To paraphrase a line from the infamous 1971 movie DIRTY HARRY .....
..... "You’ve got to ask yourself one question. DO YOU FEEL LUCKY?"
For the past 22 years we have been very lucky. Thousands of prosecutors, Assistant Public Defenders, and private bar attorneys have all felt lucky. The clerks, bailiffs, correction officers, and courthouse staff have all felt lucky. But most of all, the citizens of Miami-Dade County have been luckiest of all to have a Judge named Stanford Blake on the bench.
He began his career as an Intern in the Public Defender’s Office in 1972. At the time, he was attending his third year of law school at the University of Miami. He said of those first days appearing in court: "Your deodorant was failing you in 10 minutes, but afterward you would say, 'What a rush!’" He accepted a job at the PD’s office and worked there for five years. Then it was on to 16 years of private practice before getting elected to the Circuit Court bench in 1994. Most of us know him from his years on the bench at the Gerstein Justice Building where he led the Criminal Division as Administrative Judge for eight years. He left us a few years back and went first to the General Jurisdiction and then to the Family Division where he serves today.
He will tell you that his favorite case ever sitting as a Judge was the case of State of Florida v. John Connolly that was tried before him in 2008. In 2005, Connolly was indicted on murder and conspiracy to commit murder charges in the 1982 slaying of John B. Callahan and the 1981 murder of Roger Wheeler, owner of the World Jai Alai sporting corporation. Callahan was murdered by John Martorano who left the corpse in the trunk of a Cadillac in a parking lot at Miami International Airport. Prosecutors alleged that Callahan was killed on the orders of Whitey Bulger and Stephen Flemmi after Connolly told them that the FBI was investigating Callahan's ties to the Winter Hill Gang in their ongoing investigation into Wheeler's death. Wheeler had been killed by Martorano in Tulsa, Oklahoma in May 1981.
Only in the movies, (they made one called The Departed based on these gangsters), could you ever see a cast of characters like those that showed up to testify in Judge Blake’s courtroom daily during the course of that trial. During the trial, Bulger associates Steve "The Rifleman" Flemmi and John "The Executioner" Martorano testified for the prosecution and admitted to murdering more than three dozen people.
There are a host of qualities you find in our great judges: intelligence, judicial demeanor, empathy, patience, calmness, respectful, fairness, efficiency, courage, diplomacy. Judge Stanford Blake had all of those qualities, but he had something rarely seen in our "great judges", something that we wish a few more of our judges might show: a sense of humor. It was Stan’s sense of humor that lightened up the courtroom atmosphere on those occasions when, where things might have boiled over, it was exactly what was called for. He always kept his smile and sense of humor despite having to deal with some of the "characters" he had to deal with on our side of the bench too.
Stan, at last year's FACDL black tie gala.
He always keeps us smiling.
Judge Blake was recently presented with the Chief Justice Award for Judicial Excellence where he was commended for his "rare mix of humor, intelligence, courage and diplomacy". Stan was called "a man of stature, a man of compassion, of a strong ethical and moral compass and one who has a unique understanding of the human condition." Another praised him for his "genuine compassion for the people and parties that appear before him." Several letters of support emphasized that, Judge Blake’s "contributions have been made without any desire or expectation of recognition. This is the truest measure of an outstanding public servant—to find reward in the very act of service."
All of these accolades and more are so true of our friend Stan Blake.
In addition to his work on the bench, Blake has served on the Exec Board of the Florida Judicial College for 20 years; the College for Advanced Judicial Studies for 10 years; and has taught litigation skills at UM Law School for the past 18 years. Also off the bench, Stan has been a fierce advocate for organ donation having donated his own kidney to his brother in 1996. He has also been a member of the Biscayne Bay Kiwanis Club for nearly forty years.
Below is Judge Stanford Blake’s resignation letter to Governor Scott:
Dear Governor Scott:
After almost 22 years as a Circuit Court Judge for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit, I am at this time announcing my retirement as of August 31, 2016. .......
I have been blessed to have had this opportunity to change lives and help people. Few people are ever put in that position and I remember daily how important the responsibility I have as a judge. You have made excellent judicial appointments to the bench for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit and I am confident the JNC will send you very talented appointees for this seat. While I am sad to leave this position which I love every day, I will always cherish these past 22 years as a judge.
Circuit Court Judge
Eleventh Judicial Circuit
Judge Blake: Thank you for your years of service to our community. We have been very lucky to have you. Good luck in all your future endeavors.
Readers: Please share your favorite Stan Blake story in the Comments section.
CAPTAIN OUT .......