The Westside Gazette

The big reveal of Judge Matthew Destry

The big reveal of Judge Matthew Destry

This is me with Vincente Thrower and Pastors George Rich and Nathan Austin at the Easter Egg Drop in Pompano Beach this year – it really is all about the kids – you should have seen their faces when that helicopter flew over and started dropping the eggs!

Three to four times a year, I bring in groups of seniors to watch our justice system in action – they watch part of a trial, have lunch on me and get to know their courthouse and the people who work here  – I view it as judicial outreach and I am happy to sponsor anything that fosters a better understanding of the justice system – the first picture is me with a group from Kings Point outside the courtroom.

Annual Christmas Party—Every year since I took office in 2007, I have thrown an Annual Christmas Party at the Courthouse – it’s the largest event of the season and I pay for it out of my own pocket – 300-400 people come every year for a plate of ribs, chicken, black beens and rice and good cheer – the line stretches out of the Courtroom and down the hall. It’s my way of saying thank you to all the folks who keep the Courthouse running – a lot of them for very little money and no recognition – this is me greeting folks as they come in:

By K.L. Brown

Disrobed and not in the courtroom, Judge Matthew Destry speaks about his life as candid as he can in a rare interview.

His reputation precedes him in some controversial rulings and his courtroom antics, but who is the man behind the black robe that touches many lives, young and old, in delivering jail and prison sentences that affects the future and fate of individuals and their families?

Still a sitting judge, he realizes a lot said about him goes without any rebuttal be-cause he sees no reason to justify why a ruling turns out the way it does, and also due to the limitations he is placed uner in not being able to discuss those cases publicly.

He states in his over eight years as a sitting judge “there is no classroom to learn how to be a judge.”

He takes the criticism he gets “as constructive criticism” and he has learned over the years that “you can’t go through life thinking you are right all the time and get set in your ways and not know you have to make changes sometimes!”

To sit daily and make the kind of decisions that may haunt you at night, keeps him human.  Judge Destry is single without children and says he “doesn’t think” those attributes weigh in at all in his seemingly lack of compassion courtroom as seen by some.

His parents were educators and he received a stellar education himself, graduating from Stetson University College of Law with a Juris Doctorate (J.D.), after receiving his Bachelor’s degree from the Univer-sity of Tampa. He moved a-round a lot while growing up due to his father’s career from Oklahoma to Montreal, Canada and other cities in between.

Judge Destry was born out-side of Chicago in Illinois.  He became bi-lingual in French at 19 years old because his parents put him in a French school where he was forced to learn the language.

Judge Destry enlisted in the United States Air Force and be-came a Russian linguist. He is presently taking Spanish les-sons which he acknowledges will help him in his courtroom.

His career choices in the legal field

Judge Destry doesn’t take for granted the privileges he has been afforded in being able, he states, “to do good things.” And there may be many that would disagree that he has done good things due to some of the decisions he makes in his court-room as many other judges also do.

It may be hard to separate the judge from the man. He never sees himself as retiring. This is not to say he will always be a judge; but in the next chapter of his life he wants to digest all of the experiences he has had and relegate himself to make a difference in the lives of our youth in helping to prevent them from showing up in anyone’s courtroom!

Even though his courtroom is not juvenile court, he sees a lot of young defendants in the Felony Division being charged with adult crimes. That has prompted him to consider “teaching on the level where it counts for our youth the most in elementary or high school.”

Judge Destry has previously taught as an Adjunct Professor at Saint Leo University in Pasco County Florida.

Being appointed by Governor Charlie Crist to the bench in 2007 to replace retired Judge Larry Seidlin then re-elected in 2010 defeating Robert Abraham Jakovich with 64 percent of the vote for a six-year term that ends this January 2017 has Judge Destry up for re-election!

Re-election was a dilemma that Judge Destry talked over with his elderly dad he cares for that all boiled down to why he took the job in the first place. He commented, “You have certain responsibilities as a judge, and this job has been a learning curb for me that has benefitted me, and has given me the opportunity to give back. I take each case on its merits. I don’t stereotype or generalize and most importantly I have gotten better at listening and paying attention.”

For anyone to take that kind of responsibility for granted with the discretion that a judge has creates a serious consequence for everyone involved.

Is it the discretion that Judge Destry takes in his courtroom that disturbs most and can he be disrobed to reveal to a small degree who he is as a private citizen that can make the difference and give a better understanding of the man?

Judge Destry states that he does go out into the community and has a community alliance that calls on him when needed. He has an open door policy in his courtroom to the extent that you can come before him to present your grievance on some-thing you don’t agree with him on.

Law is the guiding force in his courtroom, but honesty and integrity is his personal mantra.

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