Judge Elizabeth Scherer, the Florida jurist who presided over the Parkland mass shooter’s penalty phase and clashed with the defense, has announced her resignation and cryptically says she is working on projects that would take her career “in a more creative direction.”
“I was appointed at a young age, 35 or 36, which to me was very early in my career, and I knew fairly soon this was not going to be my forever job,” she said in a statement to Law&Crime.
This follows Scherer handling the Parkland case, in which a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Nikolas Cruz, fatally shot 17 people and tried to kill 17 others in a mass murder.
She notably butted heads with the defense, including when she called out an assistant public defender for laughing and flipping the bird in court. She hugged prosecutors after the jury handed down a life sentence. Scherer used to belong to their office as an assistant state attorney in the Seventh Judicial Circuit until then-Gov. Rick Scott appointed her in 2012.
The state’s public defenders organization filed a complaint over her “hostility.” Justices with the Supreme Court of Florida recently disqualified her from a separate death penalty case because of the hugs.
Scherer said on Thursday that she told the chief judge amid the Parkland case about her plans to eventually leave the bench.
“When I was assigned this trial, I gave the Chief Judge my word that I would stay through the completion of the trial for the purposes of continuity because of the magnitude of the case, to maintain continuity and avoid the litigants from having to change judges,” she said. “When the trial was over, I told him I’d be pursuing other career options and would likely resign in the next few months. During those months, I got everything settled in the office and decided to move on.”
Chief Judge Jack Tuter told Law&Crime she discussed her resignation plans last year.
“Judge Scherer approached me last year to advise she would soon be leaving the bench,” he told Law&Crime in a statement. “During her service, Judge Scherer handled one of the most challenging cases in Broward County’s history. She did so in a professional and dignified manner. On behalf of the 17th Circuit, we wish Judge Scherer good health and prosperity in her future endeavors.”
Scherer was vague when discussing her future.
“Right now, I have some different and very interesting opportunities in the works,” she said. “I can’t share any more details about my next step because nothing is official yet, but I’m working on a few projects that would take my career in a more creative direction, and I’m very excited about it.”
She is scheduled to leave her position with the Seventh Judicial Circuit on June 30.
“I need some lighter material. I need to see more good. There is so much positivity and good in the world,” she said. “For the most part, people are good, but what I see every day are crimes, and it starts to wear on you. I want to focus on things that are exciting and good. Any time in my life something happened that was difficult for me, divorce or anything else, people came from all over the place, people I didn’t even know and said, ‘You’re a good person.’ It makes you realize so much of our society is based on negative things, but I believe in humans, and there’s a lot of good out there. I’d like to experience something different. I have my whole life ahead of me, and I don’t want to look back with regrets. I feel that I’ve given everything I can give to this job, and it’s time for someone else to take over.”
Diane Kaye contributed to this report.
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