Celia Ampel, Daily Business Review
Photo Credit: AM Holt / ALM
Gov. Rick Scott named Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Robert Luck to the Third District Court of Appeal.
The 37-year-old replaces Judge Frank Shepherd, who retired last month. Scott announced Wednesday he had chosen Luck from a list of six nominees prepared by the Third DCA Judicial Nominating Commission.
"I hope to be the same kind of judge I've tried to be for the last three and a half years on the trial court: one who takes the bench on time, and is prepared, respectful, and decisive," Luck said in an email.
He will likely start his new job the first week of March, he said.
Luck became a judge in 2013 after serving as an assistant U.S. attorney and deputy chief at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida. He earned his bachelor's degree in economics and his law degree from the University of Florida, where he was editor of the law review and graduated in the top 10 percent of his class.
The North Miami Beach native decided to become a judge after clerking twice for Judge Ed Carnes of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, well-known for his accessible writing. In an earlier interview, Luck told the Daily Business Review that Carnes taught him "lawyers and judges, both orally and when we write, should speak in a way that the everyday person can understand."
Luck became a circuit judge the first time he applied. In August's judicial election, he kept his seat in the circuit's criminal division by a margin of 53.5 percent to challenger Yolly Roberson's 46.5 percent.
During Luck's time at the U.S. Attorney's Office, he handled 19 jury trials — a rarity for a young lawyer. Luck secured a guilty plea in the largest student visa fraud to date. He also persuaded a court to impose a 20-year prison sentence on a doctor who ran a $50 million Medicare fraud scheme, and he got a guilty plea from a boat captain who tried to smuggle dozens of Dominicans into the U.S.
He briefed and argued three cases before the appellate courts, participated in hundreds of appellate cases as a law clerk and staff attorney and sat as an appellate judge in Miami-Dade Circuit Court in dozens of cases, he said.
Luck also had early exposure to the state appellate court he will now serve. As a fresh law school graduate, he worked for Elliot Scherker and former Justice Arthur England at Greenberg Traurig, who had "bunches of cases" before the Third District, he said.
"I want to thank Gov. Scott for the honor and privilege of getting to serve the community I have lived in my entire life, and on a court I have admired since I was in law school," Luck said Friday.
Luck's colleagues on the circuit court and the other Third DCA judges have all reached out to offer support, advising him to "do a lot of listening in the first months," he said.
The other nominees for the Third DCA seat were Miami-Dade Circuit Judges Norma Lindsey and Bronwyn Miller, Miami Deputy City Attorney John Greco, Assistant Miami-Dade County Attorney Oren Rosenthal and former Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Fleur Lobree, now with the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office.
Scott has been criticized for a lack of diversity in his judicial appointments, with a list of appointees that as of last year was about 82 percent white and 63 percent male.
Another spot on the Third DCA will open March 31 with the retirement of Judge Linda Ann Wells.