I write to endorse Judge J. Layne Smith for Leon County Court Judge. While I would do this anyway, I feel it especially important because of the complete lack of coverage of this race by the Tallahassee Democrat, or any other Tallahassee media outlet. That’s not fair. While the Democrat has had Editorial Board meetings and articles for virtually every race in town, there appears to be no effort to do so for the judicial campaign.
My opinions of Judge Smith are based on my appearances in his courtroom as a defense attorney. Full disclosure: I did contribute money to his campaign, and teach with him at the FSU College of Law. Further disclosure: I went to high school with his opponent, and respect her and her family. I simply feel that there is no reason to replace Judge Smith when he is doing an excellent job.
Let me begin by going back to a blog article written in 2010, when Judge Smith was running for Leon County judge. Now, I do not know who wrote the blog, nor do I endorse that person or his/her viewpoints. But what I can glean from that person is that he/she went to all the candidates’ websites, and culled together information. Of particular interest on the page is “J. Layne Smith’s judicial philosophy”:
Layne promises to bring all of his knowledge, experience, patience, compassion and common sense into the courtroom to ensure justice is done. He will employ his communication skills, even temperament, and sense of humor, to effectively deal with people in high stress situations. Layne is decisive, and does not shy away from making difficult decisions. He is firm and tough when the situation calls for it.
Layne believes that a good trial judge follows the law, and does not invent or ignore it. A good trial judge applies the law without interjecting his ego into the proceedings and is a steward of the courtroom. Layne pledges to be a diligent public servant.
People need to feel that our system of justice is fair, that they had an opportunity to be heard, and that the judge listened, followed the law, and ruled on the merits.
If elected, J. Layne Smith promises:
1. To be prepared;
2. To be respectful to counsel, parties, witnesses and jurors alike;
3. To be fair, impartial, and open minded;
4. To listen;
5. To follow the law; and
6. To rule promptly.
Who you elect as your Circuit Judge is important because that person will be called upon to exercise discretion wisely on a daily basis. J. Layne Smith can be trusted in this role. He has a well earned reputation as a man of integrity and good character, a preeminent trial lawyer, a proven business man, and a family man.
Here is a video from that 2010 campaign, that I think you should watch:
I, and any other attorney or litigant who has been in his courtroom, can and will tell you: what Layne Smith promised in 2010 is what he has done in 2015 and 2016. He kept his promises: he is prepared, he is respectful, he is fair and impartial, and open-minded. He listens. He follows the law to the letter. And he rules promptly (and I will add is very good at managing judicial resources – he conserves taxpayer money by being efficient with the time of himself, the Clerk of Court staff, and the LCSO Bailiffs staff). If you read that quote from 2010, that is exactly what he has done.
Attorney Layne Smith had a storied career before he became a judge, which is important to me: I think attorneys should serve as judges after long careers, so they can give back to the system. Layne Smith was in private practice, was a prosecutor, was a public defender, and was General Counsel for several governmental agencies. He has seen it all, and has vast, broad experience. Judge Layne Smith brought that to the bench when he was appointed in 2015 – lucky us, because we all know that public service is not as lucrative as private practice. That evidences and proves his passion for public service. He is the type of person we need.
He graduated from FSU Law at the top of his class, passed the bar exam on the first try (I did too – and if I can, I expect the judges I appear in front of to have done so as well, sorry), and had the highest rating from the Martindale-Hubbel lawyer rating service (the oldest and most respected). He has been the attorney on hundreds of trials. He teaches as an adjunct law professor at FSU, training advocates of the future.
In short, he is perfect for the job. Why replace him?
Leon County voters, support Judge Smith. Vote for him. Tell your family and friends about him, and ask for their votes. I have practiced law in 39 of Florida’s 67 counties, and in Federal courts all over Florida. Judge Smith is one of the finest judges around, and we need to keep him.