January 23, 2017 Articles

JIOP Alumni Spotlight: The Honorable Stephen Sebastian Everett

A judge shares why he became an intern with JIOP and how the experience shaped his professional career.

By Judge Stephen Everett, with Shannon Ammon

Leon County Judge Stephen S. Everett was appointed to the bench and took office on May 16, 2016. Prior to his appointment, Judge Everett served as an Assistant General Counsel with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity in Tallahassee, Florida, an Assistant Public Defender in Fort Myers, Florida, and an Assistant State Attorney in Sarasota, Florida. Judge Everett's experience as an attorney (2007–2016) focused on trial and appellate practice, and he handled a variety of cases ranging from second degree murder to multimillion-dollar contract disputes.

While in law school at the Louisiana State University (LSU) Law Center, Judge Everett received multiple book awards and was named to the Chancellor's List for academic excellence before graduating with both Juris Doctor and Bachelor of Civil Law degrees. Judge Everett graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Science in Telecommunication.

From his father, a minister, and his mother, an elementary school teacher, Judge Everett learned the importance of actively contributing to his community. Before attending law school, Judge Everett served as a middle and high school teacher in the Lee County School District. Judge Everett is committed to legal education programs for aspiring attorneys; he has served as an alumni interviewer for the American Bar Association's Judicial Intern Opportunity Program (JIOP) and as a volunteer coach in the Florida High School Mock Trial Competition.

Q&A with Judge Everett

Can you please provide background on why, and how, you became an intern with JIOP?
Before even attending law school I knew that I wanted to pursue becoming a judge. History was one of my favorite subjects as a student, and I was very much intrigued by the judiciary because of its historical role and the impact of decisions from the English common law that still affect our lives today. During my 2L year at LSU, I read about the JIOP and it struck me as the perfect opportunity given my career goal. I was not sure if I would be selected but applied because the potential to work with a judge and understand how a judge processes legal issues was such an exciting opportunity.

What was your most memorable experience while interning with JIOP?
Getting to sit in court and watch my judge, the Hon. Mary Milloy, was my most memorable experience as a JIOP intern. As a law student, you are following the necessary track to earn your JD; however, seeing firsthand how the judicial system actually works assisted tremendously in my transition from law student to attorney. The clarity of Judge Milloy's writing and attention to detail were inspirational for me; so much so, in fact, that I realized achieving my own goals would require pushing myself beyond the limits of my prior concept of hard work.

How did your JIOP experience shape your professional career?
My JIOP experience shaped my professional career by providing me with a strong sense of professionalism. Even as an intern who is a member of a judge's staff, you quickly realize that the work you perform matters a great deal. Each member of a judge's staff must have a devotion to honesty, integrity, and passion for excellence because upholding the public's trust in the judiciary is extremely important. Those early lessons in professionalism taught me that every case matters to the litigants appearing before a court regardless of any outside perceptions. Most importantly, my JIOP experience provided a foundation that allowed me to develop good professional habits as an attorney and establish a reputation for excellence.

What advice would you give to students that will be interning in a judicial chambers?
Come in with the mindset of proving yourself on day one and being prepared to work hard from your first assignment until your last day. Showing that you pay attention to detail, can follow instructions, and care about quality are essential traits. Demonstrate at every opportunity that you can assist the judge in meeting the demand of upholding the public's trust in the judiciary. Treat your internship as a precious learning opportunity.

What advice would you give to JIOP alumni who are interested in pursuing a judgeship?
In pursuing a judgeship, you need to be equal parts persistent and pragmatic because having the desire to be a judge by itself is not enough. You must be able to demonstrate that you (1) are exceedingly qualified for the position you seek, and (2) understand the responsibility of serving as a judge. The groundwork for a successful election or appointment requires the ability to operate astutely. Also, depending on eligibility criteria, if quasi-judicial positions such as magistrate, hearing officer, or administrative law judge are available based on your practice area, obtaining one of those positions first can be an excellent springboard into a constitutional judicial position.

Keywords: litigation, Judicial Intern Opportunity Program, JIOP, judgeship, professionalism

Judge Stephen Everett with Shannon Ammon – January 23, 2017