In Memory of Retired Judge Tom Petersen
The Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida joins family members and friends in mourning the passing of Retired Judge Tom Petersen on February 10, 2023.
Judge Petersen’s career spanned more than 30 years of public service in Miami at the State Attorney’s Office, the Public Defender’s Office, as a juvenile court judge, and in the community through numerous community service projects.
While he was with the Miami-Dade Public Defender’s Office, he became the first assistant public defender in Miami to be assigned to juvenile court. Then-State Attorney Richard Gerstein subsequently hired him to create and administer the first pre-trial intervention program for first-time offenders in the Southeastern United States.
During his tenure at the State Attorney’s Office, he rose through the ranks to eventually become chief assistant state attorney, as well as legal advisor to the Dade County Grand Jury.
Outside of his legal career, he created a small chain of nonprofit grocery stores to employ local community members from public housing projects. Together with civic leader Georgia Jones-Ayers, he co-founded The Alternative Program (TAP), Florida’s first privately operated pretrial release organization.
Judge Petersen was appointed to the Circuit Court in 1989 and spent much of his judicial career in juvenile court, where he developed pioneering reform programs and practices aimed at helping juvenile offenders turn their lives around. After his early retirement in 1995, Judge Petersen served as a senior judge presiding over first appearance hearings.
Among many awards received for his public service, Judge Petersen received the Miami Herald’s Spirit of Excellence Award for his economic development work, and the Florida Bar’s Selig Goldin Memorial Award in honor of his lasting contributions to the justice system.
He is survived by his wife, Irene. Funeral services will be private, with details to follow on a celebration of life in the coming weeks.
Read more about Judge Petersen’s life and legacy:
Miami Herald Obituary February 15, 2023:
The Florida Bar News August 1, 2017: