#RepresentationMatters: Retired Judge Shares Journey in Judicial System

To inspire our youth, it helps when they need to see people who look like them doing great things. That’s why this Black History Month, NBC 6 highlights those who are proving that representation matters.

Recently retired Judge Ilona Holmes changed the narrative for women like herself in the judicial system.

She was a powerhouse on the Broward County bench. She was also the only Black female circuit judge for 20 years. Judge Holmes took on headline-grabbing criminal cases including the Big Tony mob murder case.

“I’ve tried some of the most notorious cases in Broward County— Moscatiello-Ferrari fiasco as I call it,” the retired judge recalled.

Holmes admits her courthouse career was lonely and that’s why she made it her mission to bring a dozen other Black judges to the Broward bench before she retired.

“I tell people all the time, my people named be Ilona but that’s not how I want to be,” the judge joked about the pronunciation of her name.

The honorable hung up her rob on Dec. 30 and retired for six whole days. She quickly got back to work, accepting the President position at the University of Fort Lauderdale, a small private Christian college.

This role is another way for Judge Holmes to serve, lead and educate people but this time it’s steeped in faith.

“I tell people this is a free-zone: people can pray here without offending people, as a matter of fact, it is recommended that they pray,” Holmes explained.

She says her role as university president is similar to being a judge except for one thing.

“I don’t get to put people in jail, maybe in time out from time to time,” Judge Holmes joked.

Judge Holmes says she eventually wants to start a new program at the University in what will always be her first love: the Law.

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