Judge Lauren P. Blocker of the 7th Judicial Circuit was one of nine judges appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to fill new vacancies created by the Florida Legislature. She recently joined the court in St. Johns County and took time to speak with The Recorder about her new role.
Tell me a little about your background, your education and the road to your current position as judge.
It’s a little bit of a winding road. I went to the University of Florida for undergraduate, and I got a degree in environmental science, and I minored in Italian. Then, I went to Florida Coastal for law school. I was able to intern for a circuit court judge in Jacksonville and in the Florida Supreme Court with Justice Polston.
After law school, I worked for a couple of solo practitioners. They had a high volume of work. My goal was to find a judicial clerkship, which I was able to do with Judge (Marcia Morales) Howard in the Middle District. That was in October 2011.
Typically, clerkships are only two years, but I really enjoyed the complexity of the work and the variety of work. … It’s a great experience, so I stayed with Judge Howard for four years, and then was able to do a year with Judge (Patricia) Barksdale, who’s a magistrate judge. …
Then, I went in-house, which was a great experience. I went in-house with Southeastern Grocers. They’re the parent company of Winn-Dixie. I was able to do a variety of different things, compliance to contracts.
And then I was at FIS (Fidelity Information Services), which is a Fortune 500 company.
When this opening came up — this is the first new position we’ve had since, I believe, the 1970s — I decided to apply and was lucky enough to get the position. …
I really just have a wide variety of legal experience, and I felt like that would actually translate well to the county court bench, because in county court you’re doing different things every day. So, it just seemed like it would be a good fit.
What kinds of cases do you preside over?
I am doing both civil and criminal. There were two county court judges. Now there are three, so everything is being split three ways. On the criminal side, it’s misdemeanors. And on the civil side it can be evictions, small claims, civil disputes ...
Which court are you associated with?
The circuit is the 7th Judicial Circuit. The way that it works is you have county courts and then circuit courts, and then above that are the appeals courts. The county and the circuit are the trial courts.
The 7th Circuit, you could have a judge that’s sitting in St. Johns like Judge Maltz. He’s a circuit civil judge. But he is basically representing the entire circuit, which is St. Johns, Volusia, Flagler and Putnam.
Each of the counties are broken down into different circuits. And then, every county has at least one county judge in addition to circuit judges. I’m a county court judge.
What are some of the challenges to being a judge?
Having to reach decisions quickly, because of the volume. You just don’t have as much time as you’d like, probably.
I think that everybody here works very hard, and I’m excited to be a part of the team. Everybody has been very welcoming, and I just think we’re blessed to have the experienced judges that we do. I’m looking forward to learning from them and assisting them in bringing cases to resolution.
What do you find most rewarding about what you do?
I think it is when people are able to reach an agreement. They tend to be happier than if one side gets a ruling further down the line.
I think just being able to allow people to have their cases heard and get their day in court.
What do you like most about living here?
I actually live in Nocatee. I think we’re technically Ponte Vedra. I think this area is fantastic. I think it’s one of the best places to live. We have a great community. We have the beach. We have the historic St. Augustine, and places like the Alligator Farm. It’s just a great place to raise a family.
How do you like to spend your free time?
When it’s football season, going to college football games. We’re big Gator fans. Otherwise, just kind of doing activities with our kids. Like I mentioned, the Alligator Farm, and they are playing sports now. So, that sort of thing.
Also, I’ve recently gotten into sporting clays, you know, when you do the skeet shooting. Going to Saltwaters (Saltwaters Shooting Club).
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