Friday, May 15, 2015

Appellate Practice: Judge Matt Lucas Joins the Second District

By Raymond T. (Tom) Elligett Jr. and Amy S. Farrior 

In January, Judge Matt Lucas moved from the Hillsborough County Circuit Court to join the Second District Court of Appeal. Arriving on a Monday, he sat on his first oral argument panel the next day. (Clerk Jim Birkhold had thoughtfully arranged to have the files made available for his review earlier.)

The fast judicial pace is nothing new for Judge Lucas, having been appointed to the county bench in 2010, elected for another term in 2012, appointed to the circuit bench in 2013, and elected in 2014. Judge Lucas graduated from FSU with a bachelor of science degree in economics, and he attended UF College of Law. He married into a Gator family and diplomatically roots for the Gators 364 days a year.

After law school, Judge Lucas worked at Carlton Fields and then Bricklemeyer, Smolker & Bolves, becoming a shareholder. His private practice included a variety of civil trial and appellate fields. His broad experience on the trial bench added family and criminal law to his skill set, further preparing him for the Second District and its heavy criminal docket.

Judge Lucas' wide legal interests are reflected both in his professional activities and articles he has authored. His writings range from law review articles on corporate dissolution and how the right to remain silent impacts access to civil courts, to shorter pieces on valuing the marital home, title insurance, and diversity jurisdiction removal. He explains that his articles have risen out of cases that had an issue he felt warranted a deeper exploration.

Generous in sharing his time on CLE seminars and bar activities, Judge Lucas has actively contributed in projects directly benefitting children. These have included participating in Teen Court and the Great American Teach-In, serving as a Cub Scout den leader, and coaching Little League.

His interests outside law focus on his wife and their two sons, who are active in baseball and preschool. He also has varied musical interests in several instruments, and his past forays encompassed playing bass guitar in his high school jazz band, acoustic guitar for youth gatherings, and, on rare occasions, the bagpipes.

Although only on the Second District for less than a month when we met in late January for this article, Judge Lucas noted differences between trial and appellate judging experiences. The amount of written materials and their role in reaching the resolution of cases takes on a considerably more significant role in the appellate arena. Judge Lucas also shared what seems to be the prevailing view of appellate judges: that he is not a fan of footnotes, commenting they may be appropriate to direct the reader to a more detailed discussion of a less important aspect of an issue – but are not the place for crucial points. He also observed that his office phone seems to ring a little less often.

We are fortunate to have Judge Lucas become the first of two new judges on the Second District, as it expands to 16 judges. Lawyers and parties in the district can look forward to his thoughtful analysis and courteous judicial demeanor in the years to come.