Marc Schumacher (J. Albert Diaz)
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Marc Schumacher got into the law because of a broken shoulder.
Schumacher grew up loving sports in the Bronx. “I’m a true-blooded New York Giants fan. I bleed blue.”
An All-County running back in high school, he earned a full scholarship to the University of Connecticut and lettered three years—in football and lacrosse. He also joined ROTC and planned on becoming an officer when he graduated.
Most people who knew him, though, “thought I would be a P.E. teacher because I was so into sports,” he said.
A separated clavicle changed everything. He had dislocated the shoulder in his sophomore year. The second time, in his senior year, was worse. Doctors took an inch and a half of bone off. He tried playing football again, only to reinjure it. It cost him his commission.
“I had to go for a re-physical,” he said. He failed. “Two weeks before I was to be commissioned, I received an honorable discharge.”
That was in May 1968. He had no backup plan.
“At that point in time it was like, ‘What do I do? Where do I go? What’s the next step?’ The next step was law school.”
He went to Suffix University Law School in Boston and, while he was there, met his future wife. She was from South Florida, so, when he graduated, he followed her to Miami, ready to take any job, in any area of practice, he could. “It was first come, first served,” he said.
The state attorney’s office came first, paying $10,800 a year. He took it and stayed for three years, rising to division chief, then left to go into private practice—working for two firms at once.
“I don’t want to say they were fighting over me,” he said, “but they shared space and both wanted me to do their work. So they put me like right in the middle, and I would do some work for one firm and some work for the other firm.”
He did personal injury litigation for one and insurance defense for the other. He later moved into real estate law, representing a construction firm. In 1977, after he went on his own, he also started doing HMO work.
The varied experience prepared him, he said, for “the next step.”
“I had a whole lot of knowledge about a whole lot of different things,” he said.
In 1990, he ran for county judge and won.
“When you’re in the legal profession you’re always wanting to become a judge,” he said. He waited until then, though, because “I had such a respect for the bench, I didn’t know if I was up to the standards to become a judge.”
Within two years, Schumacher said, he was thrown into circuit court work.
“I became a floater,” he said. “As a county judge I handled, basically, all felony calendars for the next three years. I would fill in for all of the circuit judges, when they went on vacations, or revolving cases, things of that nature.”
He also saw a need for change, and pushed for merging the DUI and criminal divisions to spread the workload among more judges.
“When I first took the bench,” he said, “every day was a Monday. We would have 40 DUI cases every morning. We would have to try those cases and finish the cases and we were all staying until 10 or 11 o’clock at night. Then, come Tuesday, there would be 40 more cases. “
In 1996, after five years in county court, then-Gov. Lawton Chiles appointed Schumacher to the circuit bench. He’s been there ever since.
As a circuit judge he has presided over an array of high-profile cases. He sentenced Jimmy Rice’s killer to death, ordered the arrest of multi-platinum hip-hop producer Scott Storch, and weighed in with a landmark ruling on BitTorrent downloads.
His underlying philosophy, he said, remains the same in every case. “I always said that if I ever became a judge I would wear the robe, not the crown. I’ve seen too may people change. And I am still, to this day, in awe of the position.”
His job, he said, is strictly defined.
“I’m there like a referee in a football game,” he said. “I just want to make sure the rules of evidence and trial procedures are followed.”
Still, he has high expectations of attorneys.
“I’m very big on professionalism, and I really hold the attorneys to that,” he said. “If I see that some attorneys are not behaving professionally I’ll clear the chambers and, basically, I’ll read them the riot act.”
Despite his love for the bench, he said, running for re-election has always been something he didn’t like. “I don’t really sell myself. I just do what I do.”
So, this year, instead of running, he announced his retirement. His last day on the bench is Dec. 31.