On Oct. 27, Monroe County’s bench gained its newest judge as Jimmy Morgan was sworn in by Judge Mark H. Jones.
“I always identified him as an outstanding person, not just as a lawyer but as a human being in terms of his character, his commitment to duty and his diligence,” said Jones.
A graduate of the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law, Morgan said he has had “a history of service” from a young age. A former student body president in high school and fraternity president in college, he served more than eight years with the United States Marine Corps as a prosecutor upon graduation from law school.
“When I graduated from law school, I had always been in awe of those who had served our country,” said Morgan. “I thought, ‘Maybe I should stop just admiring these guys and do it myself.’”
Morgan credits his days in the Marines, and mentorship from senior officers, as experiences that helped to shape him and provide a genuine sense of the nature of justice. He enjoyed learning the prosecution function as he was tasked with special victims cases. “A lot of those victims were the voiceless,” said Morgan. “You’re able to be the voice for them and find some measure of accountability.”
After resuming civilian life, Morgan took his first opportunity to head to Key West, where he joined the public defender’s office. “I thought, if I’m going to learn the defense function, it would be interesting to serve those who truly can’t afford legal representation, people who probably need the protections the most,” he said.
Even with a prosecution background, Morgan said, he came to love defense work as well. “It was a commitment to service, but I also had great peer mentors who were closer to my age. When you spend time in both the prosecution and the defense function, you get an idea of what it’s all about.”
It was in Key West that Morgan had the opportunity to practice in front of Jones, who served as chief judge at the time. “Being a judge has always been a dream of mine, and Judge Jones used to always say, ‘Each and every case rises and falls on its own merits.’” said Morgan. “It’s not one size fits all; each case has its own factual scenario and different people. You have to look at all the factors, you just have to. It always felt like Judge Jones arrived at a true sense of justice.”
After gaining experience on both sides of the courtroom, Morgan said he found himself anticipating and predicting the outcomes of cases, whether or not they were in his favor. It was at this point that he believed he was ready for the next step. “There comes a point when you’re looking left and looking right and you say, ‘okay, I kind of get it,’” said Morgan. “You have to put yourself in the best position possible to move on to the next phase. I invested time and energy and effort in learning one skill at a time, and I feel like I did that.”
By his own estimation, years of experience in both prosecution and defense, coupled with Marine Corps training that allowed him to make decisions under duress while in active duty, prepared him for the challenges of presiding over cases. “In the Marine Corps, lawyers are line officers, and they can take command of marines and go into combat. I was a decision maker,” he said.
When appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, Morgan was thrilled to accept the new position. “It was a true honor to receive the governor’s appointment,” he said. “It’s great to be sitting on the bench alongside the judges who serve Monroe County. There are some great people and great lawyers here who’ve committed themselves for decades.”