In Profile: Judge Cheryl J. Aleman

Biographical Info
Wheaton College (B.A.), University of Colorado (J.D.)
Lived: In Florida for 15 years
Worship: We attend a “traditional” church, but we also belong to a small group of believers, who regularly meet to study the Bible, encourage each other, and share a meal together, not unlike the early apostolic Church. Together, we reason through our faith by “chewing” on the works of such luminaries as Francis Schaeffer, Chuck Colson, R.C. Sproul, C.S. Lewis, Beth Moore, Rick Warren, Ravi Zacharias, etc.
Some of my most important worship occurs at home. I have learned to set aside quiet time each day to study God’s Word. My husband and I never go to sleep at night until we have prayed together. We developed this habit before we were married, regardless of how many time zones or thousands of miles are between us. We are convinced that our commitment to put God at the center of our marriage has made all the difference, not only in our marriage, but also in each of our individual lives.
Marital Status: Exceptionally happily married to a man whom I respect and whom I still find, after all our years, to be the most fascinating, witty, and Godly man I have ever met.
Occupation: Circuit Court Judge, Broward County, Florida

Family Human Interest

Where did you grow up and what was it like?
I grew up in the heart of the Midwest, in Michigan, with a mother and father who love me.
We did not have a great deal of money growing up, but I never knew it. My parents thought it important to expose us to as much culture as possible. I was enrolled in gymnastics, ballet, and jazz classes. I took piano, guitar, tennis, golf, and archery lessons; sang in the church choir; swam competitively; played a little basketball; volunteered, participated in scouting and other civic organizations.
My mother is the daughter of Dutch immigrants. She worked full-time as a teacher, but also found time to cook all our meals, clean, wash, iron, bake, can, garden, sew many of our clothes, volunteer at the hospital, and earn her master’s degree in her “spare time”. Despite the cost, my mother took a nine-year hiatus from teaching to rear my brothers and me. Parenting was that important to my folks.
My father is the most honest man you will ever meet. He was a hardworking businessman and the secretary/treasurer of a number of civic and non-profit organizations, as well as church deacon.
With three children in the public schools and the quality of schools declining, my father was encouraged to run for the local school board and, later, for County Commissioner. He was elected to both offices and served with distinction, but at great personal sacrifice. Much later in life, he ran and became president of their condominium association, where, at age 83, he still serves.
Despite having little money, my parents thought it important for us to see this great country we live in, so many summers we hopped into the family station wagon, with a family-size tent, sleeping bags, and a Coleman stove. We drove and camped everywhere. By the time I was 18, I had visited 48 of 50 states.
My parents taught us the value of a dollar by having us earn one-half the price of our bicycle and one-half the cost of summer camp. I cannot remember a summer from age 16 on when any of us did not have a job. If we did not have a job, it became our job to look for a job, 8 hours a day/5 days a week, until we found one.
In 1976, I was named as a Bicentennial Courier for the United States of America. President
Gerald Ford gave me an American flag and the mayor of my hometown gave me the “Key to the City” of my hometown. I traveled to Paraguay, South America and lived there for three months, meeting with various government officials and represented our country as an ambassador.
My experiences with the government there quickly brought me to value my American freedom in ways I never had before. It was also there that I first developed a deep love for Latin people and culture.

Growing up (or now) -do you have a favorite sport or hobby?
Throughout college and high school, my favorite “sport” was debating and public speaking.
Now, I love to cook, which works out very well because my husband absolutely loves to eat.
I also love to write, which I find is nearly a lost art. I am “head over heels” in love with words. Few things give me more satisfaction than capturing an elusive thought or feeling. Additionally, over the years, I have tried to keep one hand in the educational arena because I have a real heart for students.
I also especially enjoy radio as a medium and listen regularly. I used to work in radio as a broadcaster, a News director, and as an OJ in a commercial rock and roll station. I earned my FCC radio license so I could engineer and operate an entire radio station on my own – it is an area I would like to work in again. .

Who has shaped you as a leader -you mother or your father? Why?
Both – They parented as a team. I am sure they had robust discussions behind closed doors, but once they made a decision, they always presented a united front. They made sure their kids could never “divide and conquer.”
My parents partnered together to teach my brothers and me the importance of perseverance, working hard, telling the truth and doing what is right, no matter the cost. They didn’t just use words; I watched them live out what they taught. I owe my organizational and typing skills from my father who, today, in his 80’s, mails me, one by one, poems I wrote in elementary school, history papers I wrote, and letters the Tooth Fairy typed and left under my pillow when I was a child- all of which, and more, he meticulously saved in walls of file cabinets. My mother taught me to love, to cook and to “do my best”.

Where and how did you meet your spouse?
I met my husband when he was teaching and I was a student, although I did not really get to know him until sometime later. He was a Special Agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration, stationed in South Florida; I was a prosecutor in Colorado.
How did I come to attend an OEA narcotics school in Florida? As a veteran prosecutor, I believed in the team approach to justice: that we could do a better job together if I understood and appreciated the challenges cops faced on the street and if they understood and appreciated what I needed to be successful in the courtroom.
So I made a deal with the law enforcement agents with whom I worked most regularly: the police detective or case agent sat next to me in court at every motions hearing and at trial, from jury selection through verdict and I, in tum, rode an occasional shift in a patrol car. I also went on the execution of search warrants at methamphetamine labs and marijuana houses, domestic violence calls, and viewed thermoimagings and roadside tests. I conducted suspect/witness interviews in murder cases, alongside the case agent; went to crime scenes; and attended homicide autopsies jointly with police agents.
That kind of working relationship with law enforcement, both federal and state, is what I think was largely responsible for the fact that in 17 years as a prosecutor, the number of trials I lost could be counted on one hand. We each walked a mile in the other’s shoes and we learned to have mutual respect for the other’s work.
In regards to my husband, although we were thousands of miles apart, over time, we became friends. We spent two years talking to each other over the phone, long distance, which is a great way to get to really know someone.

Does your family have a Thanksgiving, Christmas [or other holiday] tradition that you’d like to tell us about?
Thanksgiving and Easter are my husband’s and my favorite holidays because they are simple; not suffocated by months of ads, songs, and shopping. They focus on all that God has done for us, rather than what we can do for the economy.
Thanksgiving is the one time of year I pull out all the stops in cooking. My Mom and I barricade ourselves in the kitchen and cook for days, without ceasing.

Public leadership
What was your motivation to run for public office?

I wanted to serve the public and have a desire to see truth prevail..
However, I do not have a political bone in my body. I am not a politician; I have never aspired to be one. I had no motive to run and never intended to run for public office. I was initially appointed by Governor Jeb Bush to serve as a circuit court judge. It was the public who decided, when asked to vote on the issue, that judges should raise money and run for political campaigns every six years in order to remain in office. So, after serving a term as an appointed circuit court judge, I ran for office and was elected for an additional six-year term, which I am now serving.

Can you name a time where your faith was challenged as a public official or in other leadership positions?
Where you knew making a righteous decision might cost you? It is difficult to recall a time when my faith was not challenged or when telling the truth and doing what was right did not exact a cost. As Bonhoeffer wrote, there is a cost to discipleship. Jesus did not say: “Pick up your latte and follow me.” Anyone who doesn’t pay a price for his faith, at some point, has to question how alive and active his faith really is. The devil doesn’t chase parked cars.

Public perspective
Everyone develops an opinion about Presidential and Gubernatorial elections, but few people focus on local elections. What are your thoughts about this?
Former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill well said: “All politics are local.” What happens in our own small towns and counties has a huge impact on what happens in Tallahassee and in Washington, D.C.
What happens in local elections is vitally important to the quality of our everyday lives. Also, since fewer people tend to vote in local elections, particularly in non-Presidential years, your vote is much more potent in “off-year,” local elections and primaries, than in general elections in presidential selection years where it gets more “diluted” by the sheer number of people who vote in those elections.

Is there a person in American history that you truly admire, or are fascinated by and why?
I most admire, not one person, but a small group of men who were the patriots who started this Great American Experiment. One such man, I am told, is my Great-great-great-great-great-Grandfather, John Hart, who signed the Declaration of Independence. I have always been moved by how he and other patriots gave their fortunes, their very lives, their reputations, and even their families’ lives-all for the cause of freedom. Our liberty cost these patriots, literally, everything. Few people today understand that kind of devotion, that sacrifice, and the cost of our freedom. Sadly, few today find anything worth dying for, much less living for.
Early in my life, I took my freedom for granted. I no longer do. I know how priceless our freedom is and how rare.

The one thing that I would most like to see changed about the judicial system … is that, as much as humanly possible, I would like to see it become utterly abandoned from disuse, as obsolete. I have spent more than a quarter-century inside a government courtroom. The truth is that, even at their optimum performance, government courtrooms are one of the most expensive (fiscally and emotionally), painfully slow, inefficient methods of dispute resolution ever invented, yielding, all too frequently, the most unsatisfying, non-final results. Our American form of government is still the best in the world, but long, expensive battles in government courtrooms are seldom the best way to resolve conflict between people. That is the reason that our courts have increasingly turned to arbitration and mediation as precursors to litigation. But we need to do more.
Former Chief Justice Warren Burger observed, as far back as 1983, that, “One reason our courts have become overburdened is that Americans are increasingly turning to the courts for relief from a range of personal distresses and anxieties. Remedies for personal wrongs that once were considered the responsibility of institutions other than the courts are now boldly asserted as legal ‘entitlements.’ The courts have been expected to fill the void created by the decline of church, family, and neighborhood unity.” I would like to see that process reversed, enabled by stronger families, churches, and neighborhoods. I see evidence in some families and churches in Broward County of just such a reversal occurring, particularly in areas like foster care and caring for single mothers. I love that.

Share this article