PBCBA BAR BULLETINS pbcba_bulletin_June 2019 - Page 7

DIVERSITY C o r n e r Some of the Women Judges of the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit: Who They Are, What They Have Done, and Why You Should Know Them- Part II LISA KOHRING “The strongest quality a leader can have is to learn and be vulnerable.” ~ Chief Judge Marx “If you work hard, good things will follow.” ~ Judge Caracuzzo “If you’re not learning, you’re moving backward.” ~ Judge Collins Whoever spread the rumor that women are weaker, must not have truly known women. Although we haven’t achieved equality, it’s within reach and the women judges of the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit are trailblazing a meticulously clear path that we’d all be wise to memorize. In 2016, I authored Part I of this article, which featured four prominent women judges in our Circuit. The article recounted some of the experiences and cultural influences that made these women judges powerful partners in our legal community. The goal was to learn their “secrets to success” in our fiercely competitive, and predominantly male-dominated, legal field. They’ve each achieved success, and I’m simply not interested in reinventing the wheel. Most important, I wanted to share these “golden nuggets” with each of you because, after all, women need to support women. This past April, I was fortunate to have a second opportunity to collect and mete out more of these “secrets to success” when I spoke one-on-one with Chief Judge Krista Marx, Judge Cheryl Caracuzzo, and Judge Sherri Collins. They shared their histories, their sources of inspiration, and some of the ways they’ve each harnessed their individual “female power” to positively impact our legal community. This is Part II. Chief Judge Krista Marx was appointed to the judiciary in 1998, and over the past twenty-one years, she’s worked hard and smart to rise through the ranks of our Judiciary. In 2017, Chief Judge Marx became the third woman to be selected by her peers as the Chief Judge of the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit. She’s also the second woman to Chair the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission since the Florida Constitution established it 53 years ago in 1966. As the Chair, she leads the Commission in reviewing complaints of judicial misconduct and advising the Florida Supreme Court on whether it should impose discipline. Given the list of her impressive achievements, one might be surprised to learn that law was not always the path she intended to blaze. In the early 80’s, she was a disc jockey and an aspiring reporter with dreams of working in television, but after suffering a vicious attack, she changed course. She’d never been in a courtroom nor exposed to the legal system, but after being poorly treated, she says she “felt a great injustice of the system” and knew immediately that she wanted to be part of changing the system. Her advice to women, “don’t be afraid of failure, jump [in] and take action.” Judge Cheryl Caracuzzo was appointed to our Circuit in 2015. Before her appointment, she spent nearly two decades prosecuting cases in the West Palm Beach Office of the State Attorney; first, prosecuting in the Misdemeanor/DUI division, later as the Chief of the Gang and Gun Unit, and, last, prosecuting homicides. Even before practicing law, she worked as a data processor and a secretary for the State Attorney. Judge Caracuzzo hails from a humble background; she was the first person in her family to attend college. Her mother was a dedicated bookkeeper who understood the value of loyalty, longevity, and dedication to her profession, and she taught Judge Caracuzzo the importance of giving 100% in every endeavor. Her mother is her “rock” and raised Judge Caracuzzo to see options, not obstacles. She “never saw gender as an obstacle” to her goals. Her advice to women, “do [the job] until it’s right [and] if you are not going to do it right, don’t do it.” Judge Sherri Collins was appointed to our Circuit in 2016. She also spent more than a decade prosecuting cases at the West Palm Beach Office of the State Attorney and a decade prosecuting cases in the felony and DUI divisions in Plantation PBCBA BAR BULLETIN 7 Key. Judge Collins was raised in a family of lawyers. Her father was an exceptionally brilliant Wills & Estates practitioner and, as a 10-year-old, she’d spend time accompanying him to client meetings and learning tidbits about law. From then on, Judge Collins knew she’d practice law herself someday. After graduating from law school, she interned at the Dade County State Attorney’s Office working under strong women litigators, including Janet Reno, who “took charge” and exuded passion for law. She’s not a stranger to gender-based disparate treatment; during our meeting she recounted a time when a judge barked, “sit down and hush little girl.” Judge Collins didn’t let such treatment derail her dreams; instead, she persevered. Her advice to women, “focus your attention on what you are doing today” and “do the right thing.” I’ve learned that successful women have a unique way of deriving power when they accept themselves at face value. They don’t hide their opinions or identities. They embrace their strengths and weaknesses. They identify vulnerabilities and flaws and meet them head on. They give 100% and “do the right thing”. Chief Judge Marx, Judge Caracuzzo, and Judge Collins are successful because they’ve mastered these “secrets of success”. Lisa Kohring is a Senior Litigation Attorney at the Palm Beach County School District practicing employment litigation and can be reached at [email protected] org. Visit our CLE library cle.palmbeachbar.org