Florida jurists rock the Keys
Contrary to his youthful appearance, double-Harvard degrees, and scholarly demeanor, Supreme Court Justice John Couriel harbors a fondness for the slightly subversive – classic rock.
On October 5, Florida’s 90th Justice – an Eagle Scout and father of two – spent a few hours in a cramped sound booth on Sugarloaf Key, co-hosting the rock-oriented “Ed Scales Show” on US 1 Radio, FM 104.
True to form for a justice who is often kidded about his encyclopedic knowledge of caselaw, Couriel came prepared – with a lengthy playlist.
“He programmed the show, the music was his music,” Scales said. “We started with ‘Sloop John D’ by the Beach Boys, and we ended with ‘Johnny B. Goode’ by Chuck Berry.”
Couriel demonstrated such an impressive command of the genre, and was so comfortable behind the microphone – he covered a weather update like a pro – Scales is feeling a little threatened.
“I got a lot of positive feedback,” Scales says. “In fact, I got some feedback that I had to scratch my head about. They said it was refreshing to have someone on the air who knew what he was talking about.”
But with a solid day job of his own, Scales has little to worry about. South Florida lawyers know him better as Third District Court of Appeal Chief Judge Edwin Scales III.
Since he began hosting the show in 1999, Scales has been careful to limit his on-air discussion to music. He sought and received a green light through a Judicial Ethics Advisory Opinion in 2013.
The shows aren’t recorded, “that gives me plausible deniability,” Scales jokes, but he said he and Couriel mostly stuck to music.
“We didn’t talk about Smith v. Jones, or why he reverses me so much,” Scales quipped. “I introduced him as Supreme Court Justice John Couriel, and I did talk about how he has a house down here.”
A Miami native, Couriel owns a residence in the Conch Republic. He and his wife, Dr. Rebecca L. Toonkel, were married at Casa Marina, a popular Key West resort, Scales said.
Listeners loved the local connection, Scales said.
And while they don’t get to hear a Supreme Court justice opine very often about Chuck Berry, Couriel’s appearance wasn’t unprecedented.
In 2019, a few days after he was elevated to U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, former Florida Supreme Court Justice Robert Luck co-hosted the show.
Luck and Scales served together on South Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal, and Luck is also a classic rock fan.
Scales became friendly with Couriel through his service on the Supreme Court’s Judicial Management Council. The Florida Supreme Court is based in Tallahassee, but Couriel keeps a satellite office in the Third DCA.
Couriel had such a good time, he agreed to come back, Scales said.
In a statement he released through a spokesman, Couriel was typically self-effacing.
“I enjoyed my stint as a make-believe radio host way more than the listeners did,” Couriel said. “I appreciate their tolerance.”
Originally published at https://www.floridabar.org/the-florida-bar-news/florida-jurists-rock-the-keys/