The members of the bar and bench are mourning the death of Maxine Cohen Lando, a veteran Miami-Dade Circuit Judge who died today at Mount Sinai Medical Center from cholangiocarcinoma, a bile duct cancer. She was 61.
Since spring of 2011, Judge Lando had undergone surgery and chemotherapy. Her condition began to deteriorate when she fell at the courthouse in October 2011. She had been in the hospital since February 2012.
Judge Lando began her legal career 40 years ago at the Miami-Dade Public Defender’s office. She was an Assistant Public Defender from 1974 to 1985, where she served in the Felony Division, and was a Senior Trial Assistant for both the Juvenile Division and the Misdemeanor and Traffic Division.
As a Circuit Judge, she had served in the civil, criminal and family divisions. After transferring from presiding over child support, paternity, alimony and family law cases at the Lawson E. Thomas Courthouse Center, Judge Lando transferred to the civil division where she was the associate administrative judge. She recently made headlines when she found a Florida lawyer had filed sham foreclosure documents, wasted the court’s time and entered an order with a strong warning and list of sanctions.
By 1981, Judge Lando had applied to the Judicial Nominating Commission eight times. She almost became a judge in 1988 after plastering newspaper ads with 40 endorsements and mail outs to voters with 100 endorsements and raised $107,239 for her campaign.
She eventually became a county court judge in 1991 and was subsequently elected to the Circuit Court in 1995. Judge Lando was instrumental in pioneering Domestic Violence Court in Miami, Florida and mentored new judges.
Chief Judge Joel Brown said Judge Lando, “zealously protected the rights of all who came before her, and was truly a champion of due process. She was not only an outstanding jurist but she went above and beyond,” taking on special projects for the court. She assisted in the production of a video about jury service and teaching at judicial school. Judge Lando was also the court’s liaison to the clerks in charge of the jury pool.
Born Maxine Etta Cohen in Atlantic City, New Jersey on May 12, 1950, she grew up in Coral Gables, Florida and graduated from Coral Gables High School. She earned a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Michigan and a law degree from the University of Miami.
Lando enjoyed reading about Elizabethean history, had formal opera training and sang in the choir at a conservative synagogue in Pinecrest, Florida. She also sang with the Florida Philharmonic Chorus. She could have had a performing career but “wanted to help better the community she grew up in”, said her daughter, Rachel Lando. She strongly believed in justice and equality.
Judge Lando was married to Marvin Lando from 1981 to 2001. In 2006, she married a high school classmate Michael Gill who passed away in 2010.
Judge Lando was up for election later this year and was campaigning for a fourth term. She served on the board of KidSide, a non-profit entity that raises money for Family Court services and Transitions, a drug rehabilitation program.
Services for Judge Lando will be held on Friday, March 2, 2012 at 11:00 A.M. at Bet Shira Congregation, 7500 SW 120th Street, Miami, Florida 33156 followed by a burial.
Her daughters, Rachel Hillary Lando and Sari Brooke Lando, her mother Jean Cohen Bush, her sisters Goldie Wetcher and Suzanne Migdall, nieces, nephews and other family members, survive Judge Lando.
Judge Lando will be deeply missed by Miami divorce attorney’s who will remember who for being an outstanding jurist, her fiery spirit, kind heart and dedication to the highest standards of ethics, professionalism and law. She will be fondly remembered for her contribution to marital and family law.
All flags at the Miami Courthouses are being flown at half-staff.