Scott Janowitz may have had a relatively brief tenure as a judge in Miami-Dade County, but in his few years on the bench, he exemplified what it means to be a thoughtful, fair, and intelligent jurist. His career in the law spanned both the public and private sectors, giving him a well-rounded perspective on legal issues. Though his time as county judge came to an end with his 2022 primary defeat, Janowitz’s impact on the South Florida legal community is sure to be long-lasting.
Early Life and Education
Childhood and Family Background
Born in 1976 and raised in Miami, Scott Janowitz grew up with a front-row view of the complex racial, cultural, and class dynamics that shape South Florida’s unique identity. His family’s own multi-generational roots in the Magic City influenced Janowitz’s deep appreciation and understanding of Miami’s diverse communities. From a young age, he knew he wanted to pursue law as a means of serving the public good.
Education at Carnegie Mellon and University of Miami Law
Janowitz laid the educational foundation for his legal career with undergraduate studies at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, where he earned his B.A. in 1999. He then returned to his hometown for law school at the University of Miami, graduating with his J.D. in 2006. His training at a top Florida law school prepared him well for a career applying the law in Miami’s local courts.
Before donning a judge’s robe, Scott Janowitz put in many years as a practitioner of the law in both public and private settings. This gave him essential hands-on experience that would strengthen his approach on the bench.
Work as Assistant State Attorney
Janowitz’s first job after law school allowed him to advocate for justice as an assistant state attorney in Florida’s 17th Judicial Circuit. Working closely with law enforcement colleagues, he built criminal cases and argued for convictions in court. This early prosecutorial role shaped his tough but fair approach as a judge.
After his time as a prosecutor, Janowitz entered private practice as a litigation attorney handling civil cases on behalf of individuals and businesses. At the firm of Geyer, Fuxa, and Tyler, he continued using his legal skills to help ordinary citizens navigate the court system. This diversity of legal experience introduced him to a wide range of parties needing fair access to justice.
Appointment as Judge
This blended public and private background made Janowitz well prepared when an open seat on the Miami-Dade County Court provided an opportunity to return to public service in 2020. After being appointed to the bench by Governor Ron DeSantis, he was able to draw upon his varied legal career as he carried out his duties presiding over this busy local court.
Time on the Bench
With his appointment in April 2020, Scott Janowitz began his tenure as a Miami-Dade County Judge. He quickly distinguished himself with an astute, thoughtful approach to administering justice.
Appointment to County Court in 2020
Janowitz filled the county court vacancy created when Judge Christina DiRaimondo was elevated to Miami’s 11th Judicial Circuit Court. He felt privileged to be selected for this important community role adjudicating misdemeanors and civil disputes at the county level. It was a responsibility he treated with great care and attention.
Judicial Philosophy and Approach
As a judge, Scott Janowitz made fairness, impartiality, and respect for the law his guiding principles. He appreciated the huge impact even lower court rulings can have on people’s daily lives. Janowitz combined compassion for ordinary citizens with disciplined legal analysis based on precedent and statutory authority. His goal was justice in each individual case.
Notable Cases and Decisions
Janowitz quickly faced complex cases requiring his legal discernment, including ruling on self-defense claims in domestic violence situations. In one high-profile case, he ordered a former schoolteacher held without bond on charges of indecent exposure. His careful approach weighed the need to protect children versus upholding the defendant’s legal rights. Janowitz earned respect for his ability to tackle thorny issues.
As his interim appointment came to an end, Janowitz had to run for re-election in 2022 to continue serving on the bench. This would prove to be an unsuccessful yet valuable experience in engaging with voters. While he fought to keep his seat, the will of the electorate turned out to be otherwise.
Loss in 2022 Primary
Judge Janowitz’s bid to win a full term ended abruptly with a primary election loss that cut short his judicial career. But he walked away with a hard-won appreciation of elections.
Challenger Alicia Garcia Priovolos
The nonpartisan August 2022 primary pitted Janowitz against local attorney Alicia Garcia Priovolos. Promising reform and progress, she painted the incumbent as part of an unjust status quo. Priovolos’ message gained more traction, earning 59.9% of the vote to Janowitz’s 40.1%.
Key Factors in Defeat
Several dynamics may have factored into the unseating of this generally respected judge. As an appointee of Governor DeSantis, partisan politics likely played a role. Janowitz also lacked the campaign funding and name recognition of his opponent. Nonetheless, he took the loss graciously as an exercise in democracy.
Reaction and Next Steps
True to his reputation for fairness, Janowitz accepted the election results with grace and optimism. He expressed no bitterness at being denied continued opportunity to serve but rather thanked voters for the chance to discharge his duties faithfully during his time as judge. It remains to be seen what professional options Janowitz might pursue next.
Legacy and Impact
The brevity of Janowitz’s judgeship makes his legacy difficult to define. Yet his honorable approach to judging left a meaningful imprint and example that will endure.
Assessments of His Time as Judge
Legal colleagues praised Scott Janowitz’s intelligence, work ethic, compassion, and integrity on the bench. He approached each case with an open mind and commitment to the law’s ideals. Janowitz’s rulings were unbiased, informed, and pragmatic. Though no longer a judge, his honorable approach is still impactful.
While he no longer sits on the bench, Janowitz’s legal and life experiences position him well for whatever the future may hold. His investigative skills could aid a law firm or corporate legal department. Or he may find new purpose training the next generation of lawyers at his alma mater. Janowitz’s values will lead him to a place of continued impact.
Reflections on His Career
The story of Scott Janowitz’s judicial career is one of merit, service, and acceptance. His time on the bench, though abbreviated, left behind an example of legal wisdom and rectitude for others to follow. Janowitz can look back proudly on his efforts to provide justice fairly in each case that came before him.
What He Represents for the Legal System
At a divisive time for America and its judiciary, Janowitz represents the ideal of an impartial, ethical judge guided solely by the law and the facts at hand. He carved out a place of principle in an era of partisan rancor. The dignity and sincerity with which Janowitz conducted his judgeship inspires confidence that the justice system can still operate as intended.
Q: Where did Scott Janowitz go to law school?
A: Scott Janowitz earned his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Miami School of Law, graduating in 2006.
Q: How long was Scott Janowitz a judge in Miami?
A: Janowitz served as a judge on the Miami-Dade County Court from April 2020 when he was appointed to the post, until January 2, 2023 when he left office after losing his election bid. So his tenure on the bench lasted about 2 years and 9 months.
Q: What legal jobs did Scott Janowitz have before becoming a judge?
A: Before his judicial appointment, Janowitz worked as both a state prosecutor and a private practice attorney. He served as an assistant state attorney and also litigated civil cases on behalf of private clients.
Q: Who defeated Judge Janowitz in the 2022 election?
A: Janowitz lost the August 2022 primary election for his judgeship to a challenger named Alicia Garcia Priovolos, who won almost 60% of the vote compared to Janowitz’s 40%.
Q: What type of cases did Janowitz preside over as judge?
A: As a county court judge in Florida, Scott Janowitz oversaw misdemeanor criminal cases as well as civil lawsuits below the $30,000 threshold. This included issues like traffic offenses, vandalism, domestic violence, and small claims disputes.