She is the first woman, first Cuban-American and first FIU graduate to serve as chief judge of the circuit.
“As one of her former professors, I’m very proud of what she’s accomplished in her career,” said President Mark B. Rosenberg, who taught Soto as undergraduate. “She is someone many different members of our community can look up to. I know she will represent the university well wherever she goes.”
Soto is currently an administrative judge in the circuit criminal division of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court, having been appointed by then-Governor Jeb Bush in 2002. In 2010, she ran unopposed and started a new term that ends in 2017. In her new role, she will succeed Chief Circuit Judge Joel Brown.
Soto graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science from FIU in 1986. She began her career as a law clerk in 1987 while earning a Juris Doctor in 1989 from the University of Miami. She was admitted to the Florida Bar later that year. Soto worked as an assistant state attorney and in private practice before becoming a county court judge in 1997.
“I actually remember her so well, she stood out to me as one of my bright students,” said Rebecca Mae Salokar, chair of the Department of Politics and International Relations and professor of political science. “She was always engaged in the class and performed well. I have followed her career as she has made her way up the ranks in the judicial system. As the new chief judge, Judge Soto will also serve as a lobbyist to make sure state resources flow to our county in order to maintain and improve our court system.”
Florida is divided into 20 judicial circuits, or areas of jurisdiction, which are made up of circuit and county courts. The Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida, serving Miami-Dade County, is the largest in the state and the fourth largest trial court in the nation. Its 123 circuit and county court judges serve a population of more than 2 million in a 2,000-square-mile area. Eighty judges preside in six Divisions of the Circuit Court and 43 judges preside in three Divisions of the County Court.
– By Evelyn S. Perez