By Tondra Hill, affinity group leader, United Way of Northeast Florida
Robin Lanigan Johnston is no stranger to trailblazing.
May 8, the United Way of Northeast Florida Women United member made history as the first Jewish woman appointed a judge for the Fourth Judicial Circuit Courts of Florida, which serves Clay, Duval and Nassau counties. This historic appointment extends Lanigan’s trailblazing record for being an agent of change not only in the legal profession but also in community service and philanthropy.
“Without a doubt, my success today is based on my involvement in my community,” she said.
Lanigan, a graduate of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and Florida Coastal School of Law, has more than 20 years of experience as an attorney on the First Coast and magistrate for the State of Florida.
As an attorney, family law — dissolution of marriage, prenuptial and post-nuptial agreements, and paternity and custody disputes — has been the focus of Lanigan’s legal career. As a magistrate and hearing officer, Lanigan presided over family law cases. She also oversaw child-support enforcement hearings, as needed.
Being appointed to the Fourth Judicial Circuit Courts of Florida is a significant accomplishment to any attorney’s career, but this milestone did not come without overcoming challenges and setbacks, she said. For two years, she pursued the bench. She even considered giving up after one particularly discouraging interview a year before her appointment.
“I left the interview devastated and assured myself I would never do that again,” Lanigan said.
But after speaking with her mentors and learning more about herself, she decided to try again. This spring, her dream was finally realized.
“The easiest message is to keep going and don’t give up because everyone is met with challenges,” Lanigan said. “However, the more difficult message is to find a lesson in the experience, to learn from it and to recognize the positive. I am thankful for that setback. It allowed me the opportunity to learn.”
Outside of her career in the courtroom, Lanigan enthusiastically contributes her time and resources to many nonprofit and community organizations — and has done so for more than 20 years. She is a longstanding supporter of United Way of Northeast Florida, including as a Women United member and Stein Fellowship mentor. Lanigan and her husband, Dale Johnston, are also members of United Way’s Tocqueville Society. Lanigan also supports Jewish Family & Community Services, the Family Nurturing Center, Congregation Ahavath Chesed and the Women’s Giving Alliance.
“We are so grateful to have Robin as a part of the United Way family and a dedicated partner in serving our community,” said Maureen Mercho, chief development officer for United Way of Northeast Florida. “We wish you well as you continue breaking barriers in your new role. Congratulations!”