, ended up getting his law degree, was a lawyer, ended up
getting elected circuit court judge, and then became the chief judge. He, while my husband was at the
court administration, had the responsibility of trying Ted Bundy's murder cases from Florida State.
DONNA RHODES: Oh.
JUDGE GALEN: So I had the front-row seat to see that particular trial. And I saw Ed Cowart do a
magnificent job in handling a high-stressed case, highly publicized, most heinous of individuals in the
world, but yet that man conducted himself in the courtroom with such poise and grace. He gave respect to
everyone in the courtroom, even Ted Bundy, while laying down the sentence of death. I was so impressed
with that, I said I got to do this. And that was my first thought that I wanted to be a judge. So I went
to law school essentially to become a judge.
DONNA RHODES: Okay, all right. I love that you touched on the part where even Ted Bundy was treated with
dignity and respect. I think that's a very important thing that our judges always do, is no matter
who's in front of them they will be treated with dignity and respect.
JUDGE GALEN: And that to me is the absolute cornerstone of what you need to be as a judge. And he was my
role model, he remains my role model. He unfortunately passed away before I became a judge, but I know
that he's looking down and happy that I chose that same career and he was part what have helped me
DONNA RHODES: All right. Why is it important to have an independent judiciary?
JUDGE GALEN: That's the cornerstone of our democracy, Donna. The idea that we have three separations
of powers, we have the legislative, executive, and judicial branch. We have to ensure that the judiciary
is independent so that they can be watching over the two other branches of government to make sure that
they are operating and following the laws of the land, the Constitution, and do so without having fear
of any kind of political pressure or anything that would make us not be able to operate independently.
You have to have that ability to be separate and distinct, and not give in to pressures politically or
otherwise. You have to follow the law, you have to follow the Constitution, and the integrity of our
democracy depends on it.
DONNA RHODES: Okay. What does access to justice mean to you?
JUDGE GALEN: Very important. Access to justice means that every person has the right to have their issue,
their dispute, their conflict brought before the court and have it heard with their being a fair and
impartial trier of fact. Whether that be by jury or it be by judge, that the laws apply equally to
everybody, that you are going to be treated fairly and impartially, and the laws will be applied equally
to everyone. Not everyone is going to be happy.
DONNA RHODES: Right.
JUDGE GALEN: But they're going to have that access and have that opportunity to be heard. And the
Court can then obviously render its rulings and explain those rulings, but they have that access to
that, and everybody is entitled to that. And we strive, as you know in this 12th Circuit, to make that
accessible to everybody, through this pandemic and beyond. And it's really -- again, another
cornerstone that we have through our judicial system to make sure there's access to the courts.
DONNA RHODES: I think it's important to note that a lot of people thought we closed down during the
pandemic, but we did not. We carried on every day holding court, doing hearings, doing --
JUDGE GALEN: Absolutely.
DONNA RHODES: -- people's business.
JUDGE GALEN: It's remarkable. And we can only be thankful -- sometimes we think that technology is
difficult, but, listen, this was -- if we didn't have the technology that we have now, we
couldn't have done this. But we did, and we were constantly up and running, like you said, and court
did not stop. So that was a remarkable feat. And that's much credit to court administration and all
the IT people that helped us do all that. Because not all of us were all that greatly experienced in
Zoom and other technology, but we did it, and we're continuing to do it. So it's really
DONNA RHODES: Okay. So that's it for the big questions for Fast5, we're going to move on to the
fun ones now. I got a feeling you probably don't really care too much about this rivalry, but:
Gators or Seminoles?
JUDGE GALEN: Neither of the above. Roll Tide.
DONNA RHODES: I knew that was going to happen.
JUDGE GALEN: Now, I will say my husband played for Florida State, so if I had to pick one --
DONNA RHODES: Okay, all right.
JUDGE GALEN: -- I would, but Roll Tide.
DONNA RHODES: Roll Tide.
JUDGE GALEN: Yeah.
DONNA RHODES: Good book or good film?
JUDGE GALEN: Depends. If I have time? Good book. If I'm just needing to have a little quick relief,
then it's a good film.
DONNA RHODES: Are you an early bird or a night owl?
JUDGE GALEN: I can do either, but probably a night owl is more my inclination.
DONNA RHODES: All right. What type of music do you enjoy?
JUDGE GALEN: All of the above. I -- it depends on the circumstances. If I'm walking or I'm
biking, I'm going to do oldies, I'm going to do -- you know, might do hard rock, I might do KC
and the Sunshine Band. If I'm trying to relax, I might be doing smooth jazz. It just depends. I
mean, I love all kinds of music. So it really depends on the purpose of which I'm listening for, am
I being motivated or getting chill, that's really the question, so it really depends.
DONNA RHODES: That makes a lot of sense. All right, lastly, what was your leave least favorite food as a
child? Do you still hate it, or do you love it now?
JUDGE GALEN: I have one -- I have two. But I will tell you my least favorite food as a child was any
chicken that had a bone in it. I'm from the South, I understand that, but I don't like chicken
with a bone in it. I couldn't touch it, I don't want to eat it, I still to this day will not
touch chicken with a bone in it. You can ask any of my friends -- Donna Berlin, she knows -- Donna Padar
-- she knows, everybody knows, I do not eat chicken with a bone. That was then, and it is now. So that
has not changed one iota. And the other thing is that stupid thing that we used to have in grammar
school that was raisins and carrot salad. You got to be kidding me to put that combination together. No,
I don't eat that now either.
DONNA RHODES: The chicken thing is really funny. I understand totally about the raisins and the carrots,
that is just weird.
JUDGE GALEN: It is weird. And the chicken thing, I don't know, maybe I was attacked by a chicken when
I was a kid, I don't know. But I can just tell you it's not going to happen, eating chicken with
bone in it.
DONNA RHODES: All right. That is all the questions I have for you. Thank you so much for sitting down and
talking with us, and we'll see you around the courthouse.
JUDGE GALEN: You got it. Thank you, Donna, I appreciate it. Have a good rest of your day.