Judge London M. Kite: A Passionate Criminal Justice Advocate

Judge London M. Kite

For more than 20 years, Judge London M. Kite has dedicated her professional career to bringing fairness, justice, legal education, and safety to the Jacksonville community. She serves as a circuit court judge in the felony criminal division in Duval County and presides over all felony-level cases from arraignment through trial.

Kite has a long-time presence in the legal community. She is a mem­ber of the Chester Bedell American Inn of Courts, Jacksonville Bar As­sociation, and Jacksonville Women Lawyers Association. She is also ac­tive with the Florida Bar and is on the executive board of the criminal law section.

ON BECOMING A JUDGE

Thanks to encouragement from mentors, Kite realized it was time to broaden her skills and community impact. Having tried 141 felony jury trials in her 17-year career as a pros­ecutor in the Fourth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office, transferring her extensive trial experience to the bench was a natural next step. Gov­ernor Ron DeSantis appointed her as county court judge in July 2020, in the midst of the pandemic shutdown, and then elevated her to the circuit court bench in September 2021.

Evolving from the presenter to the listener was the biggest differ­ence in becoming a judge, she said. “I had to hone my skills of actively listening and taking in all the in­formation to make a decision. In county court, I presided over many different areas of the law outside of my area of experience. I was com­mitted to learning the law and the rules of procedure so I could make appropriate decisions.”

ON COURTROOM EXPECTATIONS

For Kite, one of the most impor­tant and historical, serious legal phrases in the criminal justice sys­tem, in the context of her courtroom expectations, is “justice delayed is justice denied.” She describes herself as a workaholic who is “firm, fair, and full-time.” She dedicates her time to being prepared for court and “I ex­pect lawyers to be as fully prepared and present as I am. I also strive greatly to be fair, and I listen carefully to both sides. I’m committed to jus­tice and fairness always.”

She loves trial advocacy and ad­vises lawyers who appear in her courtroom to improve their litiga­tion skills by observing more-expe­rienced lawyers try their cases. “It’s not enough to know the nuts and bolts of getting a case to trial, but it is the elevated trial advocacy that I love to see in the lawyers who appear before me — whether it is seeing a prosecutor using descriptive words to take a jury on a journey to places and events that are outside of a ju­ror’s daily life, or a defense attorney shutting down the prosecution by showing the gray in the state’s al­leged ‘black and white’ case. These are all the beautiful displays of the art of litigation that you can only learn in the courtroom.”

Kite is accessible to help trial attor­neys learn and improve their skills. “When I first started in circuit court,” she recalled, “I was nervous about trying cases and I wanted to do a good job, so I now make it a point to be a mentor to young lawyers.”

As a former middle school teach­er and adjunct law professor, Kite is committed to legal education both through mentorship of young at­torneys and speaking to students in middle and high school.

ON OTHERS WANTING A JUDICIAL CAREER

Judge Kite offers helpful advice for attorneys who may consider becom­ing a judge: “Find your passion in the law and hone your skills before entering the appointment process. Educate yourself outside your famil­iar practice area and learn other ar­eas of law so you are a well-rounded candidate. Get involved in the com­munity. Judges serve the commu­nity, and it is never too early to help the public get to know you outside your legal work.”

ON BALANCING TECHNOLOGY, PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS & LIFE

Kite lights up when talking about technology and the legal community. “Everyone knows that I love comput­ers. I strive to be as paperless as possi­ble.” On the topic of AI, she embraces the technology, while cautioning that it’s important that lawyers still need to be the ones to review, process, and analyze information and not solely rely on AI for their research and pleadings.

She also stresses that technology is not a replacement for good old-fashioned human interaction. She regularly encourages young lawyers to call opposing counsel, and stresses that an email or text is no substitute for meeting with people face to face. “It is important for lawyers to build and create meaningful personal re­lationships. You can’t only use text or email — you have to pick up the phone and get out of the office.”

When it comes to balancing her personal life with her busy career, she admits that is a challenge, but being a working mother is achiev­able. Kite demonstrates a passion for her family and is just as com­mitted to being a loving wife and mother as she is to being a judge. She recognizes that her family has sacrificed for her career, and she enjoys traveling and boating with them whenever possible.

Starting off the day with exercise is necessary for both her physical and mental health. “It is easy to let work and life get in the way of your personal health,” said Kite, who is an avid Peloton fan. “I neglected my health for a long time, but last year, I made nutrition and exercise a pri­ority to lose a significant amount of weight.” As a former NFL cheerlead­er for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, she is proud to be back in a similar wellness mindset as before she be­gan law school.

With a passion for life and a pas­sion for justice, Judge London Kite serves Jacksonville with balance, strength, and fairness to those in the criminal justice system.

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