Fleur J. Lobree
Fleur J. Lobree ()

Lots of people have dreamed of running away to the circus. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Fleur Lobree ran away from one and to law school.

Lobree spent three years in Florida State University’s renowned circus as part of the human pyramid in an acrobatic bicycle act. She also twirled 40 feet above the big tent floor in a rope act called the Spanish Web.

“I got a job offer from Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers,” she said. “They wanted someone to do swinging trapeze and to be shot out of a cannon. I thought my father would kill me if I ran away from college to join the circus.”

Lobree started college focused on computer science because she enjoyed the analytical thinking. Law school was not only not on her radar, it seemed like something to be avoided. Her father was a “one-man oil company” with a low regard for attorneys.

“When I was a kid growing up he told me over and over again he honestly hoped I would never have anything to do with a lawyer my entire life,” she said.

Her love of reading and writing won out, though. Lobree graduated with an English degree and figured the law would be a good way to combine it with analytical thinking. Surprisingly, her father agreed.

“I was shocked that he thought it was a good idea,” she said.

Lobree leaned toward civil law and applied for an internship at the Florida attorney general’s office. She got it, only to discover that between the time she applied and showed up, the civil section had moved to Broward County. She showed up at the Miami-Dade County office and was put to work in the criminal appellate section. She loved it.

“It kind of turned on a light inside of me, and I realized I could use my skills and my ability to advocate for others and make a difference in people’s lives,” she said. “From that point on I became really passionate about criminal law.”

Breast Cancer

The office hired her when she graduated. She stayed 4½ years and left only because “I knew by then that I was interested in becoming a judge and I wanted to become more well-rounded in my experience.”

Her inspiration? “I saw good judges doing their work, and I was inspired by them. I also saw judges who weren’t prepared and hadn’t read the pleadings, and I was frustrated by them.”

Lobree clerked for Judge Rodolfo Sorondo Jr. at the Third District Court of Appeal. Another 4½ years later, she realized she needed experience in private practice and joined Hicks, Anderson & Kneale, doing civil appellate work and trial support in complex litigation cases.

She was there about a year when she got a call from the chief of the legal division at the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office, who asked, “Would you consider taking a huge pay cut to come work for us?”

She would, and did. She wound up staying nine years through one of the most difficult times of her life.

About a month after she joined the office, she was diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer. She battled it with chemotherapy and surgery, and continued working full time even as she did.

Lobree was declared cancer free in 2003 and became active in promoting awareness. One way is as a board member of the nonprofit Save Our Sisters, a dragon boat team that in October will host “what is the equivalent of a World Cup for breast cancer survivors in dragon boat racing.”

“Going through the cancer treatment, it really changed who I am,” she said. “That really changed my philosophy. I think I’m a much more patient person. I’m much more focused.”

No Time Waster

And she thinks it shows on the bench.

“I’m formal about the things that have to be formal but very informal about all things that have to do with making it a more efficient and pleasant place to work,” she said.

She’ll take people out of turn if they need to get to another courtroom and, “I don’t demand that things have to be in writing just for the sake of having it writing.”

But she does like it. “Being an appellate lawyer I greatly appreciate if anything is written to get a courtesy copy in advance so that I can be prepared.”

And if she gets them, she reads them in advance. “A lot of my experience litigating is you’d sit in court and watch the judge read. … I don’t like wasting other people’s time in order to do that.”

Which is why Lobree regularly puts in 10-hour days at the courthouse.

“I’m willing to spend as much of my time as it takes—nights and mornings—to be prepared. So that I don’t waste the parties’ and the litigants’ time.”