Local lawyer turns judge - Brevard County's New Judge

By Brian Monroe
Friday August 9, 2002


COCOA -- Cocoa lawyer Rhonda Babb has made a career out of fighting for the little guy -- or girl.

For the past six years at Central Florida Legal Services, the 43-year-old native of Trinidad has made sure someone who's poor, blind or disabled gets all the time and attention they need to get the most out of what public schools have to offer.

Babb specializes in civil litigation against schools on behalf of the disabled. She makes sure schools provide extra services for those will special needs and no money to pay for them.

She doesn't do it for the pay. Her office survives on grants from the Florida Bar Foundation and the federal government. Its mission: to provide civil legal services to the low-income community for free.

Babb relates easily to her clients as she came from humble beginnings herself. Just three years after moving to New York at age 13, her father passed away. Babb said during that difficult time she remembered her mother's words to never give up.

It is those qualities and others, friends say, that factored into Gov. Jeb Bush's decision this week to appoint Babb to Brevard's open county court judge seat, created by the retirement of Judge Peter Haddad.

Babb said she wanted to become a judge as an ultimate testament that anyone can achieve their dream through hard work, perseverance and determination.

"Rhonda will make a terrific judge," legal services managing attorney B.J. Owens said.

"She is principled, family-oriented and will tell it like it is," she said. "We are really going to miss her. We are going to feel like our arm and our heart is gone from the office."

Babb is a member of the Florida Bar Association, National Bar Association and the Brevard County Association for Women Lawyers. She received her undergraduate degree from Wellesley College in 1979 and her law degree from the Brooklyn School of Law in 1984.

"I am probably twice as happy for her than she is for herself," County Court Judge Alli B. Majeed said. "I am very proud of her. I want her to know she not only has me as a colleague, but a friend. I extend to her a warm welcome and a resource as much as she will let me."

Babb said she is humbled but enthusiastic to bang a gavel and wear a robe to work.

"I am happy to be part of the system," she said. "I know I will feel good after a day's work knowing someone came to me and got justice."

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Updated 12/11/2003