In his decades-long career as a judge in Miami-Dade County, Stuart Simons followed a simple legal philosophy.
“I call balls and strikes,” he’d tell people. “It’s not up to me to determine how the game is won.”
Simons, a widely respected retired chief civil judge, died early Saturday morning after a day spent with his loved ones. He was 81.
The University of Miami law school grad first donned judges robes as a county court judge before his application to the circuit court was approved in 1973. He beat out Jon Gordon for the spot, a man who would join him on the circuit court the following year and become a lifelong friend.
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The duo ate lunch together nearly every day for 30 years, Gordon said. He remembers Simons as fiercely loyal to his staff, a beloved counselor for younger judges and so humble he turned down a retirement party. He never lost his temper or raised his voice.
“He was simply impartial,” Gordon said. “He was the type of judge everyone tried to be.”
For some years, Simons served under Chief Judge Joseph Farina in the civil division of the circuit court. Farina called Simons the “King Solomon” of the courts, whose fingerprints were on every accomplishment the court made during his tenure.
“He could listen to all of the noise and all of the chatter and get to the heart of the problem and provide a wise decision,” Farina said. “There are few people that are his equal as a person, as a family man, as a judge or as an administrator.”
Simons’ dedication to the law was noticed outside the courtroom as well. Two of his grandsons are attending law school, a dream inspired in part by seeing their grandfather in the courtroom as kids. He gave them advice on choosing the right school, studying for the LSAT and pondering which legal specialty to pick.
“Our entire idea of law growing up was based on him,” said grandson Danny Neuman, a second-year law student at Cornell University. “He loved the thinking. The process of legal justice.”
At home though, Neuman said, he was a regular grandfather. He loved to read stories to his eight grandchildren, to take them to museums and watch all the latest superhero movies. His family nicknamed him “Superman” and bought him clothes and mugs with the iconic logo .
Their family tradition of a summer beach trip to Sarasota started when Simons himself was young. One of his daughters remembers that when she was 5, her dad dived into the surf to save a drowning child.
Neuman, 22, said he has fond memories as a kid of building sandcastles and playing volleyball with his grandfather, and as they both got older, of hours-long conversations under the chickee hut.
Simons was “the quintessential gentleman,” said his son-in-law, Gary Neuman, who lived seven doors down from his father-in-law for more than 30 years. He was always seen hand-in-hand with wife Rochelle, who he married decades ago in Miami Beach.
His two loves in life were his family and the law, Neuman said. Everyone who had a conversation with him left feeling like they learned something — family and legal colleagues alike.
“He felt that the judiciary was the very heart and essence of our democracy,” Neuman said. “It was absolute to him that everyone in his courtroom would have their say.”
He is survived by his wife, Rochelle, their three daughters, eight grandchildren and one great-grandson.
A private graveside service was held Sunday.