Retired 20th Circuit Court Judge to Focus on Dispute Resolution

Gunster, one of Florida’s oldest and largest full-service business law firms, announced today that Retired Judge Hugh D. Hayes of Collier County has joined the firm as an of counsel attorney in its newly-established Naples office.  The former Judge will focus his work in the firm’s Alternative Dispute Resolution practice, serving as a mediator, arbitrator, and special master to select clients. 

Retired Judge Hayes was the longest serving judge in Florida history and is a former Army intelligence officer.  For 44 years, then-Judge Hayes served the people of Florida, both as a member of the 20th Judicial Circuit and as a County Court judge.  He served for two terms as Chief Judge of the 20th Judicial Circuit (2003-2007), and served as the Administrative Judge for Collier County on multiple occasions.

“During my time on the bench, I was always aware of Gunster’s reputation as a statewide firm which focuses on the future of Florida, its citizens and their business affairs,” said Retired Judge Hayes. “The attorneys, professional staff and the organizational leadership of Gunster, including those in Gunster’s new Naples office, put the interests and the welfare of their clients first, and treat all of the participants in Florida’s legal system with dignity and civility.  After serving the state of Florida and the southwest Florida community for 44 years as a judge, I am excited to join the practice of law with Gunster.”

“Retired Judge Hayes is a highly-accomplished and well-regarded member of our judiciary, particularly in southwest Florida.  He is known for his professional conduct, vast knowledge, and his affable demeanor, amongst many other great things.  We are thrilled that he chose Gunster as his professional home for the next chapter in his career,” said Bill Perry, CEO and Managing Shareholder of Gunster.  “His community service, alongside his more than four decades on the bench, bring a diverse and rich experience to Gunster’s clients and to our firm’s Florida-focused culture.”  

In addition to his judicial service, Retired Judge Hayes has served the Naples and broader Collier County community through his engagement with the United Way of Collier County, Naples North Rotary, Florida Bar-focused committees and legal organizations. He is a published author within numerous legal publications and was recognized as the Jurist of the Year by the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) of Southwest Florida in 2015.

He received his B.A. from University of Georgia and his J.D. from University of Florida Levin College of Law. Of note, he also became the first judge in Florida to be awarded the Master of Judicial Studies degree from the University of Nevada-Reno.

In November 2022, Gunster announced its expansion to Naples with the addition of 12 attorneys and 15 professionals through a merger with Grant Fridkin Pearson.  The long-standing Naples firm complements Gunster’s existing practices across its 12 statewide offices and both firms share a commitment to the legal profession and to Florida’s local communities.


About Gunster

Gunster, Florida’s law firm for business, provides full-service legal counsel to leading organizations and individuals from its 13 offices statewide. Established in 1925, the firm has expanded, diversified and evolved, but always with a singular focus: Florida and its clients’ stake in it. A magnet for business-savvy attorneys who embrace collaboration for the greatest advantage of clients, Gunster’s growth has not been at the expense of personalized service but because of it. The firm serves clients from its offices in Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami, Naples, Orlando, Palm Beach, Stuart, Tallahassee, Tampa Bayshore, Tampa Downtown, Vero Beach, and its headquarters in West Palm Beach. With more than 260 attorneys and consultants, and over 270 committed professional staff, Gunster is ranked among the National Law Journal’s list of the 500 largest law firms and has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Diverse Law Firms by Law360. More information about its practice areas, offices and insider’s view newsletters is available at


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