DONNA RHODES: Welcome to Fast5, the official audio series of the 12th Judicial Circuit Court. I'm your host, Donna Rhodes. This episode we're talking with Manatee County Judge Renee Inman, who began her judicial service in 2010 when she was appointed as a general magistrate to support the family division judges. She was elevated to the County Court Bench in 2017, and presides over County Civil and County Criminal Division 1. Judge Inman received a bachelor's degree from Indiana University and a juris doctor from the Western New England College School of Law. She was admitted to the Florida Bar in 2006.

Hi, Judge Inman. Welcome to Fast5, and thanks for joining us.

JUDGE INMAN: Hi, thanks for having me. I'm glad to be here.

DONNA RHODES: All right. Let's just get right to it.

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 here?

JUDGE INMAN: Well, been living down here for almost 20 years now; I married a Florida native. And what I love most about living in this area is the people. Work with some fantastic people here in the 12th Circuit, all the lawyers, our neighbors, I mean, just some wonderful people. Living near the water, the Manatee River and we have the Gulf Coast that we live near, love that. And the activities in the area, so the music, or it be restaurants or running or various activities throughout the three counties. There's just a lot to do here.

DONNA RHODES: Someone -- a lot of people have commented that there's something for everyone in our area, no matter what your interests.

JUDGE INMAN: That is very true. That is very true, yep.

DONNA RHODES: So we have some really great spots for recreation. What do you like to do when you get outside to play?

JUDGE INMAN: Well, my youngest daughter and I love to garden, and over the past year or so we've really gotten more into it. So we have flowers and we have herbs and we have vegetables, and it's just a nice peaceful activity that we both like to do. Plus it gives us an opportunity to then cook with all of our own stuff that we grew. So we love to do that. When I want to get out and do some things, I'll either walk or I'll go running. So those are kind of like the top things that I like to do outside.

DONNA RHODES: Okay. I totally understand the growing your own stuff and then using them. I dabbled with potatoes this past summer. I grew a mess of them from just one potato. And mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, I enjoyed them very much.

JUDGE INMAN: You grew your own potatoes.

DONNA RHODES: Yes.

JUDGE INMAN: Interesting. I didn't know that you could grow potatoes in Florida.

DONNA RHODES: So easy, yes.

JUDGE INMAN: Interesting, usually hear that like an Idaho thing or Maine, but in Florida. And they tasted okay?

DONNA RHODES: Yeah, they were Yukon Gold, too, so buttery and delicious.

JUDGE INMAN: Interesting. I'll have to keep that in mind for next time.

DONNA RHODES: Start them in your pantry.

JUDGE INMAN: Oh. (Laughter) Yeah, you buy 10 pounds of them, and inevitably they're growing tubers on them, so yeah.

DONNA RHODES: Yep, yep. All right, back to the serious stuff. What is the biggest misconception people have about your job?

JUDGE INMAN: I would say one of the biggest misconceptions that we will see is that people or litigants will think, oh, well, I can just tell the judge to call so-and-so, and they'll be able to tell the judge what it is that they need to know. And we can't do that. Judges are bound by a lot of rules, and everything that a judge can consider -- with certain exceptions -- has to be in court in the presence of both parties, so that each party has an opportunity to address what the judge is considering. So that's one thing.

The other thing is, that is a big misconception, is that the judge knows everything about the case when they sit down in the chair.

DONNA RHODES: Right.

JUDGE INMAN: And we don't. We know what the allegations are, generally speaking, and we know what's in the court file, and that's really it. And so if I'm in a hearing with pro-se folks, meaning people that are representing themselves, and we're starting a hearing or a trial, I try to make sure they know -- blank slate, I only know what the allegations are, so you need to tell me what it is you think I need to know to address your case. And so I think those are two of the biggest misconceptions, that judges know everything about the case and that we can just call somebody when I get up to my office.

DONNA RHODES: All right.

JUDGE INMAN: Yeah, we can't do either of those. Can't do that.

DONNA RHODES: Now, you mentioned rules, and I think this next question might go to some of those rules, too. Why can't judges comment on pending or impending cases?

JUDGE INMAN: Well, as I said in my prior answer, judges are bound to follow a number -- not only the substantive law of the State of Florida and rules of procedure in Florida, but we have rules of ethics that we have to follow. And if we were to comment on cases we may see, or comment on a case that's pending before us, that may violate the rules of ethics in the sense that we may be making statements for or against a party, and that could be the basis of a motion to disqualify later.

And every case has to be heard on its merits, and so if you're making broad statements about your views on a certain subject or something like that, and then that subject comes before you as part of a case, well, you've already made suggestions on your personal feelings about something. And a judge's rulings need to be based on the law, not based on a judge's personal feelings on something. So that's one of the reasons why we have those rules in place.

DONNA RHODES: Yep, yep, understood. Lastly, what does access to justice mean to you?

JUDGE INMAN: What that means to me is that a litigant has access to the courthouse. So in other words, if they have an issue that they believe needs to be addressed by the Court, that they have access to the court system, whether they can afford the filing fee or not. If they can't afford it, then that's why we have affidavits of indigency, and they should be able to access the court system with the filing fees being waived.

It also means to me that once someone has had access to the system, they did then have notice and an opportunity to be heard. So not only are they aware of what's happening in their case, so is the other party, and both parties have an opportunity to come to the courthouse, come to the judge, explain their evidence, explain their arguments to the court, and let the court decide. And finally, I would also add that they have a neutral judge who is presiding over their case. Kind of harkening back to prior answers to some of your questions, everybody's entitled to have a judge that's not biased in one way or another in their case.

DONNA RHODES: Right.

JUDGE INMAN: So I think all of those are kind of part and parcel of that term "access to justice."

DONNA RHODES: Okay, all right. Those are the big Fast5 questions, going to move on to the lightning round. So you may not have any worth in this game here, but Gators or Seminoles?

JUDGE INMAN: Well, I did not go to school here, so I don't. But my husband attended -- well, he graduated from USF, so if I could say Bulls, I would, the USF Bulls. But he did attend a few semesters at FSU, so I'd have to say Seminoles.

DONNA RHODES: All right, all right.

JUDGE INMAN: Sorry, I don't know if you're a Gators fan.

DONNA RHODES: Interestingly enough, I went to Southeast High School, and they are Seminoles but yet Gator colors, so.

JUDGE INMAN: Interesting.

DONNA RHODES: Yeah, very weird time, in high school. What do you do to turn things around when you're having a bad day?

JUDGE INMAN: Well, my family knows this very well, too, and my JA knows this very well. I will just go and have -- I hate to use such a term, but it very much applies, I will just go and just have some quiet time.

DONNA RHODES: Okay.

JUDGE INMAN: For myself. So I'll shut my office door, or I'll go for a walk or something like that, and that just helps. It helps quite a bit to just have that time, where I don't have people around me or talking to me or whatever.

DONNA RHODES: Take a moment to breathe and just be, and be still.

JUDGE INMAN: Mm-hmm, and just kind of reflect.

DONNA RHODES: Mm-hmm. What's one item you can't leave home without?

JUDGE INMAN: My cellphone. I'm sure that's an answer that a lot of people have given, I'm guessing.

DONNA RHODES: Yeah. Have you turned around to go get it if you've forgotten it?

JUDGE INMAN: Yes.

DONNA RHODES: Yeah, okay. What's your go-to productivity trick?

JUDGE INMAN: I think I'm going to use the same answer I gave a couple seconds ago, quiet.

DONNA RHODES: All right.

JUDGE INMAN: If I need to focus or -- if it's not quiet, then I've got background noise, or I'll either have some kind of ambience on my computer or something, like playing wind or something, some kind of background noise.

DONNA RHODES: Similar to white noise or something?

JUDGE INMAN: Mm-hmm.

DONNA RHODES: Last question: What's the top destination on your must-visit list?

JUDGE INMAN: There's a lot, but I'd have to say Australia.

DONNA RHODES: Oh, yeah.

JUDGE INMAN: Yeah. We've had a few folks here that have been there and loved it.

DONNA RHODES: Well, that's it. You have survived Fast5. Thank you so much for hanging with us today. We'll see you around the courthouse.

JUDGE INMAN: Okay, great. Thank you for having me, I appreciate it.

DONNA RHODES: Welcome to Fast5, the official audio series of the 12th Judicial Circuit Court. I'm your host, Donna Rhodes. This episode we're sitting with Sarasota County Judge Dana Moss, who began her judicial service in 2019. She presides over County Civil Division C and D. Judge Moss also serves as the Circuit's representative on the Conference of County Court Judges of Florida Board of Directors. Judge Moss received her bachelor's degree from Penn State University and a juris doctor from the Florida Coastal School of Law. She was admitted to the Florida Bar in 2006.

Hi, Judge Moss, welcome to Fast5, and thanks for joining us.

JUDGE MOSS: Hi, Donna, thanks for having me.

DONNA RHODES: All right. So let's just get right to it. What do you like most about living here in our tri-county area? Or, if you came from -- you did come from another town or state I think, so what drew you here?

JUDGE MOSS: I think, like most people, when you think of Florida, we love -- love, love the warm climate, the beautiful beaches. So that's one of the main attractions in drawing me to Florida, especially Sarasota area. And I love the cultural events that we have available to us here, just the open markets, farm markets, we have opera, we have theater, art festivals. So at any given weekend you can venture out and find plenty to do. Plus I think we have a unique group of people that come into this area from all over the world. I find it fascinating to meet people. Just a nice diverse melting pot here.

DONNA RHODES: I like that, yes. So what do you like to do when you get outside to play?

JUDGE MOSS: Some things I love to do outside, believe it or not just put on a pair of roller blades heading over to Benderson Park, that makes for a fun morning. You got to get out there before the sun gets too hot though. And I like cycling. So I was in a cycling group for a while, where we would ride on Saturday mornings out on the local roads.

Although I'll tell you, the roads are getting crowded, so I'm spending more time indoor cycling, but when I can I like to get outside. And I love the new Legacy Trail.

DONNA RHODES: Oh, yeah, okay, you're not the first one to talk about Legacy Trail. So do you like spin?

JUDGE MOSS: I do spin.

DONNA RHODES: Okay.

JUDGE MOSS: I do spin.

DONNA RHODES: That is a -- that's powerful thing, and I'm rooting you on for that, but I will not be doing that.

JUDGE MOSS: (Laughter) It's a great way if you just want to close your eyes and pedal. I don't recommend that out on a main road, but in indoor classes it's a great way to just close your eyes, get into your zone, and just pedal.

DONNA RHODES: That's good advice. So what made you pursue a legal career?

JUDGE MOSS: You know, I always knew I wanted to go to law school. I think from an early age I knew this was a career path I wanted to pursue. I think a lot of it had to do with I knew it suits my personality type, and I like helping others. The job is challenging, I knew I would be able to find work that allows me to be analytical. And always something new to address, you never know what type of cases are going to come before you, and each one is new and challenging in and of itself, gives you a chance to research and learn more about the law. I just like the variety that it offers you. I think you can do just about anything with a law degree.

DONNA RHODES: Okay. Why can't a judge talk about a trial that has just concluded?

JUDGE MOSS: Judges cannot talk about a case that just concluded because there's always that possibility that it will come back on appeal, and it may come back before the Judge again, so certainly you don't want to talk about it with the parties. Sometimes, especially in criminal court, younger attorneys will want to come up after trial and ask for feedback, and if there's that possibility that the case is going to go up on appeal you just -- you can't engage, you have to stay quiet, stay neutral, wait for the case to become finalized.

DONNA RHODES: I never really considered that, not being able to critique someone who may have just gone through their first trial. I never -- that's interesting, I'm glad you brought that up.

My favorite question of all: What does access to justice mean to you?

JUDGE MOSS: To me it's more of a -- I like to think of it more like an action verb that we do here at the Twelfth Judicial Circuit. And what I mean by that, I think it takes a lot for our court administration, our judges to come together and make sure we keep our doors open and access to the public. So some of the things I've seen that we've done, and I think the 12th Circuit has done well, is keep the doors open during COVID. We did that a lot with Zoom, so making sure that the parties have access. And also, I think we've done a great job with having a lot of videos to help people, forms available for them. Especially if you're trying to go forward pro se, so they can go to the clerk's office, get the forms that they need, for example, to file an eviction or a small claims case. We have videos on our website that help people learn how to do those things as well. So there are people who cannot afford representation, this is a good way to make sure that they still have access to the system and there's some step-by-step instructions how to get something filed. We have our law library downstairs in the courthouse that allows people to go there for help if they need it, as well as some great organizations in the community -- Manasota Legal Aid, Cenacle Legal Aid. So we have a lot of organizations that will help pro se people. I think all of that helps explain access, it's an active way of keeping access open to the public. And then just justice itself is the judges' commitment to following the law, abiding by precedents, listening to the facts of the case when somebody comes before us, and applying the law and the case law that is binding on us.

DONNA RHODES: All right, that was a good one. Thank you.

All right, those are all the big Fast5 questions, we're moving on to the lightning round now: Gators or Seminoles? I realize it might not make much of a difference to you, but I'm posing it anyway.

JUDGE MOSS: All right. They're both Florida schools, I have friends who have kids in both schools, so I would equally support them both. I just think college sports is a great way for young adults to, one, stay active, keep their brains active, have physical exercise, teach them comradery, sportsmanship. And I think that's just some good skills that when they graduate from college they can take into the job marketplace. So I'm all for kids in sports, I don't care -- college, high school, and I don't care what school they're from, I'll cheer them on just because they're out there on the field.

DONNA RHODES: Okay, that's fair enough. There's hard work all around, isn't there.

JUDGE MOSS: Yes.

DONNA RHODES: On an airplane do you prefer an aisle or a window seat?

JUDGE MOSS: Hmm. You know, I've had some pretty good views from the window seat, so I'm not opposed to a window seat. I remember one night I had to fly in to an area and it was 4th of July, and I've seen some spectacular firework shows from there, so -- and seeing the Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon, different things over the years flying. You can see a lot from the window seat, I'm not opposed to a window seat.

DONNA RHODES: All right. What kind of activities energize you?

JUDGE MOSS: I get most energized when I'm able to travel and go someplace new, as well as just being outdoors. I love just smelling the air, hearing the birds chirping. You know, when we spend a lot of our days inside in air conditioning, it is so refreshing just to get outside and be a part of nature, especially if you're traveling and seeing something new.

DONNA RHODES: Yep, I agree totally. What is your favorite music genre?

JUDGE MOSS: I bet a lot of people say just about anything, but I'm going to tell you, that is the truth for me. Just about anything. I grew up with a mother who listened to the music from the 60s and 70s. I grew up also listening to some classic rock. I lived out west for a while, where we had about a hundred country radio stations, so it was country and nothing but country for a lot of years. I have a little old grandmother who grew up playing Pennsylvania polka, so Sunday mornings as she'd start cooking dinner and the polka music's going. Big band swing, top 40s with my kids. So all I can say, Donna, if you're ever on a trivia show and you get to phone a friend and you need to ask a music question, call me, because I can probably about come up with anything.

DONNA RHODES: Will do, especially with that Pennsylvania polka. All right, last question: How do you like to end your day?

JUDGE MOSS: I usually end my day going home and walking my rescue dog with my family. She's 12 years old, we've had her for a few years now, and she's anxiously waiting by the door waiting to go on her walk. And that's just our family time to talk about how everybody's day went, and get to see the neighbors, keep up with what's going on out in our neighborhood. Just having that family time and time with the dog.

DONNA RHODES: All right, that sounds lovely. You have successfully survived Fast5. Thank you so much for spending time with us today, and we'll see you around the courthouse.

JUDGE MOSS: It was fun, thanks for having me.

DONNA RHODES: Welcome to Fast5, the official audio series of the 12th Judicial Circuit Court. I'm your host, Donna Rhodes. This episode we're sitting with Manatee County Judge Melissa Gould, who was elected to the county court bench and began her service in January 2021. She presides over county civil and county criminal division 4. Judge Gould received her juris doctor from the City University of New York School of Law and obtained a Master of Law degree from the University of Cambridge in the UK. She was admitted to The Florida Bar in 2007.

Hi, Judge Gould. Welcome to Fast5, and thanks for joining us.

JUDGE GOULD: Hi. Thank you for having me, I'm excited to be here.

DONNA RHODES: All right. So let's just jump right into it. What do you like most about living here in our tri-county area? Or if you came from another place, what drew you here?

JUDGE GOULD: Excellent question. So I moved here in 2012 from Michigan.

DONNA RHODES: Oh.

JUDGE GOULD: And I'm going to back up the story a little bit. I'm American, but a good chunk of my childhood I spent in Canada. I went to New York for law school, and then after law school I did a masters, and then relocated to Tampa.

During that time I met my fantastic husband, but he wasn't done in school, so we ended up in Michigan for his residency. And then we moved back here because he's from here. And when he showed me around this place, before we decided to make this our forever home, I fell in love. This place is paradise, it really is. People vacation here, and I am lucky and fortunate to just call this place home.

DONNA RHODES: That's right, that's right. So we have some really great spots for recreation, what do you like to do when you get outside to play?

JUDGE GOULD: I have two young kids; Nora just turned 6, and Aaron is turning 9. And so most of our weekend and evening activities are around their schedules and whatever it is that they're wanting to do. But as a family we like to go to the beach, and we all play golf together.

DONNA RHODES: Oh, golf, nice.

JUDGE GOULD: Yeah. So Nora is super cute. She's a lefty, and so the way she swings cracks me up. I used to compete in golf when I was younger, and I also used to play with my mom, and it was important to me to sort of do that with my kids. And Ryan is on board, so that's great.

DONNA RHODES: So if you were not a judge what would you be doing?

JUDGE GOULD: Have I told you that I'm a foodie?

DONNA RHODES: No.

JUDGE GOULD: Okay. So I'm a foodie. And I think that if I wasn't a judge, and also not a lawyer, I would own a restaurant. And I picked the name for my restaurant when I was a little girl, it would be Milo's Quarters. And that's what I would do, I would own and operate my foodie haven.

DONNA RHODES: Okay, so are you a budding chef?

JUDGE GOULD: I'm not, I don't cook at all.

DONNA RHODES: Oh.

JUDGE GOULD: Just like to eat.

DONNA RHODES: Not a problem.

JUDGE GOULD: No judgment from you.

DONNA RHODES: No, none at all. You can hire somebody to cook at that fancy restaurant, mm-hmm.

JUDGE GOULD: Oh, I didn't say it was going to be fancy

DONNA RHODES: Oh, okay, okay. We like family style, too.

JUDGE GOULD: Yes.

DONNA RHODES: Why can't judges comment on pending or impending cases?

JUDGE GOULD: So it's my job to follow the law. My personal thoughts or beliefs about a case don't matter. I may make a ruling I personally don't agree with, because the law told me I had to. Additionally, if I expressed personal opinions about a case or a type of case, I'm not a neutral judge. And so everyone is entitled to a neutral judge that has no predispositions.

DONNA RHODES: I see, okay. So this way you're kind of not letting people know how you would lean against -- or on any type of decision, because it's just not out there, and it's not necessary.

JUDGE GOULD: And it really doesn't matter. I don't know how I'm going to lean. Every case should be, and has been with me, decided on the facts of the case and the applicable law.

DONNA RHODES: Okay. And your last big Fast5 question: What does access to justice mean to you?

JUDGE GOULD: Have you had the opportunity to ever visit the Supreme Court in Washington?

DONNA RHODES: No.

JUDGE GOULD: So written on the side of the wall is: "Equal justice under the law." And that resonates with me. I want every single person who comes before me and comes into my courtroom to feel like they're being treated with respect, compassion, and equal under the law. I want them to have an opportunity to voice whatever it is that they're there for, and feel as though that I've listened to them and considered what they've had to say and then made my ruling. And even if the ruling is not in their favor, I want them to have a feeling like that they were heard, and to me that's part of access to justice.

DONNA RHODES: Okay. That's it, that's it for the big ones.

JUDGE GOULD: That was only four and a half minutes, I don't know, what do you want to talk about?

DONNA RHODES: Let's go to the lightning round now. So first up: Gators or Seminoles?

JUDGE GOULD: I did not go either school, and I know that there's some rivalry I think with the Florida Bar as to what judge went where and how many judges went to each school. At least somebody intelligent told me that at one point in time. I have degrees from three different schools, three different countries, and I think I would not be loyal if I commented. So I'm respectfully declining to answer that question.

DONNA RHODES: Understood. Funny enough, you are not the first judge to respectfully decline that question. What's your favorite movie snack?

JUDGE GOULD: I'm old school, I just like the normal popcorn. If I haven't eaten lunch or I don't plan on eating dinner, I will also have some peanut M&Ms to go along with that.

DONNA RHODES: I love peanut M&Ms.

JUDGE GOULD: So good, and you get some protein in ...

DONNA RHODES: Something your body needs. Are you an early bird or a night owl?

JUDGE GOULD: So I get up really early, and -- yeah, early bird. I'm usually asleep by 9.

DONNA RHODES: All right. When you're alone in the car, at what volume is the music set?

JUDGE GOULD: Super loud.

DONNA RHODES: Yes.

JUDGE GOULD: Makes me happy, and I sing along.

DONNA RHODES: Excellent. Love that. And lastly, what is one item on your bucket list?

JUDGE GOULD: Traveling to exotic places. And two places that are on my list are an Africa safari and going to the Galapagos Islands.

DONNA RHODES: Oh, nice. Those are very cool things to do.

JUDGE GOULD: I wouldn't know, they're on my bucket list

DONNA RHODES: Okay, I'll give you that. Okay, that's it, you have successfully survived Fast5. Thank you so much for joining us today, and we'll see you around the courthouse.

JUDGE GOULD: My pleasure.

DONNA RHODES: Welcome to Fast5, the official audio series of the Twelfth Judicial Circuit Court. I'm your host, Donna Rhodes.

In this episode, we're talking with Manatee County Court Judge Jacqueline Steele, who joined the county bench in July of 2020 and presides over Manatee County Civil and Criminal Division II.

Judge Steele received her bachelor's degree from the University of South Florida and her juris doctor from the Florida State University College of Law. Hi, Judge Steele, welcome to Fast5 and thanks for joining us.

JUDGE STEELE: Hi, Donna. I'm happy to be here and thank you for asking.

DONNA RHODES: So let's just get right to it. What do you like most about living here in our Tri-County area, or if you came from another state, what drew you here?

JUDGE STEELE: Well, I'm a native Floridian, so I love the Florida weather. And I came originally from Tampa, so what drew me here was work back in '95/'96. But what I love about it is the similarity to the way Tampa was when I was growing up, because Tampa has exploded with the population and so has Manatee and Sarasota Counties, but it's closer to how I remember Tampa being when I was growing up. Although, I have a suspicion we're headed in the same direction because of growth.

But it's a beautiful area, close proximity to the water, also close proximity to a lot of wooded areas. My husband loves camping and walking in the state parks and that kind of thing, and there's great activities all around the area for that.

DONNA RHODES: So, we have some really great spots for recreation. What do you like to do when you get outside to play?

JUDGE STEELE: Well, frankly, I touched on that with what drew us to the area. But we really like to go out and walk in the woods. I like to walk on the beach, as well, and just be outdoors. I love so many little restaurants and places that you can go and sit outside and enjoy the breeze. And there's times when it's stifling with the heat in August and September and October, but we have the fortune of it been beautiful a good portion of the year and allowing us to do outdoor activities.

DONNA RHODES: What made you pursue a legal career?

JUDGE STEELE: Well, in high school, I took a Gregg shorthand class; which I'm dating myself by even mentioning that. But it was an old fashioned way to take down dictation with symbols, and the lady who taught it had been a court reporter for many years before she started teaching. And she loved the law, and she really encouraged us to look into that if we were so inclined. And so I started thinking about court reporting and looking into the law, and my dad encouraged me to -- to go ahead and go into the legal field as an attorney. And I really love it, and I have been blessed to then be able to serve as a judge.

DONNA RHODES: All right. Why is it important that judges have an ethical code of conduct that applies on and off the bench?

JUDGE STEELE: I think it's the thing that sets the judiciary apart, and it's really imperative for impartiality. We are held to a higher standard for good reason; because, we need to maintain that impartiality, and our ethical compass helps us to do that because that does apply on and off the bench. So when people come before us, they need to feel like they are going to be heard and that we don't have any bias or partiality toward anyone or any entity, and so I think the ethical code provides the guidelines that we have to follow and keeps everyone in line for that purpose.

DONNA RHODES: Okay. Lastly, what does access to justice mean to you?

JUDGE STEELE: I -- I feel it's something that means everyone has an equal opportunity to see whatever dispute they have through and to come before the judge and be heard. Whether or not they end up prevailing, everyone has the equal opportunity to pursue if they feel they've had some sort of wrong done to them. They also, obviously in a criminal setting, have the opportunity to be heard and prove -- and have the State have to prove the case against them beyond a reasonable doubt. It's one of the only systems of justice in this world that operates in that fashion, and I think there's great wisdom to our founders setting it up in that way.

DONNA RHODES: All right. That's it for big Fast5 questions. We're going to move on to the lighting round.

JUDGE STEELE: Okay.

DONNA RHODES: Gators or Seminoles?

JUDGE STEELE: Seminoles. Go Noles!

DONNA RHODES: I knew that was going to be your answer. On an airplane, do you prefer the window or the aisle seat?

JUDGE STEELE: I'm an aisle seat kind of person, just because I want to be able to, honestly, get up and move around if I need to, so I prefer not to be impeded in that way.

DONNA RHODES: That makes sense.

 

JUDGE STEELE: Ah-hum.

DONNA RHODES: Good book or good film?

JUDGE STEELE: Book.

DONNA RHODES: All right.

JUDGE STEELE: I have an English education background, and I love reading.

DONNA RHODES: Okay. Dogs or cats? JUDGE STEELE: Dogs. I'm a dog person.

DONNA RHODES: Yay, dog person! Go dogs! And then lastly, what is one item on your bucket list?

JUDGE STEELE: I'd love to travel to Egypt and see the pyramids.

DONNA RHODES: Oh, all right.

JUDGE STEELE: We got to go to Israel in 2018, which was my top bucket list. So now that I've done that, I would like to see the pyramids in Egypt. I'm just not sure when I'll be able to do that.

DONNA RHODES: All right. That's sounds like a great plan. And you have successfully survived Fast5. Thank you so much for being such a good sport and joining us today, and we'll see you around the courthouse.

JUDGE STEELE: Oh, thank you so much, Donna. Take care.

DONNA RHODES: Welcome to Fast5, the official audio series of the Twelfth Judicial Circuit Court. I'm your host, Donna Rhodes.

This episode we're chatting with Circuit Judge Debra Johnes Riva. Judge Riva joined the Twelfth Circuit bench in January of 2007 and presides over the Juvenile Division Sarasota County. She received her bachelor's degree from the University of South Florida -- go Bulls -- and her J.D. from Nova Southeastern University.

Hi, Judge Riva. Welcome to Fast5, and thanks for joining us.

JUDGE RIVA: Thank you for having me.

DONNA RHODES: So a fun fact about you is that you have officiated the last six 'Say I Do Again' events on Siesta Beach. The events are a sweet celebration of love and marriage, but they also seem like a really fun way for a judge to interact with the community.

JUDGE RIVA: It's a fabulous way to interact. I look forward to it every year, and it might just be one of my favorite things about judging.

DONNA RHODES: Nice. All right. So let's just jump into the Fast5 questions. 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 here?

JUDGE RIVA: I was born and raised here in Sarasota, at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, and mostly have lived here in this area for the majority of my life. I love, love, love the beaches, the water, the sun, boating, all the things that -- that Florida has to offer, and it's just a great, still sort of a small town community feel for me here in Sarasota.

DONNA RHODES: Okay. So you mentioned boating, the beach. What are some other great spots for recreation? What do you like to do when you get outside to play?

JUDGE RIVA: Well, those are some of the top things I like to do, but I also enjoy running. I have a running group that actually Judge Roberts is a part of the group --

DONNA RHODES: Yep.

JUDGE RIVA: -- I run with here in Sarasota and have for many years, and we like to take annual running trips to other states, different destination races, so that's a lot of fun.

I also enjoy cycling.

DONNA RHODES: Oh, all right.

JUDGE RIVA: And we have some great -- Legacy Trail, other great areas to ride in Sarasota and -- and Bradenton, actually --

DONNA RHODES: Okay.

JUDGE RIVA: -- the Robinson Preserve. So I enjoy that.

DONNA RHODES: Okay. How would your ten-year-old self react to what you do now?

JUDGE RIVA: I think my ten-year-old self would say: Gee, you finally get to use all those notes that you take and enjoy taking in every situation. Put it to good use.

DONNA RHODES: Yep.

JUDGE RIVA: Yeah.

DONNA RHODES: All right. What does "judicial independence" mean?

JUDGE RIVA: Well, I think the fact that the judiciary is an independent or separate branch of government is really what makes our entire judicial system successful. I think our forefathers got it right when they created a system with three branches of government, and it just really ensures that the judges aren't influenced by outside factors, that we're making decisions based on -- based on the facts and the law that is in front of us.

DONNA RHODES: Okay. The last Fast5 question is my favorite. What does "Access to Justice" mean to you?

JUDGE RIVA: "Access to Justice" means that all people, regardless of status, class, economic standing, or race, really all people have the ability to access the courts, and I think it's demonstrated, for example, if someone, whether it's a man or a woman, has a need for a restraining order, a temporary restraining order because of allegations of domestic violence, you know, any person can apply. They have to fill out a sworn affidavit for that, but there's no filing fee, so they have access and because -- even despite the fact that they -- they might not have money or they might be in a situation where they can't afford to pay court costs, they still would have the ability to access the courts, and I think that's a good example of -- of what that stands for.

DONNA RHODES: Okay. Those are all the hard Fast5 questions. Moving on to the lightning round. Gator's or Seminoles?

JUDGE RIVA: I have to say Seminoles, although, as you said, I'm -- I'm a Bull so --

DONNA RHODES: So --

JUDGE RIVA: But my husband's a longtime, lifetime, Seminole fan, so I'll go with Seminoles.

DONNA RHODES: Okay. What type of music do you prefer?

JUDGE RIVA: My favorite type of music is reggae music, but I do enjoy all types, you know, the gambit, country, pop, but reggae is really my favorite.

DONNA RHODES: Okay. That's a little surprising. Do you like the offshoot of reggae, ska?

JUDGE RIVA: I do like it, but I -- I like the legends: Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff. I still like sort of classic reggae but --

DONNA RHODES: Okay.

JUDGE RIVA: -- but I -- but I can listen to some ska as well.

DONNA RHODES: Okay. Okay. Very good. Are you an early bird or a night owl?

JUDGE RIVA: Early bird.

DONNA RHODES: Mm-hmm. Dogs or cats?

JUDGE RIVA: Dogs.

DONNA RHODES: All right, and lastly, what is one item on your bucket list?

JUDGE RIVA: I really would like to take a trip to Italy.

I've traveled within the United States a little bit, but really have never traveled outside of the United States, and I would like to check off the list of having been to Italy.

DONNA RHODES: Okay. All right. That sounds like fun. You have successfully survived Fast5. Thank you so much for sitting down and talking with us, and we'll see you around the courthouse.

JUDGE RIVA: Thank you, Donna. It was my pleasure.

DONNA RHODES: Welcome to Fast5, the official audio series of the Twelfth Judicial Circuit Court. I'm your host, Donna Rhodes.

This episode we're chatting with Sarasota County Judge Maryann Boehm. Judge Boehm joined the County Court bench in January of 2011 and presides over Sarasota County Civil and Criminal Division B. She received her bachelor's degree from the University of Florida and her J.D. from South Texas College of Law.

Hi, Judge Boehm. Welcome to Fast5, and thanks for joining us.

JUDGE BOEHM: Thank you. This is fun.

DONNA RHODES: All right. So let's just jump right to it then. What do you like most about living here in our tri-county area, or if you came from another town, state, what drew you to this area?

JUDGE BOEHM: Well, Sarasota's my hometown, but it's such a beautiful place. I love raising my family here. It's such a great place to call home. We obviously have the number 1 beach in America, which is great, but we have fabulous restaurants, we have theater. I love the theater. We have, you know, the Asolo, the Sarasota Opera, the Sarasota Ballet. There's just such a wide variety of things. There's something for everyone here. I love it.

DONNA RHODES: All right. Well, so we also have some really great spots for recreation. What do you like to do when you get outside to play?

JUDGE BOEHM: Well, being on a boat is fun, but I love to hike the big hill at the Celery Fields. That's probably my absolute favorite thing to do. It's great to see all the wildlife out there. The Audubon Society's there. And a lot of times, when you're hiking, you can even hear the tigers roar from the big habitat right next door, so that's --

DONNA RHODES: Oh --

JUDGE BOEHM: -- really very thrilling, to be walking and hear tigers roar.

DONNA RHODES: Oh. You know, I've heard that, and I -- I really want to get down to Celery Fields and see that myself, yeah.

JUDGE BOEHM: It's really nice.

JUDGE BOEHM: You know what else is nice? When you walk -- you can hike to the top and watch the sunset from the big hill. It's just beautiful. It's so peaceful.

DONNA RHODES: Okay. Oh, that sounds like something to do on my -- for my to-do list.

What made you pursue a legal career?

JUDGE BOEHM: I thought about this question. Probably my dad. My dad was a self-made man. He grew up during the Depression. He could build a house from -- from the start to finish and then became a developer and -- in Charlotte County, but he took some legal classes -- some legal classes along the way, and he really thought it was important for me to study the law and to learn the law. Even starting in high school, I started getting very interested in the law, and he's the one that really made me pursue a legal career.

DONNA RHODES: Okay.

JUDGE BOEHM: He was so proud at my graduation. It was ...

DONNA RHODES: I'll bet. Why is it important for courts to preserve “the rule of law”?

JUDGE BOEHM: “The rule of law” means that everyone has an equal opportunity to come to court and everyone is going to be treated equally, which is so important. I think it's even with heightened awareness with the issues that have been going on in our country in the past few years. But everyone needs to be treated fairly, and everyone needs to be held accountable, as well, to the same law. So there needs to be clear and fair procedures. Everything needs to be fair. We need to have an impartial judiciary. And I think there's nothing more important than “the rule of law.”

DONNA RHODES: Okay. That leads to my next question. It's also my favorite question. What does “access to justice” mean to you?

JUDGE BOEHM: “Access to justice” means no matter how much money you have, no matter what your situations are, justice should be fair and equal to everyone regardless of your race, your creed, your religion. But County Court, especially, is the People's Court, so people -- most people come to County so they're representing themselves, and sometimes people just want to be heard. So to me, as a judge, listening is probably the most important skill, and to allow people to have their day in court is true “access to justice” because some people just want to be heard. They want a fair decision, whether it's an argument with their neighbor or -- over a fence, whatever it is, but they really want their day in court, they deserve their day in court, and win or lose, I hope, at the end of the day at least, they were all heard, everyone feels heard, in my courtroom.

DONNA RHODES: Very good. Those are the really big Fast5 questions. We're going to move on to the lightning round now. I think I know the answer, Gators or Seminoles?

JUDGE BOEHM: Oh, Gators. Gators all the way.

DONNA RHODES: All right. What's your favorite lunchtime meal?

JUDGE BOEHM: Probably kind of boring, a Chicken Caesar Salad.

DONNA RHODES: All right. Nothing wrong with that.

DONNA RHODES: What's your secret talent?

JUDGE BOEHM: Well, I'm a singer so -- I don't know if it's secret or not so secret, but yes, I was a professional singer and dancer at Walt Disney World before I went to law school.

DONNA RHODES: Oh, very interesting. Okay. Are you an early bird or a night owl?

JUDGE BOEHM: You know, it depends on the day, but most of the time probably a night owl.

DONNA RHODES: Okay.

JUDGE BOEHM: I'm probably that person staying up, okay, I want to go to sleep by 10:00, now it's 11:30, I just got to finish these three things.

DONNA RHODES: All right. Never enough time in the day.

JUDGE BOEHM: No.

DONNA RHODES: And lastly, what is one item on your bucket list.

JUDGE BOEHM: Well, my daughter and I love the Phantom of the Opera so it's been -- before the pandemic, we had plans to go to London and to see --

DONNA RHODES: Oh --

JUDGE BOEHM: -- the Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre in London, so maybe soon we will be able to travel to London and I can -- both of my daughters love it, but maybe all three of us will be able to travel to London and see the Phantom of the Opera in London at Her Majesty's Theatre. That would be just ideal.

DONNA RHODES: That sounds awesome. All right. Well, you have successfully survived the Fast5. I thank you for joining us today and spending time with us, and we'll see you around the courthouse.

JUDGE BOEHM: Thank you. Thank you so much. Have a great day.

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 interesting.

DONNA RHODES: All right. I've heard a lot about Legacy Trail, I really need to get down there and get on it.

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 get here.

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 remarkable.

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.

DONNA RHODES: Welcome to Fast5, the official audio series of the 12th Judicial Circuit Court. I'm your host, Donna Rhodes. This episode we're joined by Circuit Judge Gilbert Smith Jr., who joined the 12th Circuit bench in January 2009. He presides over Circuit Juvenile, Division J, in Manatee County. Judge Smith earned his bachelor's degree from the University of South Florida, and JD from University of the Pacific in California. Hi, Judge Smith. Welcome to Fast5, and thanks for being here.

JUDGE SMITH: Thank you for asking me to be here.

DONNA RHODES: So let's just jump right to it. What do you like most about living here in our tri-county area? I would normally ask, or if you came from somewhere else, why did you come here, but I think you're from here.

JUDGE SMITH: Yeah, I am from here, and there's -- everything I like about here is the same as when I grew up here -- living on the coast, living in a relatively smaller town now, not like it used to be small, and of course the people here -- is why I'm here.

DONNA RHODES: Yep. So we have some really great spots for recreation. What do you like to do when you get outside to play?

JUDGE SMITH: Kayak is what I normally do. Kayaking, hiking -- which, you know, walking, but -- of course I'm a Boy Scout, so hiking is what I refer to anytime that I'm out walking. And of course I like to find where I can hike through woods or through natural areas, where other people don't go necessarily.

DONNA RHODES: Oh, so primitive trails, things like that?

JUDGE SMITH: Yeah, primitive trails. There's not as many, sometimes you have to go east. Sometimes there's some in the west near the coastline where other people don't go. One of the places where my wife and I go to is the Robinson Preserve.

DONNA RHODES: Oh, yeah.

JUDGE SMITH: Where you can kayak through different waterways that they have there. But there's also some trails that a lot of people don't go on, but I do.

DONNA RHODES: All right.

JUDGE SMITH: The ones off the path.

DONNA RHODES: If you were not a judge what would you be doing?

JUDGE SMITH: Well, that's a good question. You know, before I went to law school I was in banking, and I did like banking a lot, so I probably -- I would think that I might be in banking. Even though I have so many other interests. And actually even before I was a banker I did a lot of other things too, I've had a lot of jobs in my life. But right now I'm -- aside from working as a judge, I enjoy studying history, so I may be doing something in history.

DONNA RHODES: Okay. What is the right to appeal and why is it important?

JUDGE SMITH: Well, you know, the right to appeal is so important because it gives that party, the aggrieved party, the party that was not on the favorable end of the ruling by the judge, to have it reconsidered on the law by the appellate court. And it's such an important right because there's so often, as judges, where we are following the law and we end up -- and parties that are not involved in the law do not understand exactly the history of why the law is there and don't understand all the reasons. So it is important at times to have that right to appeal, because often the judge is following the law and the judge may not even agree with what the law is at the time, but they're following the law, and based on what the facts are. It gives an opportunity for the party to fully have his case decided by the judiciary, as far as he can take it up to have his rights looked at by different courts.

DONNA RHODES: Right, okay. What does access to justice mean to you?

JUDGE SMITH: Access to justice to me means that everyone should have a right to have a trier of the fact -- which would be a judge, a hearing officer, a magistrate -- review the issues that are in dispute between parties. Whether it's a civil matter or a criminal matter, you know, everybody has a right to that. And what's been impressive, Donna, during this pandemic is how our chief judges -- Judge Bonner and now Judge Roberts -- and of course our Supreme Court Chief Justice, Charles Canady -- has focused in on that access to justice being the most important thing to keep the courts open, to allow people to have their case heard, or to have their case proceed through the system. And even though there have been lots -- lots of instances where the cases do not get to be tried or resolved, the access is there to keep the case moving. And it's going to be up to the parties how they want to proceed on whether or not they want to delay that justice, you know, or they want to allow it to proceed to where they can get a resolution to it. But access to justice is so important for people to have that right, to have their dispute or their charges reviewed by a court right away.

DONNA RHODES: Okay, all right.

JUDGE SMITH: All right?

DONNA RHODES: Those are the big Fast5 questions. We're moving on to the fun ones.

JUDGE SMITH: Okay.

DONNA RHODES: And this one might not make much difference to you, but Gators or Seminoles?

JUDGE SMITH: I was raised being a Gator because my father went there. I happen to have loved Bobby Bowden so I became a Seminole, but I didn't go to either school. So I don't have an allegiance to either one, and -- so I'm a South Florida Bull. And then of course when I went to law school, I went all the way to California, a totally different team.

DONNA RHODES: Yeah, that's all right, all right. So what is your favorite time of day?

JUDGE SMITH: My favorite time of day is 6 a.m.

DONNA RHODES: All right.

JUDGE SMITH: I'm a morning person. I start -- when I wake up in the morning I'm already thinking about the day. It's usually about an hour before that, or earlier. And so I love the mornings. And I'll tell you, it goes back to growing up. I spent so much time in the woods as a scout, the best time of the day to me was the morning when the -- when it's so fresh outside. It seems cleaner outside, and there's still animals outside that may be those animals that you would not see that are just going back into hiding. And the birds are chirping, and it's just a fresher time of the day for me, I love it. I love the mornings.

DONNA RHODES: I'm a morning person, too. I mean, there's always fresh hope and promise with each morning.

JUDGE SMITH: Right. That's -- and I agree with you on that. It's just a new day and new opportunity --

DONNA RHODES: Yep.

JUDGE SMITH: -- for us.

DONNA RHODES: So if you had a time machine, would you go back in time or into the future?

JUDGE SMITH: Well, I'd probably go back in time just enough to do some things differently. That's what I think.

DONNA RHODES: Okay.

JUDGE SMITH: And, you know, it's great the way that things have modernized, it's great the way -- in a lot of ways, the technology. But growing up in more simple times was so much easier, so much less stress, and so much more wholesome. And the older we get, we recognize that the more important things in life are not those material things.

DONNA RHODES: Right.

JUDGE SMITH: Not those fast-moving things, it's the more wholesome things, the family, relationships.

DONNA RHODES: Connections to others?

JUDGE SMITH: Right, the friendships, you know, those. Right, right. Things slow down. Things are very fast now because of a lot more people, a lot more things to do, the technology, I mean everything goes so fast.

DONNA RHODES: Yeah. What's the title of your memoir?

JUDGE SMITH: I would say Lucky.

DONNA RHODES: Okay, all right. Short and sweet. JUDGE SMITH: That's what it would be.

DONNA RHODES: Okay. And finally, what is one item on your bucket list?

JUDGE SMITH: Still to hike the Appalachian Trail.

DONNA RHODES: All of it?

JUDGE SMITH: All of it, yeah.

DONNA RHODES: Okay. Have you done some of it?

JUDGE SMITH: I have.

DONNA RHODES: Okay.

JUDGE SMITH: I've done quite a bit of it. But it takes three to four months to do, and you got to have time off to do that of course.

DONNA RHODES: Yeah, you do.

JUDGE SMITH: And I've done segments of it. I've done the first 50 miles, and I've done the last 10 miles.

DONNA RHODES: All right, all right, so you just need to get everything in between.

JUDGE SMITH: So I have done a few segments. I spent more of my hiking in the west, growing up, and with Boy Scouts at a ranch out there, Philmont Scout Ranch. So I love hiking, and have hiked all over Florida but it's different in the mountains. I enjoy hiking just about everywhere.

DONNA RHODES: All right. You have successfully survived the Fast5 questions. Thank you so much for joining us today, and we'll see you around the courthouse.

JUDGE SMITH: Okay, thank you, Donna. I enjoyed it.

Transcripts from Season 1

Read transcripts from Fast5 Season 1.