Rhiannon Arnold’s decision to run for Circuit Judge was made with the intentional direction to commit her career to the people of Central Florida and the system that gives them a voice towards justice. Rhiannon was born in Pensacola to a professional firefighter and his high school sweetheart and she was raised by a village. Her military grandfather and strong-willed grandmother instilled in her to be strong and fiercely loyal to her dreams. In a rather unfortunate set of events, Rhiannon suffered a significant amount of physical abuse at the hand of a stepparent as a toddler. This was only the beginning of her involvement in the court system. As a pre-teen, her father remarried and the catastrophic physical and mental abuse from a different stepparent began again. Luckily, she was able to be raised thereafter in a safe and loving home with family members. Due to her interactions during her developmental years, Rhiannon became intrigued with the legal system and decided that her path was in the law. As one of the first college educated members of her family, law school was a foreign territory. Rhiannon persisted and was accepted to all six law schools to which she applied. Her commitment to the fairness and equality in the justice system has propelled her to serve others. Her broad experience in the courtroom provided her with real-life experience and the ability to see the day to day interactions that judges have with the general public, an insight that will serve her well when elected as court judge.
Rhiannon attended the University of Mobile on a full academic scholarship based upon her performance in high school. She obtained her Bachelor of Science degree with an emphasis in Argumentation and Debate in three short years, all the while being involved in extra-curricular activities and involvement in Student Government. Rhiannon was a letterman athlete in competitive cheerleading being named team captain during her final season. Being involved in competitive cheerleading gave her the ability to learn to work in a team setting and taught her the value of reliability and tenacity.
Upon graduating, Rhiannon returned to her home state and attended law school at Florida State University. During that time, she was provided an opportunity to study at the prestigious Oxford University- St. Edmund’s Hall, in Oxford, England, where she obtained a certificate in Comparative Legal Studies. Upon arriving back at FSU, she participated in the school’s Criminal Law Clinic and was designated as a Certified Legal Intern by the Florida Supreme Court, which requires a determination of a student’s character and fitness regarding the practice of law. Less than 5% of all law school students are designated as Certified Legal Interns. She accepted a position with the 2nd Judicial Circuit Public Defender’s Office in Monticello, Florida, where she represented indigent clients from juvenile defendants to adults charged with violent felony offenses. Prior to graduating from FSU, Rhiannon had tried more than 10 criminal cases to verdict as a Certified Legal Intern.
Rhiannon graduated law school on her 24th birthday making her one of the youngest graduates in her class. Hoping to move to a larger city, where she could have a broader impact, she accepted a position with the 9th Judicial Circuit’s Public Defender’s Office and immediately began advocating for her clients. After 2 years as an Assistant Public Defender, Rhiannon opened her own legal practice, The Arnold Law Group. With big dreams and an incredible work ethic, she built a successful practice serving clients across the State of Florida. Rhiannon focused on trial work in the areas of criminal defense at both the state and federal levels. After 3 years in practice, Rhiannon, and her future husband, Walter joined forces to expand her services into the areas of civil law, personal injury and accident injury law.
In 2008, Rhiannon was appointed to the Judicial Administration and Evaluation Committee, where, for the next 4 years, she worked to obtain and retain qualified judges throughout Florida. The appointment provided Rhiannon with an invaluable perspective of the bench and the qualities required to be a successful judge.
In 2009, Rhiannon became nationally recognized as one of the first attorneys in the U.S. to try a murder case involving a pet python snake. She has personally tried over forty cases, to verdict before juries in Florida. Her substantial courtroom involvement has earned her a reputation of being a phenomenal trial attorney with a knack for presenting case to juries in a way that is practical and easy to digest. Her reputation with judges, opposing counsel, and juries has led to a very successful career as a litigator. In 2018, Rhiannon was named as one of the top 100 Criminal Defense lawyers in the United States by The National Trial Lawyers. When it comes to having the experience needed to sit as a Circuit Court judge, Rhiannon has had the opportunity to practice in both criminal and civil courtrooms and learn the dynamics of each.
Rhiannon is a member of the Orange County Bar, the Florida Justice Association, the Central Florida Trial Lawyers Association and the Central Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. She is a graduate of the Al J. Cone Trial Advocacy Institute. Rhiannon currently serves on the Florida Bar’s Student Education & Admissions to the Bar Committee, where she works with other lawyers from across the state to provide leadership and guidance for potential law school students and future lawyers.
Over the past 10 years, Rhiannon has received numerous awards and has been recognized for her legal work with children, mentally challenged youth, and young adults who have found themselves in trouble with the legal system. Recognized for her pro bono (free) legal work on behalf of children as a Guardian Ad Litem, Rhiannon has provided countless hours serving the Central Florida community. As a member of the Orange County Bar Association, she has been actively involved in the Modest Means Panel for Criminal Defense, which provides legal representation to members of the community that cannot afford a private attorney but do not qualify for the services of the Public Defender. These members of the community would otherwise be overlooked and incapable of having quality representation in their legal matters. In 2009, The Arnold Law Group was certified as a City of Orlando Minority/Woman Owned Enterprise. As a small business owner, she has worked diligently to assist other local, small business in networking and marketing to build their business profile. She currently provides her services, without compensation, to clients of the Legal Aid Society of Orange County to assist them in sealing and expunging criminal arrests and charges from their records. As she believes that everyone deserves a second chance, Rhiannon takes this position to heart and contributes many hours handling these matters for her clients.
Rhiannon actively participates in Moot Court and Mock Trial competitions throughout Florida. Acting as a Judge in over 100 rounds of competition at the high school, collegiate and law school levels, she has handled the role of scoring and presiding judge to help sharpen the presentation and persuasion skills of students looking to become members of the legal community. She is commonly sought out to participate in these competitions as she is known to communicate effectively with competitors and provide feedback that assists them in becoming stronger advocates. In addition to this role, Rhiannon is active in speaking to members of the community about legal matters and repercussions of the legal system. Being able to talk to people and help them navigate a system that can be overwhelming is a gift that she is happy to share with the community.
Rhiannon has been an adjunct professor at Valencia College, where she taught in the Communications Department and assisted non-native English speakers in their upper level communications and speech classes. Being a gifted communicator is something she tries to share and use in order to teach others how to hone their own skills.
Rhiannon and her husband, Walter married in Orlando in 2009 after meeting in the courtroom. Their relationship was made possible due to their respect of the practice of law. They have two daughters, Madalann, 4, and Maisan, 3. They also have a four-legged son, Martin. Family has always been of the upmost importance to Rhiannon. The pillar of her life, her Grandmother, Vena, taught her the importance of family and community. Above all else, Vena instilled in Rhiannon to “make good decisions” and that your decisions will have an impact on you and others and therefore decisions need to be made carefully and thoughtfully. She taught Rhiannon that everyone has a voice and deserves to be heard, no matter their position in life. This principle has been a constant touch point in Rhiannon’s life and career.