Newly elected County Court Judge Andrea Wolfson credits her election with “knowing people, their concerns, and how differently they live throughout our county.”
Wolfson appeared last fall at three local pre-election forums sponsored by Kendall Federation of Homeowner Associations saying she learned “in detail about your area’s primary concerns such as your traffic and growth issues.”
Knowledge of local problems is a vital measure voters should use to determine qualifications of judicial candidates rather than “leaving a space blank or just picking the first name on the list” when marking a ballot, she added.
Intensive campaigning “taught me how much understanding our county means when it comes to passing judgments on the bench,” Wolfson said, reflecting on how economic and ethnic differences contribute to the judicial process.
“It makes an important difference once you have met and seen how people live in Miami Gardens, Miami Beach or a southwestern area,” she told members of the Miami-Dade Police Hammocks District Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) on Jan. 30.
“You gain a better understanding when each individual case presents itself, as against following the simple path of granting a plea to clear a crowded calendar.
“A great many cases I hear involve DUI charges, each needing very careful review before determining the appropriate punishment,” she added, noting that the Miami- Dade State Attorney’s “Back on Track” DUI program office now helps first offenders avoid a permanent conviction if circumstances merit an opportunity.
“Questionable DUI convictions can be reduced to reckless driving through participation,” she advised, noting the program requires substance abuse class attendance, counseling, community service, drug testing, fines and a potential automobile interlock device installation to reduce DUIs to a lesser offense.
An energetic woman with two children, Wolfson, 39, volunteered to sit in an appellate capacity over administrative matters and has attended the Faculty Training Seminar that allows her to teach at the Florida Judicial College, a program developed for first-time judges.
She received her BS degree from the University of Notre Dame in 1995, an MS degree from Southern Illinois University in 1996, and a JD degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology (Chicago-Kent College of Law) in 2001.
She began seven years’ service as an assistant state attorney followed by three years as a special assistant to the U.S. Attorney before her appointment to the county bench, one of 140 positions in Miami-Dade’s 11th Judicial Circuit.
On Nov. 6 last year, Wolfson defeated Greer Elaine Wallace, receiving 53.8 percent of total ballots cast in Group 24 after previously receiving 48.4 percent of the vote in the Aug. 14 primary.
Appointed to a vacated post by then-Gov. Charlie Crist in 2010, Wolfson asked for transfer from a Hialeah Branch Courthouse to the downtown Miami Justice Building in March 2011.
“I wanted to preside in jury trials,” she explained. “I so respect this office and the opportunity to hear jury cases that I decided I would run for the elective post.
“It’s where I now feel I belong in our judicial system.