Judge Lazarus Reflects On Future After Retirement





Broward County Court Judge Joel Lazarus has it all planned out.

He won’t retire before December 31, 2010, so that his county court seat will be filled by election.  If he quit early, the governor would get to appoint his replacement

“I intend to serve out my term.  The only reason I wouldn’t would be if the Boston Red Sox offered me a position, he quipped.

It is expected that Jeffrey Backman, son of Circuit Judge Paul Backman, will file papers to run for Lazarus’ seat.  The move could come as early as tomorrow, April 1.

Backman is a commercial litigator with Adorno & Yoss in Fort Lauderdale.

Backman won’t have an easy time winning Lazarus’ Group 1. Mardi Anne Levey Cohen, who is already known to voters from her past campaigns, has already entered the race.

If Backman wins, he will be taking the seat once held by his father.

When Lazarus was appointed to the bench, he filled the seat of Paul Backman, who Chiles had promoted to the circuit court.

Now Backman’s son is seeking to replace Lazarus.

Lazarus reflected on his career and his future plans in an exclusive interview with Browardbeat.com.

He’ll teach community college.  He hopes to serve as a senior judge.  He’ll relax in his cabin in North Carolina.

Lazarus will be 67 in July.

A high-profile prosecutor before he was named judge by Gov. Lawton Chiles in 1993, law was actually Lazarus’ second career.

A graduate of Babson College in Massachusetts, he then earned a master’s degree in business administration from Columbia University and went into finance.

“I hated the investment business, he recalled.

In 1974, Lazarus entered the new Nova Law School.  He graduated in 1977.

After a stint at the Dade County State Attorney’s Office, Lazarus went to work for State Attorney Mike Satz.

He never left.

It was an era when prosecutors could make a life-long career out of putting the bad guys in jail.  There weren’t big law school loans hanging over their heads.

Lazarus spent the next 15 years at the Broward State Attorney’s Office.

His most notable case was against Kathy and Jeffrey Willets. The pair was running a sex-for-sale business out of their home.

“Kathy Willets and I were tied at the hip, Lazarus joked.

Kathy serviced dozens of Broward businessmen, while Jeffrey hid in the closet and took pictures.

One of Kathy’s prostitution customers was a Fort Lauderdale city commissioner.

That would be enough to gain media attention, but the Willets hired publicity-seeking attorney Ellis Rubin to defend them.

Rubin used a novel defense, saying Kathy’s use of Prozac fueled an unquenchable sexual appetite.

The media called it the nymphomania defense.

Suddenly the case was worldwide news and Lazarus was part of it.

Eventually they pleaded guilty to more than two dozen criminal counts.  Kathy went on to be a porno actress.

About a year after the Willets case, Lazarus was appointed to the bench.

Chiles said Lazarus “earned a reputation for fairness (and) will further that reputation on the bench.”

Much of the courthouse crowd agrees Lazarus lived up to Chiles’ prediction.

Lazarus was on the bench and he still made news.

It was international news when Lazarus sentenced 14-year-old murderer Lionel Tate to life in prison.

And Lazarus was all over the tabloids again when the case of rapper Foxy Brown landed in his court.  She was accused of assaulting a Pembroke Pines beauty supply store employee and resisting arrest.

Brown received probation.

Just last year in another heavily publicized case, he sentenced Hollywood City Commissioner Keith Wasserstrom to 60 days in jail and four years probation for corruption.

Its all in his scrap book:  Wasserstrom, Tate and the Willets, along with the serial killers and the dozens of really evil people he took off the street.  Lazarus made Broward a better and safer place for us all.

He’s still got over a year and a half on the bench.  After that?

Larazus’ thoughts wander to his cabin and the cool North Carolina summers.

“I’ll get a job with a community college.  I like to teach.  Then I’ll sit on the porch with a glass of wine and my books and a steak on the grill, said Lazarus.

Not a bad way to spend your life, especially when you earned it.  Joel Lazarus earned it.




11 Responses to “Judge Lazarus Reflects On Future After Retirement”

  1. Good Luck Judge Lazarus says:

    I have practiced in front of Judge Lazarus. Judge Lazarus is a wonderful man with a wonderful sense of humor. He is fair. I hope that he doesn’t retire from the bench and returns often as a senior judge still hearing cases.

  2. gloss over says:

    nice gloss over the fact that jeff backman has barely 5 years in practice and is just ridding his daddys name

  3. Think About It says:

    Is the judiciary an inherited office? Should judges be encourged to pass down their office to their children? Only when their children are qualified, like Mike Orlando. We don’t know anything about Little Backman.

  4. This is sick says:

    Oh yeah, Laz is a great guy. BS! He is a mean old letch. He is nice to the gals that wink at him, he has little tolerance for anyone else.

    And Jeff Backman a judge. What is this world coming to. He has NO QUALIFICATIONS to be a judge. Barely a lawyer for five years, he is just a child.

    God help the Broward Judiciary.

  5. What About Mardi says:

    Isn’t Mardi Levey Cohen already running for Group 1, which is Lazarus’ seat? Why no mention of her?

    FROM BUDDY: Absolutely right!!! My mistake. I have changed the above post to reflect her entry into the race.

  6. Triple Dip says:

    Buddy, why the criticism of Mardi when she went in the race… but none of Backman?

    I thought you prefer appointments over elections… so why not write about Backman’s qualifications? What exactly are they? Has he ever tried a case? Had a client with a major life event sit across from him with the need of a lawyer to help fix his life? This is GROSS. Paul Backman’s wife is Judge Arlene Simon… so that’s triple dipping at the public trough. Be consistent Bubby!

    I’ll be addressing your concerns in future posts.
    I do have problems with double dipping. I do prefer appointments over elections, provided that the JNC was depoliticized. I do have qualms about Jeffrey Backman’s apparent lack of experience. Lots of qualms over Backman’s age and experience.
    This race will be long — Backman hasn’t even filed for office as of this time. I will have plenty of time to comment on it. Be assured, I will comment further..

  7. I. P. Freely says:


    What do you consider double dipping? You have a one-time opportunity to switch FRS retirement plans during your FRS career. This is called your “2nd Election.”

    If I retire and get a state pension and draw a paycheck for another job, is that double dipping?

    If I retire, but before I retire I take the “2nd election” to the “investment plan” and roll that lump sum into an IRA would that still be double dipping?

    It is silly to call out a certain class of people because they choose to structure their retirement benefits in a certain way that may be better for them.

  8. Anybody But These Two says:

    You must be kidding about the choices for this judicial post. Mardi Levey Cohen, who chases a judicial opening like a dog after a bone despite her lack of ability and demeanor. Or a mere baby like Jeffrey Backman. Please stay on the bench, Judge Lazarus.

  9. The insider says:

    Do not vote for Jeff Backman. Jeff Backman is a horrible attorney and will be a terrible judge. Jeff Backman’s honesty is in question and he has a track record of not doing the right thing. Furthermore, Jeff Backman has limited experience and is not a nice person.

  10. R. Black Esq. says:

    I once remember a time when a pro se litigant filed a motion to recuse Judge Lazrus because he felt Judge Lazrus was bias, and prejudice asshole. [sic] Judge Lazrus immediately held a Show Cause hearing and the litigant Steven Leonard pro se, told the Judge that he strongly believes that your honor is an asshole who is biase and prejudice, and firmly stands by his motion to recuse. judge Lazrus held him in contempt. The darndest thing I though because this litigant was right.

  11. Ryan says:

    Joel T. Lazarus, while still a prosecutor, allowed known serial killer/rapist Eddie Lee Mosely to go free in 1983. He cut a plea deal which shocked even Mosley’s public defender, because it allowed Mosley to go free immediately. DNA evidence has proven that Mosley brutally raped and murdered three more women after Lazarus and co-prosecutor Weinberg struck the deal. Police believe there were four others, meaning that Judge Lazarus has the blood of at least three women on his hands, and maybe as many as seven. This article is an insult to their memory.