Judge Lee was appointed to the bench in 1997. He currently serves as a County Court Judge in our Fort Lauderdale Courthouse and is the head Administrative Judge for all of County Court for the 17th Judicial Circuit. As Administrative Judge, he not only handles his own case load but all matters involving policy, scheduling, relief and any other Judicial administrative matters that arise; such as the current County Court rules and decisions made with respect to Covid-19. This unpaid administrative position is one that he takes on with a willingness and desire to serve not only all of his County Court judges, but all the residents of Broward County.
Judge Lee is a longtime member of the Broward County Hispanic Bar Association. He is, in fact, one of the very first members; joining at the request of founding member Judge Marina Garcia-Wood after going to the University of Florida with her for law school. He then became president of our great organization from 1996 to 1997.
According to Judge Lee, if his mother had been his father, his last name would be Pumarejo. While Judge Lee’s last name is not, in and of itself, Hispanic, Judge Lee is not only Hispanic, but is a product of a strong Hispanic upbringing. His mother, originally from Mexico, moved him and his 4 other siblings from California to Jacksonville, Florida when he was just 4 years old. As a strong Mexican woman, she cared for her 5 children on her own and opened the first Mexican restaurant in Jacksonville, despite there being little to no Hispanic presence in North Florida at the time. Going against the grain, by the time the Judge was in high school, she had opened three. Judge Lee has learned so much from his upbringing and taken his mother’s hard work ethic with him throughout his legal and judicial career. From the days when he was making tamales for the restaurant (his least favorite task) to his current position on the bench and as Administrative Judge, he has taken on any task that is asked of him and worked as hard as possible to do it well.
In that respect, Judge Lee has served in every area of County Court throughout his 22 years on the bench and he has presided over more than 350 jury trials. As a Judge in the Civil County Court division for the last ten years, Judge Lee has come across people from all walks of life and has made it a point to ensure that each person before him feels heard and equal in his courtroom. His background in education and his time teaching 2nd through 5th grade students with disabilities, also help him to have the patience and understanding needed by a County Court Judge who encounters everyday residents that may be intimidated by the legal system.
Judge Lee is an incredible asset to the bench, to the Hispanic community and to Broward County. We are proud to have him representing the Hispanic community and we are honored to name him as our Judge of the Month.
Iris Elijah is the Associate General Counsel at Florida International University. She has served as a government lawyer her entire legal career. Ms. Elijah is highly involved with the legal community. Besides her involvement with the Broward County Hispanic Bar Association, Ms. Elijah is on The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division (YLD) Board of Governors, the Miami-Dade Chapter of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers and the Gwen S. Cherry Black Women Lawyers Association. She is also a Leadership Academy alumna.
The importance of education and giving back was instilled in Ms. Elijah from an early age. Her mother’s side of the family is from the Southern United States, and her father’s side of the family is from the Dominican Republic. Her mother integrated her high school growing up—making part of the first group of Black students to attend an all-white school. In turn, Ms. Elijah’s father was the first in his family to attend college and dreamed of what minorities could achieve. Both her parents served in the Army, and as a result, she was born in Fort McClellan, Alabama.
Ms. Elijah attended University of South Florida, where she obtained a double major in Economics and African Studies. She then obtained her law degree from Florida International University. She attended law school without ever meeting an attorney. Her family history and life experiences shaped her belief that we are here to not only ensure that we succeed and do the best that we can, but to also help others so they can do the same. Ms. Elijah especially enjoys working collaborating with other lawyers on community projects.
During college, Ms. Elijah served as the executive director of the Campus Activities Board. What she did not realize at the time, is that her legal career would take a parallel path to that position. Through her current work in higher education, Ms. Elijah ensures that all university legal needs are met, and that barriers for students to obtain a proper education are eased to the extent possible. Notably, in her first year of practice, Ms. Elijah became the first Black attorney for Florida International University. Then, in 2015, she became the first Black attorney for the State University System Board of Governors.
The Broward County Hispanic Bar Association is proud to have Iris A. Elijah as one of its members!