Chief Justice Presents Award for Judicial Excellence to Judge David Denkin

Chief Justice Charles Canady poses with 2019 Judicial Excellence Award recipient Judge David Denkin, Sarasota County.

Sarasota County Judge David Denkin, a devoted and successful judicial educator and leader in county court advocacy, is the 2019 recipient of the Chief Justice Award for Judicial Excellence.  Chief Justice Charles T. Canady presented the award to Judge Denkin at the Conference of County Court Judges of Florida.  “Judge Denkin exhibits the discipline of a committed scholar, the passion of a gifted educator, and the fidelity of a public servant,” wrote one fellow judge in support of Judge Denkin’s nomination for the award. Judge Denkin, a county court judge since 2003, has been recognized for his efforts in Sarasota County and as a leader within the branch for many years.

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Serving on the Sarasota County bench since January 2003, Judge David Denkin is esteemed by his peers for his “record of personal contributions to the judicial branch and sterling reputation for professionalism.”  He is especially valued as a “leader, teacher, and mentor”: he is described as having “the discipline of a committed scholar, the passion of a gifted educator, and the fidelity of a public servant.”  Indeed, because of the many branch leadership and judicial education-related roles Judge Denkin has embraced over the years, his fellow judges commonly regard him as “the go-to person” in the courts system. 

Judge David L. Denkin, Sarasota County

Judge David L. Denkin, Sarasota County

Judge Denkin “has proven himself as a leader and ‘doer’ right from the beginning of his judicial career,” emphasize the letters nominating him for the Judicial Excellence Award.  Only three years after becoming a judge, for instance, he was singled out to serve as the administrative judge for Sarasota County Court—a position fraught with responsibilities that are “oftentimes very heavy and always unpredictable,” his colleagues note; after serving in this capacity until 2009, he was appointed again in 2017.  In addition to accepting this important leadership role in his county, he has tirelessly assumed numerous statewide leadership roles, often simultaneously.  For years, he has been extensively active in the Conference of County Court Judges of Florida, for example, and is the conference president this year.  He also chaired the conference’s Education Committee from 2009 – 2015—a position called “one of the most difficult posts to fill”—which he performed ably, “with hard work, collaboration, and skill.”  During the same stretch of time, he was the associate dean, and then the dean, of the Florida DUI Adjudication Lab Program as well as the associate dean of the Florida Judicial College; since 2015, he has been the dean of the college.  As one nomination letter points out, “The amount of time and hard work he has devoted, above and beyond his regular work assignment, is remarkable”—especially since “These are thankless jobs.  There is no extra pay, no extra benefits, just a great deal of extra work and responsibility.” 

Given the education-related nature of many of his leadership positions, it is no surprise that Judge Denkin’s colleagues enthusiastically appreciate him for “his tireless pursuit and dedication to advancing Florida judicial education.”  In addition to teaching for the Conference of County Court Judges, he has taught for the Florida Judicial College, the DUI Adjudication Lab, and the Florida College of Advanced Judicial Studies; he has also been a faculty member for judicial education programs in Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, and South Carolina as well as for the National Judicial College.  Due to the number of programs for which he has taught over the years—and the number of courses—one of the letter writers speculates that “Probably every judge in Florida has taken a course taught by David.”  In addition to teaching, since 2012, he has been a member of the Florida Court Education Council, which coordinates and oversees the creation and maintenance of, and manages the budget for, Florida’s comprehensive education program for judges and court personnel.  One of his supporters declares, “During the past 22 plus years of having the honor as serving as a county court judge, I have had the opportunity to work with many gifted judicial educators and leaders.  However, there is one judge who stands head and shoulders above the rest, and that judge is David Denkin of Sarasota County.” 

Judge Denkin’s colleagues opine that his success as a leader and educator is due, in part, to his judicial temperament.  He “shows respect to those he works with, being a careful listener, making sure that he understands the needs of those he collaborates with; simply he works well with others,” says one.  Adds another, “His sense of humor, respect for others, and good, old-fashioned hard work make him a role model” for judges.  Another concludes, “I have been on the bench for 27 years, and he is one of only a handful of colleagues who have demonstrated such persistent pursuit of excellence in all that he does.”  And all agree that he unfailingly “goes way above and beyond his regular duties to make our Florida court system better.

The circuit judge recipient will be announced in August.

The Chief Justice Awards for Judicial Excellence, established in 2015 and presented annually, recognize one county court judge and one circuit judge who demonstrate exceptional commitment to the judicial branch and who personify judicial excellence, embodying qualities such as strength of character, integrity, fairness, open-mindedness, knowledge of the law, sound judgment, professional ethics, intellectual courage, compassion, and decisiveness.  These prestigious awards are bestowed at the annual education programs for each level of the trial court. The circuit judge recipient will be announced in August.