TAMPA – After serving for nearly a decade in the Office of Statewide Prosecution -- a stint that included prosecuting former Florida GOP chairman Jim Greer for bilking the party out of $125,000 – special counsel Michael S. Williams begins a new job on Monday on the Hillsborough County Court bench.
Williams, 43, was appointed to the position of county court judge last month by Gov. Rick Scott. He fills a vacancy created when the governor appointed Judge Kim Vance to the 13th Judicial Circuit Court.
Williams, who has served as both an assistant statewide prosecutor and special counsel in the Office of Statewide Prosecution, will move over to the judicial position after a career that has included both civil and criminal law cases. In his role in the statewide office, he has prosecuted white collar cases involving mortgage fraud, securities litigation and public corruption.
In 2013, Williams prosecuted the case against Greer, who was eventually found guilty of stealing funds from the Republican Party and received an 18-month prison sentence. The crimes involved four counts of theft as well as a count for money laundering, the Orlando Sentinel reported at the time.
Williams said he enjoyed his duties within the state Attorney General’s Office because he worked on cases from their inception through their conclusion, and he was continually involved in the planning of legal strategy and the investigation of evidence.
According to the attorney general’s website, the Florida Office of Statewide Prosecution tackles crimes that affect at least two judicial circuits in the state.
Williams told the Florida Record that becoming a judge was not always a personal goal during his legal career.
“I think that for everyone in law school, the idea crosses your mind, but you don’t view it yet as a reality," he said. "For me, it was a process over time.”
The new judge has been assigned to oversee civil cases for the Hillsborough Court.
Previously, Williams handled civil cases as an associate attorney in private practice – for McLean & Cardillo P.C. in Tampa and Rubin, Fortunato & Harbison P.C. in Paoli, Pennsylvania.
But Williams’ record goes beyond civil litigation. For three years, he prosecuted many violent crimes cases while working as an assistant state attorney in the Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s Office.
“After participating in criminal trials, you see what a difference a judge can make in terms of how a case moves forward,” Williams told the Record. “At trial, working on criminal cases helped me to become comfortable in front of a jury, and it helps you to think fast on your feet.”
He added, “And doing civil taught me how to prepare a case.”
Williams explained that white collar cases are often challenging because they are document-intensive and involve large amounts of money. In turn, you have to stay organized or the case will get away from you, he emphasized.
Williams said he looked forward to taking on the impartial judicial role.
“You’re not a litigator, and you’re not an advocate for either side,” Williams said. “You have to follow the law and put personal feelings aside.”
Williams’ term as judge will come up for a nonpartisan election in August 2018.