Circuit Judge Ivonne Cuesta was appointed in October 2017 and sworn in on Jan. 26, 2018. Prior to beginning her tenure as a circuit judge in the family division, Cuesta served for five years as a county court judge, during which time she presided over civil and criminal divisions. Cuesta's early law career included a 10-year stint with the Office of the Public Defender in Miami, but her journey started at Cuba's Port of Mariel .
Judge Renatha Francis was elevated to Miami-Dade Circuit Court in June to fill the vacancy left by Judge Sarah Zabel's resignation. Francis was one in a field of five jurists and one federal public defender looking to replace Zabel, who resigned amid an investigation by the state Judicial Qualifications Commission. Just months earlier, in August 2017, Gov. Rick Scott had appointed Francis to the county court to replace Judge Jason Dimitris, who was elevated to the circuit bench. Francis was an attorney with Miami-based law firm Shutts & Bowen prior to becoming a judge. Her investiture to the Miami-Dade Circuit Court is scheduled for February 2019.
Judge Laura Anne Stuzin was sworn in to the Miami-Dade Circuit Court in February. A graduate of the University of Miami Law School Class of 1994, Stuzin served as a judge on the county court bench for two years before her elevation. She is assigned to the circuit's Unified Children's Court, where she presides over dependency cases.
Judge Joseph J. Mansfield is no stranger to the Miami-Dade court system, having worked as an assistant state attorney since 2001. Gov. Rick Scott named him county court judge in August 2017. Mansfield has since served at the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building, presiding over cases in the criminal division.
County Court Judge Gordon C. Murray Sr. was a general magistrate and child support hearing officer for the Miami-Dade Circuit prior to his appointment as a county court judge in October 2017. Murray earned his bachelor's and law degrees from the University of Miami and had run a law firm as a solo practitioner. He is also a former special magistrate for North Miami and South Miami. He replaced Judge Lourdes Simon, who rose to the circuit bench.


County Court Judge Christina DiRaimondo was appointed Feb. 9 and presides in the civil division. Before her appointment she worked as an assistant state attorney with the Miami-Dade County state attorney's office. During her time as a prosecutor, DiRaimondo tried 80 cases to verdict in both county and circuit court. She is a member of the Federalist Society and the Cuban American Bar Association. DiRaimondo fills the vacancy that Judge Laura Anne Stuzin's elevation to the circuit court created.
Judge Laura Shearon Cruz was appointed in February to the county court. She has worked in private practice, including on the civil litigation team at Wicker Smith O'Hara McCoy & Ford, and with the state attorney's office. Cruz earned her law degree at Tulane University.
Circuit Judge Dawn V. Denaro was elevated from her position on the county court bench in June 2018. During her time in county, she presided over the Criminal Division. Born in Miami, she graduated from Palmetto Senior High School before pursuing her undergraduate and law degrees in Louisiana and Michigan, respectively. Prior to her judicial appointment she spent 18 years working with the State Attorney's Office, specializing in homicide, juvenile and domestic crimes.
County Court Judge Ramiro C. Areces' career has moved quickly. After graduating from the University of Miami School of Law in 2008, Areces joined Jorden Burt prior to its 2013 merger with Carlton Fields. He later worked as a solo practitioner with a focus on commercial litigation. He was appointed to the bench in May 2018 and took office on June 18, 2018.
In June 2018, Gov. Rick Scott elevated Andrea R. Wolfson from the county court bench to the circuit, to fill the vacancy left by Judge Antonio Marin's resignation. Wolfson had served as a county court judge for eight years, having begun in May 2010. While in county court, Wolfson presided over criminal traffic, DUI and misdemeanor cases. Before joining the judiciary she worked as a prosecutor with the Miami-Dade state attorney's office and earlier the U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District of Florida.


Judge Spencer J. Multack was elevated from county to circuit court in January. Seven years earlier, in August 2011, Gov. Rick Scott appointed him to the Miami-Dade County Court. Multack, who earned his law degree from the University of Miami, presided over the Domestic Violence Division. His appointment fills the vacancy left by Judge Rosa Rodriguez's resignation.
County Court Judge Elijah A. Levitt was appointed to the bench by Gov. Rick Scott in May and took office in June. Levitt obtained his law degree from the University of Miami School of Law and worked as an assistant state attorney in Miami-Dade County from March 2004 to September 2012. Subsequently he worked as a prosecutor with the Southern District of Florida and handled narcotics cases as well as financial offenses.

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As much of the old guard retires from the bench, a number of fresh faces have already joined the Miami-Dade court system in 2018, with several more set for coming months. Here are the recently appointed judges that attorneys can expect to meet and appear before, beginning in the months ahead.

In addition to these appointed judges, three new jurists are set to take office after running unopposed for election.

Soto’s Chess Game: Miami-Dade’s Chief Judge Grapples With Judicial Vacancies in an Understaffed Circuit

County Court Judge-Elect Jacqueline Woodward ran unopposed on the August primary ballot to fill the vacancy in Group 21. She is the senior partner at Woodward & Reizenstein in Miami and was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1994. Woodward earned her J.D. at Northeastern University School of Law in 1994.

Miami-Dade Will Lose These 14 Judges This Year

County Court Judge-Elect Betsy Alvarez-Zane is unopposed on the ballot to fill the vacancy in Group 18. Alvarez-Zane graduated from the University of Miami School of Law in 1987 and now works as a solo practitioner.

Circuit Court Judge-Elect Carlos Lopez is running without opposition for Seat 31. Lopez has been a trial lawyer for more than 37 years and is a partner at Lopez & Best.


Related stories:

Who’s In, Who’s Out: Miami-Dade’s Changing Judicial Bench in 2018 and the Impact of Judicial Vacancies

5 Judges Vying to Replace Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel

Coke and Apple: Judge Ivonne Cuesta Is a Mariel Refugee