Career Spotlight: Judge Kathleen Hill Roberts
Kathleen Hill Roberts Most people don’t get the chance to live out a childhood dream they’ve had since age 11, but UF Law alum Kathleen Hill Roberts (JD 93) does so every day as a Martin County Court Judge.
Roberts started her quick ascent to the bench as assistant state attorney in the 19th Judicial Circuit from 1995 to 2005 involved in prosecuting sex crimes and child-abuse felony cases, where she got to make the world a better place by just doing her job, she said.
“I loved prosecuting because each time I protected another child, it made me feel like I was making a difference and paying back to the community, while at the same time getting my job done,” she said. “It was emotionally satisfying, and definitely where I wanted to be.”
Since day one of law school Roberts knew she wanted to be a judge, and along the way she got to train other prosecutors as an administrative supervisor.
“I loved the role of teaching others because it felt very new and rewarding,” Roberts said. “I got to train and teach the new prosecutors, and see them take the baby steps all the way to being litigators.”
She vividly remembers the day when her dream of being appointed a judge came true. It was Thursday, Dec. 13, at 4:45 p.m., and the screened call from the governor caught Roberts off guard, she said.
“The running joke around the office was that if it was the governor’s office you take a message, but if the governor is calling you pick up the phone,” Roberts said. “It was Jeb Bush on the line and he asked ‘So I hear you want to be a judge?'”
Ever since that day Jeb Bush called, Roberts says she gets to do what she feels is her life’s calling, ruling over criminal misdemeanors, eviction, county ordinances, traffic violations and small claims.
“Now that I’m a judge, I truly have the feeling that I am who I was supposed to be all those years growing up,” she said. “Every day it’s just an amazing feeling, especially for my relationship with my grandfather, who is a federal judge and a mentor to me.”
Even more of a challenge than deciding cases in the courtroom is the task of raising three children, ages 10, 6 and 5 years old.
“I’ve had 10 years to perfect the system so far, and I wake up at 4:30 a.m. to get the kids ready,” she said. “The key is getting to work by 8 a.m., because you would be amazed by how much you can get done before the phone starts ringing off the hook.”
As much as her children need her, she needs them right back, and also gets help from her husband, she said.
“Having three children has become part of who my husband and I are,” she said. “No matter how bad the day could go, when you have a child running at you with a big smile, anything bad that happened that day doesn’t matter anymore.”
For current law students who aspire to be a judge or prosecutor in the future, Roberts says that clinics are the way to go.
“By far the best experience I had was doing the clinic,” Roberts said. “It provides and invaluable experience, and you come out as a certified legal intern, so you know how to do arraignments and docket calling.”