Mark Leban and Victoria Sigler
Mark King Leban
Born April 3, 1947
Circuit Court Judge
1.5 million constituents
Appointed County Court Judge September 1995
Elected September 1996
Elevated to Circuit Court June 2005
Born April 21, 1951
Circuit Court Judge
1.5 million constituents
Elected to Dade County Court January 1995
Appointed to Circuit Court February 2000
In Florida, as in many states, the typical process for someone to become a judge is that the Governor appoints them, then they run for office to retain their posts. Governor Jeb Bush initially appointed Victoria Sigler to her Circuit Court position and later elevated Mark Leban to his.
About Mark Leban for Out and Elected in the USA
Judge Leban grew up in Dade County and witnessed the Anita Bryant spectacle on the 70’s. As an attorney, he was active in the local Gay and Lesbian Lawyers Association and served on its Board of Directors. As a judge, he has led the effort to educate judges throughout Florida on sexual orientation sensitivity training and presented a first-ever program in July 1998 to all County Judges in Florida dealing with a child custody battle between a lesbian mother and her divorced husband, as well as a program involving exposure of jury bias against homosexuals. Leban has instituted changes in prospective juror questionnaires such as substituting "do you have a significant other?" for "are you married?" – and he ruled that sexual orientation is a protected class for purposes of exercising peremptory challenges to jurors based solely on their sexual orientation.
He regularly lectures on bias issues at the Lavender Law Conference of the National Lesbian and Gay Lawyers Association each year and serves as Vice-President of the International Association of Gay and Lesbian Judges (IAGLJ). The IAGLJ consists of more than 50 judges throughout the United States and Canada, England and the Caribbean Islands. Among the association’s goals is to increase the visibility of lesbian and gay judicial officers so as to serve as role models for other lesbian and gay people, and to bring the prominence of these elected officials to the attention of the general public. IALGJ also helps ensure equal treatment of all people who appear in courtrooms, whether litigant, attorney, juror or in any other capacity. The group helps coordinate the sharing of information between lesbian and gay men who are interested in seeking judicial office. He and his partner have been together since 1981.
About Victoria Sigler for Out and Elected in the USA
In Dade County, the scene of the Anita Bryant anti-gay campaign of the 1970’s, Sigler became the first “out” political figure to win office in Florida with her campaign for County Court Judge in 1994. In his book Trailblazers, Ken Yeager writes, “To succeed in an environment such as that of Dade County, Florida takes someone with unique characteristics and skills: a strong sense of self, good sense of humor, feisty enough to challenge the status quo while not creating enemies needlessly, and able to earn the respect of others. This describes Victoria Sigler and explains why she had flourished in South Florida since moving there in 1974.”
As a County Court Judge, Sigler was first assigned as the only judge in the Hialeah courthouse, a predominantly Hispanic blue collar community, where she handled criminal misdemeanors, traffic tickets, small claims suits, divorces and tenant/ landlord disputes. Noticing the large number of women and children she was petitioned to evict, the judge developed a network of emergency housing facilities to provide families losing their homes with information and housing assistance.
In December of 1999, Judge Sigler’s name was submitted to Governor Jeb Bush, along with five other judges and lawyers, for consideration for a Circuit Court Judge position. In early January, Sigler received a call from her partner telling her that the governor had called their house and wanted to speak to her. She returned the governor’s call to find out that he had chosen her for the highest trial court job. “I was pleasantly surprised that this Republican governor was willing to honor his commitment to respect competency and diversity and give me a chance to do the job.”
For information on a touring exhibit version of Out and Elected in the USA: 1974-2004, contact Ron Schlittler at firstname.lastname@example.org.