Judge Michael Davis, left, and attorney Rhoda Ann Sokoloff, right. Courtesy photos

The Daily Business Review’s coverage of South Florida candidates in the August primary election features Q&As with candidates in judicial races across South Florida. This installment focuses on the race for Broward County Court judge, Group 17. Here’s what incumbent Judge Michael Davis and family law attorney Rhoda Ann Sokoloff have to say about their qualifications for the bench. Responses have been edited for style and content.


 

Judge Michael Davis

Davis presides over criminal and civil divisions hearing misdemeanor cases, small claims, personal injury protection, water mitigation, landlord tenant and other litigated matters. He has served in the criminal division, overseeing all new arrests in Broward County. While serving there, Davis worked with the Broward County School Board to give at-risk youth exposure to the criminal justice system. His program was featured in a story broadcast on WSVN Miami. He is also active in the community as a member of local charity and bar association boards, and serves as a judicial educator who was invited participate as an instructor at the Florida Judicial College.

Born in South Florida, Davis graduated from Hofstra University Law School in 2004. Before serving in the court, he worked for the Florida Department of Children and Families, Florida Guardian Ad Litem Program and the Attorney General’s Office, representing and advocating for the rights of abused and neglected children.

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

Davis: I am running to remain a county court judge in Group 17.  For me being a Judge is not just a job, it’s the highest calling within our legal system.  As a Judge I have the ability and privilege to touch the lives of so many people and try and help guide them through the day to day of the American justice system.  It has been a lifelong calling of mine to be blessed enough to become a Judge. My great-grandfather, Solomon, was a Jewish farmer and landowner in the town of Sighet in Romania. The town was composed almost entirely of Orthodox Jews, with little administration from local government. Solomon was chosen by the townspeople to sit as their local lay judge, and as needed townsfolk would travel to his farm for him to settle disputes and opine on questions of law. In 1944 the Nazis invaded the town and rounded up all Jews. Solomon and other community leaders helped make the decision on who should flee and who should stay and face the threat. He sent my grandfather, only a young man at the time, away in hopes that he would survive. My grandfather was caught and spent time in Hitler’s concentration camps and survived. After the war he learned that Solomon had been killed for being a leader of his people and a respected judge in the community. I have always been in awe of this story of courage and have striven to model myself after Solomon, a judge of great conviction, deep faith and an abiding sense of right and wrong.

What about your experience qualifies you for the position?

Davis: I have a wide range of experience both as an attorney and a Judge. As an attorney I have handled civil, criminal and family law litigation including all phases of trial. I have extensive experience practicing before the Florida Family and Dependency Courts advocating for the best interests of minor children. On the bench I handle both a civil and criminal dockets including all phases of trial and have also presided in the Family Court Domestic Violence Division hearing civil injunction matters.

What’s your biggest achievement so far?

Davis: Helping guide our youth has always been a passion of mine.  As the presiding Judge in the First Appearance Division I created a program, in conjunction with the Broward County School Board, to give at-risk youth experience in the criminal court system. Teenagers in the had the opportunity to observe my courtroom and have interactive discussions with myself, other judges and community members. The program was featured on WSVN Channel 7.

What would a successful term look like for you?

Davis: I believe my time on the bench has been very successful. I have earned the respect of my colleagues and the legal community. When I took over my current division in the South Satellite Courthouse, there were nearly 700 cases sitting with no action, many for a period of more than three years. That number has now been reduced to less than 100 cases and shrinking each day. I have also initiated several in-court programs to help our community, such as youth mentoring and partnering with the Broward Women Lawyers Association to create a law-day visitation for female law students. I would like to retain my position in order to continue my good works, both on and off the bench.

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

Davis: The high rate of children under the age of 18 charged with misdemeanor and felony offenses is staggering. In my opinion it’s imperative to reach out to the youth in our community, foster and nurture their growth, and help guide them down the path of education to help keep them out of the criminal justice system.


 

Rhoda Ann Sokoloff

Rhoda Ann Sokoloff has been involved in the legal field since the age of 19 and has been a  family law attorney since 2000. She has been appointed numerous times as a guardian ad litem by the court to assist in looking out for the best interest of children and making major recommendations to the court. Sokoloff regularly works with the Mission United Veterans Program, offering pro bono services, as well as with Legal Aid Service of Broward County. She is also AV preeminent-rated by Martindale-Hubbell.

Some of Sokoloff’s community and public service includes being president and vice president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, where she teaches a 12-week class on a volunteer basis. She has also served her community through membership and participation with the Dania Lions Club, and is president for Kiwanis of Deerfield Beach West.

Why do you want to become a county court judge?

Sokoloff: Being a Judge would be the pinnacle of my career. More important than that, I have the legal experience, longevity of employment at the same job, life experience and a tremendous amount of community/public service. As a Judge, you are a public servant. My community/public service as a Judge would be an extension of what I already do.

What about your experience qualifies you for the position?

Sokoloff: I have been in the legal field for 40 years, an attorney for almost 19 years. I have practiced almost every phase of law. I have volunteered my time in community/public service for more than 20 years. This has taught me to be respectful, have integrity, respect, to listen and to never pre-judge any matter, because unless you have been in the shoes of someone else, you do not know.

What’s your biggest achievement so far?

Sokoloff: My biggest achievement is my two sons.  Next to that, graduating law school at the age of 46.

What would a successful term look like for you?

Sokoloff: A successful term to me would be going to work every day on time and giving all the litigants and/or their attorneys and witnesses the utmost respect and their day in court.

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

Sokoloff: The most important issue in the Broward courts now and has been ongoing is access to the courts — obtaining timely hearing dates — and the inability of numerous litigants to afford to obtain legal counsel.