By Patty Kim - July 31, 2023
Judge Jessica Costello
Hometown: Columbia, S.C.
Favorite show: “Jeopardy”
Favorite music: Too many to name! I grew up on Motown.
Guilty pleasure: We ALWAYS have ice cream in our house.
Claim to fame: My goal is to never be famous, ha!
Prosecuting cases including human trafficking, homicides and counterterrorism used to be all in a day’s work for Jessica Costello. Then, in 2019, she was appointed to serve as a Hillsborough County Court Judge — becoming one of the youngest judges in Florida, and the first African American woman appointed to the Hillsborough bench in 20 years. She presides over civil and domestic violence injunction cases.
It’s no surprise that she made Tampa Magazine’s Top 10 Under 40 list in 2022.
Meet Judge Jessica Costello.
Where were you born?
Tell us about your family.
I’m a proud mom to the world’s funniest 5-year-old, Cameron Costello. Cam loves dinosaurs, his family and chocolate chip cookies — in that order. Proud wife to the smartest lawyer (and repository of esoteric sports knowledge) I know, Shane Costello. They are truly my “why,” keep me grounded and keep me in good humor.
No furry friends reside in our house but I am definitely a dog person.
Speaking of furry friends, I should mention that our courthouse is home to the first facility dog program in the state of Florida! We currently support two courthouse facility dogs, Lorne and Barley. These amazing, sweet pups provide emotional support to children as they navigate difficult aspects of courthouse processes such as providing testimony to judges and juries. When the facility dogs (or their kind handlers) need a break, you can often find them stopping by my courtroom or judicial chambers to say hello! They brighten everyone’s day.
How do you describe your role as a Hillsborough County Court Judge?
I preside over county civil cases and domestic violence cases. Hillsborough County Court is “The People’s Court.” The goal of my job every day is to give people the opportunity to be heard and apply the facts to the law without fear or favor. I remain very aware of that every day I sit on the bench.
What are your hobbies?
I love cooking southern food for my family, spending time outdoors with my husband and son, and cheering for the Florida Gators (Go Gators!).
Do you have a hidden talent?
I can write my name with my right foot. It comes from two decades of classical ballet training.
Too many to name! I grew up on Motown and love playing my parents’ old records: Stevie Wonder, Al Green, Otis Redding, you name it.
Do you root for any sports teams? Do you consider yourself a house divided, and if so, which team is better?
Shane and I met in law school at FSU, so we are a house divided during football season. Go Gators!
Do you have a cancer connection?
Last April, I lost one of my best friends, Theresa Jean-Pierre Coy, following her valiant battle with breast cancer. We became the closest of friends after starting out as adversaries in the courtroom. Calling Theresa a force to be reckoned with is an understatement. She was the embodiment of faith, kindness and a true friend to everyone she met. The courage, hope and unwavering faith she displayed in the face of unimaginable circumstances led me to promise that I would do all that I could to be a part of the solution. I miss her every day.
What does Moffitt mean to you?
You are on the board of directors for several organizations. Which ones?
I currently serve as an Honorary Commander at MacDill Air Force Base. I also have served on the boards for the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet, UF Alumni Association, FSU College of Law Alumni Association, Academy Prep of Tampa, Junior League of Tampa, Hillsborough County Bar Association, Hillsborough Association of Women Lawyers, George Edgecomb Bar Association and of course, Moffitt Cancer Center.
What’s on your bucket list?
Visit every U.S. National Park with my family. We have a National Park calendar at home, and each month our 5-year-old son keeps track of which parks we should add to our list!
What advice would you give to the next generation?
Keep moving forward.