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The Newsletter of the Lakeland Bar Association

Volume 16, Issue 2         

February - March, 1998




by Joseph G. Jarret

He is a man who wears the authority of his office lightly, but takes his job most seriously. He is a county court judge who expects the best from the lawyers whoJudge Harvey A. Kornstein appear before him because he accepts nothing less from himself. He is a devoted husband and father who cherishes the title of over that of Judge. He is Polk County Court Judge Harvey A. Kornstein, and he is arguably one of the busiest judges in the 10th Judicial Circuit.

Since being elected in 1988 (and reelected in 1992 and again in 1996) to the position he now holds, Judge Kornstein, who prefers Harvey when he is not in the courtroom, has served in both the criminal and general civil divisions, and as Administrative County Judge. Prior to serving Polk County as a full-time county judge, he got his first taste of judicial service in 1984 when he was appointed county judge by then Governor Bob Graham to fill the unexpired term of Judge Susan Roberts when she was appointed to the Circuit Bench. Prior to the aforementioned appointment, Judge Kornstein served the 10th Judicial Circuit as an Assistant State Attorney and as a Special Assistant State Attorney for the 6th, 13th, and 19th Circuits.

When he is not presiding over cases in Polk County, Judge Kornstein serves in the United States Air Force Reserve as one of six military judges in the Air Force, and one of only two military judges East of the Mississippi. Having attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel (and having just finished the Air War College course of study), Judge Kornstein is called upon to preside over a panoply of cases.

He first began his military career in 1974 as an active duty Naval Officer assigned to the Judge Advocate General Corps where he served as both defense, and later, prosecution counsel. He branch-transferred to the Air Force Reserve in 1981 and has participated in over more courts-martial (550 to be exact) than any other Air Force member. Judge Kornstein praises the military for instilling in him the need to be focused, disciplined, organized, and goal-oriented. Those virtues, he concedes, are praised by some and viewed as downright annoying by others.

On a personal note, Judge Kornstein has been married to Marcia Ann Kornstein since August 5, 1973.  The couple met in Miami when she was a sixteen year old movie theater candy girl and he was a seventeen year old movie theater usher.  Marcia fell in love with Harvey when he trapped them both in a phone booth and, by positioning his foot in just the right place, convinced Marcia there was no immediate escape. The couple married four years later to afford Harvey the opportunity to finish his undergraduate degree, a feat he accomplished in three years. He then went on to earn his law degree at the University of Florida Law School in 1976.

The Kornsteins have three children, Christie, 20, who is a full-time student at Lee University in Tennessee, Amber, 17 who is currently simultaneously enrolled in high school and community college, and Andrew, 15, a high school student.

Both Harvey and Marcia are busy in their church where they have taught various Sunday school classes. Their favorite leisure time activites involve those that include the entire family.

If you were to sum up Judge Kornstein's personal philosophy vis a vis the position he holds, it would be a mandate that judges, at all times, treat all who come before the bench with respect and dignity. In doing so, Judge Kornstein remains convinced that, "the citizen may not like the outcome of the case, but he or she will walk away with respect for our judicial process and system of justice."

This philosophy is not reserved just for civil cases but for criminal cases as well.   As Judge Kornstein so succinctly put it, "just becaue you are forced to take a person's liberty, does not mean you must take away their dignity as human beings."

When dealing with attorneys, he adheres to an unwavering philosopy that the hallmark of a good judge is one who neither shows favoritism, nor grants favors.   "If the law is clear," he has been heard to say, "then exceptions to the law are not in the offing."  Judge Kornstein is convinced that attorneys will know where they stand, and know that their experiences before the bench will be consistent with those experienced by their colleagues.

When asked recently if Judge Kornstein had any advice for lawyers who are just beginning their legal careers, he responded, "there is no substitute for coming to court prepared.  By failing to do so, both the client and the system suffer."  Further, Judge Kornstein advises young lawyers not to take a judge's correction personally, but rather as a sign that the judge is interested enough in the lawyer to point him or her in the right direction. 

Judge Kornstein is proud of the attorneys he has worked with in the past, who, due to their willingness to learn and improve themselves, took his constructive criticism to heart.

In summary, County Court Judge Harvey Kornstein is both respected and admired by his peers and the attorneys who appear before him. His service to Polk County and the United States Air Force keep him moving at almost a frantic pace, albeit he is never without time to assume his most important roles of husband and father.

He maintains an open door policy for lawyers who have questions, and is a man whose hat size has not increased since earning the position of judge. He is, indeed, one of the busiest judges in our circuit.

Joseph G. Jarret   is a former United States Army combat arms (airborne) officer who is a partner in the law firm of Hardin & Jarret, P.A. where he specializes in civil litigation.  He holds the Juris Doctor, the Master of Public Administration, the Bachelor of Science and a post-graduate certificate in public management.  He is past-president of the Manatee and Hardee County Bar Associations.

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