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Kansas Gooden – Soaring Ever Higher

“Once I rose above the noise and confusion

Just to get a glimpse beyond this illusion

I was soaring ever higher …”

By Walter Villa

Kansas Gooden – named after the 1970’s-era rock band quoted above from their biggest hit, Carry on Wayward Son – is indeed soaring ever higher.

Judge Gooden was recently appointed to the Third District Court of Appeal. She is the first St. Thomas University alum ever to earn this prestigious appointment.

“I’m extremely blessed,” said Gooden, who will begin serving on July 29. “I’m very thankful to Governor (Ron) DeSantis and his staff for placing their trust in me. I know this is a big job, and I look forward to serving the people of Florida for the remainder of my career.”

Gooden, a shareholder and the Appellate Practice Group Leader at Boyd and Jenerette, PA., has worked at that law firm since 2009. She has done impressive work, including handling more than 400 civil appeals.

Her work has not been lost on the Honorable Tarlika Nunez-Navarro, a former Circuit Court judge and now the Dean of STU’s Benjamin L. Crump College of Law. Dean Nunez-Navarro said she is “immensely proud” of Gooden.

“Her dedication, expertise, and unwavering commitment to justice have been evident throughout her career,” Dean Nunez-Navarro said. “This appointment not only reflects her exceptional legal acumen, but it also serves as a testament to the quality of education and values instilled at St. Thomas University.

“We have no doubt that Judge Gooden will continue to make a profound impact in the field of law, and we congratulate her on this well-deserved achievement.”

Born in the small Virginia town of McGaheysville – population 4,354 – Gooden was raised by parents who were big fans of the rock band Kansas.

Beyond her musical name, Gooden grew up with a golf club in her hands. In fact, she was a first-team all-conference golfer at James Madison University, graduating with a degree in Finance.

After college, Gooden was preparing for a career in pro golf when she had a sudden change of heart.

“I woke up one day, and it didn’t feel right,” Gooden said. “I decided golf wasn’t for me.”

So, Gooden exchanged drives and putts for writs and torts.

In other words, she was accepted into law school at STU, and, after her first winter as a Bobcat and away from chilly Virginia, she had a message for her parents.

“I’m a Floridian now,” she told them. “I’m going to be staying here for the rest of my life.”

Wise choice.

Gooden made an easy adjustment to STU, where the smaller class sizes helped her make life-long connections.

“There was a lot of interaction with my professors and classmates,” said Gooden, who graduated from STU in 2008.

“The thing I loved the most about my experience at STU is that they taught me how to think critically. There were so many professors who challenged my thinking.

“That has helped me in my career as an appellate practitioner, and I know it will help me in my career as an appellate judge.”

Gooden, whose district covers Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, said she has been overwhelmed by well-wishers ever since news got out about her appointment.

“So many of my St. Thomas classmates have reached out,” Gooden said. “That’s what I love about St. Thomas – it’s such a close-knit community.”

Gooden had a quick and inspirational response when asked what she would tell the aspiring lawyers now studying at STU.

“My advice for young lawyers is to dream big,” Gooden said. “Dreaming big will help them achieve big.”

“Carry on my wayward son

There’ll be peace when you are done.”


Walter Villa

Author Walter Villa

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