Jan Carver has seen people with problems in both her career as a magistrate and as a nurse practitioner. She believes she can use that experience to help solve the problems that land people in court, so she is running for Nassau County judge on Nov. 3.
After graduating from Connecticut University, Carver earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Florida and then worked as a nurse and a nurse practitioner. She obtained a law degree from Florida Coastal School of Law and a post-doctorate degree in elder law from Stetson University. After working in elder law, she became a magistrate as well as a court administrator. She remained a magistrate from 2016 until the beginning of this year, when the position went unfunded.
As magistrate, Carver presided over five courts that addressed specific issues: mental health, drug-related offenses, family law, dependency, and civil traffic. She said in almost all the cases brought before her the underlying issue was substance abuse, mental health, or domestic violence, which is why she calls them “problem-solving courts.”
“I like problem-solving courts because we can actually get to society’s problems,” Carver said. “What you’re trying to do is get to the underlying issue and get (the defendants) the help they need. Why are you behaving badly? Are you stealing because you need money to go buy drugs? Is it because you’re homeless? If you can help them, you help the rest of society, because they’re not going to keep coming back. They go on and are hopefully productive
and get past whatever got them into trouble so that they can move on and enjoy life.”
Through her career as a nurse practitioner (she still practices one day a week), her volunteer work with local nonprofits Barnabas Center and Nassau County Council on Aging, and her time spent as a magistrate, Carver said she has become familiar with the resources that can support people who end up in court due to an underlying problem.
“I think that’s huge – knowing what’s available in the county to help people,” she said “I know how the system works from being the court administrator and what we need from that perspective, and I know how to do the job from being the magistrate, and the resources I know because of being a nurse practitioner and a magistrate.”
Carver said the legal system should look beyond punishment toward producing the best outcome.
“I would love to see us release … people (on their own recognizance) instead of putting them in jail,” she said, and explained how that approach can help.
“If they are working, and we put them in jail and keep them there by setting a bond they can’t pay, which most of them can’t, then they lose their job,” Carver said. “If it’s some low-level crime, why don’t we just let them out and give them a notice to appear? They still have to deal with the issue, but unless there’s a problem with them doing something again, why put them in jail? It costs us money. I think we’re going in that direction, but there’s old school thoughts.
“My feeling is, if they don’t have a record and they’re not a danger to society, deal with whatever you did but let them go back to work. The first day on the bench, I could make a difference. I know I made a difference as a magistrate. People would tell me I did.”
In addition to her other volunteer work, Carver is involved with Jacksonville Area Legal Aid and is the current president of the Robert M. Foster Nassau County American Inn of Court, the local chapter of the American Inns of Court, a national organization that promotes professionalism, integrity, and ethics in the legal community.
Carver said looking at the story of the person before her will be her priority as a judge.
“Judges don’t judge people. They judge behavior and they try to solve problems,” she said. “That’s my perspective. There’s a lot of very nice, smart people who do some dumb things. So, you’ve made a mistake. You’ve got to pay the price, but let’s fix it, and let’s get you back on track.”