by James Coulter
John B. Flynn is currently running as a County Judge in Group 8 in Polk County. With more than 20 years of legal experience, he feels he is best qualified to not only serve as a county judge, but also protect the constitutional rights of his constituents.
“I have spent the last two decades protecting and defending the constitution,” he said. “I believe the Constitution should be respected and to never legislate from the bench. I am experienced, dedicated, and ready to serve the citizens of Polk County.”
He graduated Nova Southeastern with a master’s degree in business and Loyola University with a Juris Doctor. He had intended to work in practice tax law, but later changed his career path for trial work following an internship with the Jefferson Parrish’s District Attorney’s Office. He worked his way up the career ladder, starting as a prosecutor, then serving as a defense attorney, victim advocate, and a trial attorney for over twenty years.
Flynn served as the former Chair of the 10th Judicial Circuit Grievance Committee. He has also served as a former Chair on the Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee and am a member of both the National Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and the Polk County Trial Lawyers Association. He contributes to the legal community as a voluntary mediator, a victim advocate and as a member of the Lakeland Bar Association and a former member of the Wilson Inns of Court.
“I bring a lifetime of experience in the courtroom, a belief in the American justice system, and a real desire to serve,” he said. “It is for these reasons that my experience both in the courtroom and in life are essential to meeting the high standards of Judicial service.”
We recently sat down with John B. Flynn to ask him a few questions about his political campaign for county judge. Here is what he had to say:
Q: What qualifies you to be a Judge beyond a law degree?
A: In a word, experience. It is not only more than 20 years in duration. It is real jury trials in high profile, high stakes cases. It is experience on both sides of the courtroom. I have been the assigned prosecutor for the City of Lakeland’s courthouse and as a Felony Prosecutor in Bartow. I have represented individuals accused of a crime and fought to protect their constitutional rights. I understand the law and how the unique dynamics of each case differ. I will remain committed to the investment of time it requires to give each case the attention it deserves and I possess the even temperament required to maintain an orderly and efficient courtroom.
Additionally, I have been previously responsible for investigating and making recommendations to the Florida Supreme Court regarding allegations of misconduct by local attorneys as the chair of the Tenth Judicial Circuit Grievance Committee. I was also the chair of the Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee where we monitored and investigated individuals who held
themselves out as attorneys who were not qualified to do so. Several of those cases led to prosecutions. Finally, I have volunteered to serve as a mediator and arbitrator for the Florida Bar essentially acting as a Judge hearing the evidence regarding disputes between attorneys and their clients.
Q: How will you balance being an independent judge and an elected official?
A: My duty as a judge would to protect the Constitution and individual rights under the constitution. It is my obligation, which I gladly accept, to set aside any concerns about future elections in favor of making sure that everyone that enters my courtroom is treated with fairness, courtesy, and respect. My role is to rule on the evidence that is put before me in accordance with the rules of evidence and the laws of the State of Florida. I have been working in this system long enough to know what my duties are and how to execute them. I will follow my oath in every aspect without hesitation.
Q: What are the biggest changes you think we need to make to our justice system?
A: I would like to eliminate the inefficiencies in the justice system. A major factor in many county court cases is mental health. A better way to deal with these individuals is to utilize court-based diversion programs to help steer these individuals to appropriate counseling and medication necessary to help them be more productive members of society. Polk has successfully implemented three of these problem-solving courts which could be used more widely to help reduce the backlog of cases that we are now experiencing. Modeled after nationally recognized drug courts these programs offer a continuum of drug treatment alternatives to jail for eligible non-violent defendants. These courts increase public safety and reduce crime in a cost-effective manner.
I believe the courts should make use of readily available technology to make more time available on the docket to address issues and motions that have been stalled due to the backlog in the court. At the beginning of my campaign, I met with Sheriff Judd who expressed a desire for the next county court judge to handle things as expeditiously as possible. In his words he does not want an innocent person sitting in jail. I agree with that sentiment completely and I assure the voters that with my experience on both sides of the courtroom that I will be able to prioritize the Covid backlog. I also met with the Clerk of Courts, Stacy M. Butterfield, C.P.A. who expressed a desire for consistency between the Judges, having practiced before all the county judges in our circuit I understand how a courtroom needs to run to keep consistency between the various county courts.
Q: What reforms do you support to increase access to justice for all? Will you fight for them?
A: I don’t believe it is the Judiciary’s place to interject themselves in what the law should be as that is our legislatures’ job. I feel like judges that articulate their views on the law and what it should be undermine the very concept that makes our country so great, the separation of powers. It is not the judicial branches’ place to create or suggest what laws we should have. That responsibility belongs to our voters and who they put in office to govern our great state and
county. I don’t believe it is a judge’s place to interject themselves as to what laws should be implemented or alter the legislative intent behind those that already exist. A judge’s job is to follow and uphold the laws of the state and our county.
As a judge, I would give all those who appear before me equal access to justice whether they are indigent and can’t pay for their own attorney or if they do not have command of the English language. There are laws already in existence that provide attorneys for those who cannot afford them and ensure interpreters are available for those who cannot speak English. I do not feel that it would be my place to do anything above or beyond what we already have in that regard. I also feel like it would be inappropriate for a sitting judge or a judicial candidate to vocalize such beliefs as to what the laws should be to collect more votes.
If our community feels that something else needs to be done, then they are free to vote their conscience and elect representatives that can create laws in keeping with their views. It is not my place as a judge to be a politician and bend the knee to whatever the current events flavor of the day is in terms of pop-culture or trending political views. I wanted to explain myself before I offered you the simple answer of … nothing. I will not support any legislation as a judge because that is not what a Judge should be doing while on the bench or what a candidate should be doing when trying to get elected. In fact, I know that there are legal constraints on what views a judge may articulate in adherence to the cannons of conduct. I hope this answers your question sufficiently. The reality is my personal political views are not relevant when I am charged with the grave responsibility of following the laws we have. As your judge that is exactly what I will intend to do.