Judge Samantha Ward

I am honored to chair the Criminal Law Section this year. I welcome returning members to the 2022-2023 year and encourage non-members to be a part of this organization that has truly enhanced my legal experience and my life.  I have been a long-time member of the Executive Committee Council? and that has enabled me to meet and establish friendships and relationships with many other leaders practicing criminal law in Florida.  When I need something or when I have a question about something occurring in any other part of the state, I feel I literally have a CLS colleague that not only will take my call, but bend over backward to assist.

Last year was a very successful year, thanks to outstanding efforts by the past chair, Jason B. Blank, and I look forward to making this year as productive and rewarding as possible for our members.

The CLS is truly unique.  It is a blend of state and federal judges, prosecutors, public defenders, defense attorneys, law professors who specialize in criminal and constitutional law, and law students.  All of these members are devoted, as am I, to enhancing the overall “big picture” of the criminal justice system.  This diversity of membership enables the section to foster greater understanding of and appreciation for all the members of our criminal justice system.  It also enables all members to develop and maintain relationships with colleagues across the state.  Most importantly, it enables us, representing all of these factions, to have a greater (when unified) voice on matters of import to The Florida Bar and its many related committees, the Legislature, and the Supreme Court of Florida.

The “silver lining” to me of the COVID “shut-down” was the CLS’s continuation of excellence in the presentation of outstanding CLE presentations; moving flawlessly into the world of webinars and Zoom, and merging back into in-person presentations when able to do so.  These CLEs were in addition to our regular “showcase” events like the Masters of DUI and participation in the Criminal Law Board Certification Review.  The momentum of the CLE committee was, and continues to be, phenomenal; I look forward to another stellar year of CLE opportunities for our members (and non-members, alike.)

As Chair, I am dedicated to the support and development of our unique and preeminent Gerald T. Bennett Prosecutor-Public Defender Training Program.  This week-long program enables prosecutors and defense attorneys to train together in a video and critique program regarding every phase of trial presentation. It is particularly near and dear to my heart (I attended as a student in 1993, and have been a faculty member for decades!)

I am also committed to expanding our section’s support of our government lawyers.  As a career government lawyer (prosecutor, public defender, and now judge), I know all too well the need for government lawyers to “step out” of the times of being under-represented and be recognized, promoted and encouraged to take a seat in the activities of The Florida Bar.

Our section joins The Florida Bar in its commitment to strongly support and encourage efforts by all participants in the criminal justice system—and legal system as a whole—to detect and eliminate both explicit and implicit bias of any kind, and the disparate treatment of anyone or group in this system.

I am committed to growth of the membership and thus growth of our voice in Florida’s decision-making processes at all levels.

To my fellow members, I look forward to working with and for you this year.  To non-members, I say “JOIN US.”  To both groups:  Take a look at our extensive group of committees and volunteer to join—and participate —in one.  I guarantee your rewards will be greater than your investment.

All my best.

Judge Samantha L. Ward
2022-2023 Criminal Law Section Chair


The Criminal Law Section of the Florida Bar is the only organization for state and federal trial and appellate criminal justice lawyers, judges, and academics. Members of the Section are united by their shared goal of providing a fair, just, and efficient criminal justice system for everyone. The purpose of the Section is to assist all criminal law practitioners in this shared goal. The Section provides its members continuing legal education (CLE), federal and state case law updates, up to date information about important criminal law legislation, and opportunities to interact with others who work to assure criminal justice.


1. Supports a comprehensive review of Florida’s entire death penalty process by all branches of government.

2. Supports Federal HR 3407, National Center for the Right to Counsel Act, which
would provide additional federal money to public defense organizations in Florida.

3. Legislation of Interest to the Criminal Law Section

Previous Criminal Law Section Chairs

2021 Warren W. Lindsey
2020 Jennifer M. Zedalis
O. David Barksdale
Martin P. McDonnell
Joel M. Silvershein
2016 Hon. Angelica D. Zayas
2015 David B. Rothman
2014 Susan O. Hugentugler
2013 H. Scott Fingerhut
2012 Hon. Lisa M. Porter
2011 Sheryl J. Lowenthal
2010 Carolyn M. Snurkowski
2009 Larry D. Murrell, Jr.
2008 Ann E. Finnell
2007 Les Hess

2006 Hon. Phyllis D. Kotey
Paul H. Zacks
Melanie A. Hines
Prof. Steven Everhart
2002 Hon. DeDee S. Costello
2001 Harvey Sepler
2000 George E. Tragos
1999 Michael R. Band
1998 Hon. Claire K. Luten
1997 Anthony C. Musto
1996 Doug Duncan
1995 Benedict P. Kuehne
1994 Barry E. Krischer
1993 Phillip Maniatty
1992 Hon. John D. Moxley, Jr.

1991 William P. White, III
Michael Salnick
John F. Yetter
1988 Jon Sale
1987 Abe Laeser
1986 Hon. Stan Morris
1985 Michael Van Zamft
1984 Hon. Marvin Mounts
1983 Gerald T. Bennett
1982 Meredith J. Cohen
1981 Ira Dubitsky
1980 Joseph D’Alessandro
1979 Louis O. Frost, Jr.
1978 Ronald K. Cacciatore
1977 Hon. Benjamin M. Tench