Every Florida attorney general candidate needs a trusty campaign aide. For former lawyer and Hillsborough Circuit Judge Ashley Moody, it’s her ”intense, competitive” 9-year-old son, Connor, who has two speeds, “extra fast, or asleep.”
“One time I had rearranged my schedule and was coming home early,” Moody said. “I called home and told my husband on speakerphone, and [Connor] goes, ‘Mom! Don’t cancel meetings, you’re gonna lose!’ ”
After more than 10 years on the bench, Moody hung up her robe in April 2017 to devote herself to the race for Florida’s “ top cop.”
It wasn’t an easy decision.
“I was very reluctant to get into partisan politics and all that goes along with it,” Moody said. “It is a very difficult process, and many now think that it has become this blood sport.”
Moody triumphed over Frank White in the August primary elections to clinch the Republican bid, and will face off against Democrat Sean Shaw and independent Jeffrey Siskind on Nov. 6.
Related story: Moody, Shaw to Square Off for Attorney General
Moody is married to Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent Justin Duralia, and is the daughter and granddaughter of judges.
“The rule of law has always been a topic of conversation in my home,” Moody said.
At age 31, Moody became the youngest judge in Florida when she rose to the bench in 2006. She served in various divisions spanning family law and felony criminal court.
As an administrative judge in the juvenile delinquency division, Moody noticed something troubling.
“I had kids showing up in court whose parents didn’t show up with them,” Moody said. “They would be incarcerated and, whether the parent was unwilling or unable to be there, I felt like we needed to ensure that in every instance they had someone there that was representing their interests.”
Galvanized, Moody assembled a team of lawyers willing to volunteer their time to stand in the place of parents.
The result? The Attorney Ad Litem program, still in place today.
According to Moody, her role on the bench was to “take chaos and accusations and reduce that to order.”
“You often do so understanding that you are going to be criticized, but you have a belief in your role and responsibility as a judge,” Moody said.
The most challenging cases for Moody were those involving involving the specter of significant jail time.
“You’re oftentimes dealing with people who never dreamed that they would end up standing in court, facing a sentence and being sent to prison. I understood the gravity of that decision and tried to always remember that protecting the community was of primary importance,” Moody said.
‘It’s not about winning every case’
As an assistant U.S. attorney in the Middle District of Florida, Moody prosecuted a host of crimes, including gun, drug and fraud offenses.
“One of the proudest moments in my professional career has been standing up for the first time and saying, ‘My name is Ashley Moody, and I represent the United States of America,’” Moody said. Yet she says that in her time as an attorney, ”winning” wasn’t top of mind.
“It’s about seeking justice, and that doesn’t always mean you win,” Moody said. “In some cases, as you learn more about those that you are prosecuting, you become convinced that they need to be taken out of communities for the safety of others. Sometimes, as prosecutions play out, the path and the truth does not lead you to where you thought that you would end up.”
While handling narcotics investigations as a federal prosecutor, Moody often had to extradite people from other countries, which required her to travel across the U.S. to meet with different witnesses to identify suspects. This, she explained, taught her the importance of “inter-agency cooperation” and “working toward a common purpose,” a tool she hopes to employ as Florida’s next attorney general.
“It’s important from day one that you understand the players, understand how to move the ball on difficult issues and understand how to make sure that everybody remains focused on one common objective,” Moody said.
And in Moody’s view, among the biggest issues in Florida are elder abuse, mental health and the opioid crisis, ones she considers “not right or left” but “up and down.” This is why she feels politics shouldn’t be a driving factor in the race.
“This is not something where a politician should be able to come in to babysit the post while they’re waiting to take the next political step.”
Should Moody succeed Nov. 6, she plans to “make people proud” of that “vote of confidence.”
“Give me four years as the person trusted with leading on these issues,” Moody said. “I will show results.”
Date of birth: March 1975, Hillsborough County, Florida
Spouse: Justin Duralia
Children: Brandon Duralia, Connor Duralia
Education: Stetson University College of Law, LL.M, 2010; University of Florida, Levin College of Law, J.D., 2000; University of Florida, Fisher School of Accounting, M.A., 2000; University of Florida, B.S., 1996
Experience: Adjunct professor, Stetson University College of Law, 2016-present; Hillsborough Circuit Judge, 2006-2017; Associate Administrative Judge, Juvenile Delinquency Division, 2010-2017; Assistant United States Attorney, Middle District of Florida, 2004; Associate Attorney, Holland & Knight, 2001; Law student intern, American Bar Association, 2000-2001