Incumbent Judge Robert W. Lee, left, and Stephen Lustig, right, running for Broward County Court judge, Group 25. Courtesy photos

This installment of the Daily Business Review’s coverage of the August primary elections features Q&As with incumbent Judge Robert W. Lee and civil rights lawyer Stephen Leslie Lustig in their bid for Broward County Court judge, Group 25. Here’s what they had to say about what qualifies them for the bench. Responses have been edited for style and content.


 Judge Robert W. Lee

Lee received his law degree with honors from the University of Florida, where he served as a senior editor on the Law Review and was awarded a teaching fellowship. Lee began practicing commercial litigation in 1985, and since being appointed to the bench in 1997 has served in all divisions of the Broward County Court. He was chair of the Broward County Canvassing Board and presided over the historic 2000 presidential recount in Broward County. In 2011, Lee was honored with the Stephen R. Booher Memorial Award by the Broward County Bar Association.

Lee serves as an acting circuit judge and chair of the civil division of the Broward County Court. He has more than a dozen published articles appearing in various legal publications, including the Florida Law Review, the Florida Bar Journal and the Barry Law Review. He has presided over almost 350 jury trials and has more than 500 published legal decisions. Lee has also served as an adjunct professor at various Florida universities.

Why do you want to become/remain a county court judge?

Lee: I would like to continue my two decades of judicial service and related hard work, as I respectfully submit that the results have been an asset to the people of Broward County. I serve on several committees and commissions that deal with social issues that impact the community and the justice system, not just in Broward, but also statewide. As chair of education for all Florida County Court judges, I have been able to design and implement judicial education programs to better prepare Florida judges for challenges faced on the bench. And as a Florida Supreme Court-designated judicial mentor, I have mentored several new judges to help them become more effective and productive.

What about your experience qualifies you for the position?

Lee: My 21 years of service as a Broward County Court judge, which has included service in all divisions of the county court (civil, criminal, satellite and domestic violence), service as administrative judge for all of Broward County Court, service as associate judge tapped to handle 18 cases on the District Court of Appeal and service as visiting judge to handle cases in Miami-Dade County by special appointment. I have also been appointed by the Florida Supreme Court to participate in various commissions to handle a wide range of statewide issues, including service on the Judicial Management Council, Florida Court Education Council, Access to Civil Justice Commission, and most recently the County Court Jurisdiction Workgroup.

What’s your biggest achievement so far?  

Lee: Successful completion of the Broward Recount during the 2000 Presidential Election, which attracted worldwide attention, although several other achievements are close behind, such as completing more than 350 jury trials and being asked to sit as a visiting associate judge on the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach.

What would a successful term look like for you?  

Lee: Continued service as administrative judge leading to implementation of procedures and practices to make the administration of justice more widely and easily accessible to the citizens of South Florida.

What is the most important issue facing the Broward county courts at the moment?

Lee: Allocation of resources. The financial support allocated to Florida courts has not kept pace with challenges presented and positive resolution of those challenges. Emerging issues, such as the opioid addiction, school safety and homelessness, often require court partners to compete for the same funding and support.

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Stephen Leslie Lustig

Lustig earned his Juris Doctor from John Marshall Law School in Chicago and has practiced law for more than 20 years. He also obtained a Bachelor of Arts in history from the University of Florida in Gainesville. In 1994, Lustig opened his own practice, focusing on felonies, misdemeanors and traffic tickets. He sold the firm after 20 years to travel the world and reevaluate his goals for public service.

Lustig also founded Ticket Titan Tech Co. and pioneered the first app of its kind to provide the public with round-the-clock access to legal aid. He’s been featured as a guest legal commentator on major news networks, including ABC, NBC and CBS.

Why do you want to be a county court judge?

Lustig: To bring innovation, pragmatism, temperament, dignity, compassion and good judgment from experience to the administration of justice.

What about your experience qualifies you for the position?

Lustig: In addition to having one of the highest volume felony and misdemeanor practices in the late 1990s and 2000s in Broward County, and having the highest volume ticket and misdemeanor practice at the time in Fort Lauderdale, as a pioneer innovator in commercializing the ticket and criminal defense field, I developed systems for efficiency and legal access to save the public countless hours. We opened the first high-visibility commercial neon storefront locations in our field, and changed a highly competitive field of business by placing affordable independent contractors at each satellite courthouse in Broward County for daily practice. The same affordable independent contractors are at the very same satellite courthouses to this day and are available to other lawyers and the public.

What’s your biggest achievement so far?

Lustig: It is difficult to determine which is a priority, as it depends on which of the following has provided the greatest value to the South Florida. I successfully defended the civil rights of my clients (especially the Fourth Amendment) in circuit, repeat offender court and county court. I also helped provide the public with affordable legal access through nine high-visibility commercial locations in Broward and Miami-Dade Dade, and scores of employees to assist. I developed and innovated systems for efficiency, creating a multimillion-dollar enterprise within nine months of my concept in a highly competitive field.

I subsequently developed the first app nationwide that allows the public to hire a lawyer 24/7, 365 days a year, wherein the lawyer can receive their fees and signed legal agreements remotely. The lawyer is fully informed of the details of the case, and the client assured of quality representation and kept informed through automation. I’ve been featured over the years as a guest legal commentator on many major networks, radio stations and publications. I sold my law firm, Ticket Titan Co., 20 years to the month from when I started. Traveling and skateboarding the world since then has provided me with a different perspective. After being away from the legal field for the last three years, I recognized I still had much to contribute back to Broward County.

What would a successful term look like for you?

Lustig: The innocent go free and the guilty are held to account in proportion to the offense, all while maintaining our values of civil rights and freedom.

What is the most important issue facing the Broward county courts at the moment?

Lustig: It seems too often that it is more about winning than justice, and that those without means and the mentally ill are at a great disadvantage in the system. I learned this first-hand, early in my legal career, when I was arrested and thrown in Broward County jail for a mandatory prison sentence offense. I was falsely accused of aggravated battery in defending myself and two women from a seventh-degree blackbelt Tae Kwon Do champion at a Coral Springs restaurant. I had the money to hire a private investigator to find the witnesses at the scene that night and to pull the violent history of the martial arts instructor assailant — a job that should have been done by the police. It took paying several thousand dollars to the private investigator for him to obtain and provide the exculpatory evidence to the State Attorney’s office, whom after receiving it, refused to file charges.

 

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