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Ferrer was born in Havana, Cuba in 1960 and immigrated to the United States with his family when he was one-year-old. He attended Rockway Junior High School. At age 15, as a sophomore at Miami Coral Park Senior High School, he landed a part-time job as a gas station attendant; by his senior year, he had been promoted to night manager. At age 19, Ferrer became one of the youngest police officers in the state of Florida; while working as a police officer, he also worked in a jewelry store. He left the Coral Gables police force at age 24 to study law. He went on to earn his JD degree from the University of Miami, where he became a published member of its Law Review. He currently serves as Judicial Director of the university's Alumni Association. Upon receiving his degree, he practiced law in Miami, focusing on civil litigation, including hundreds of suits involving medical malpractice, wrongful deaths, personal injuries, and commercial business disputes.
In 1995, he became an Associate Administrative Judge in the Criminal Division of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit, which covers Miami-Dade County, where he spent ten years presiding over thousands of criminal cases. He also presided as an appellate judge over appeals from the Miami-Dade County Court, County Commission, and numerous other governmental bodies. In 1999, he was elected to serve as District Representative to the Executive Committee of the Conference of Circuit Court Judges, a position he held until 2001. He is a member of the Florida Bar and the District of Columbia Bar Association. He has been an adjunct professor at Florida International University, and teaches media relations to other judges at The New Judges College and The College of Advanced Judicial Studies, as well as at various national conferences.
Judge Ferrer presided over the trials of the Sun Gym gang (described in the book and film, Pain & Gain). On July 17, 1998, more than three years after the murders were committed, Judge Ferrer sentenced Daniel Lugo and Adrian Doorbal. Each received two death sentences for the murders of Frank Griga and Krisztina Furton, and consecutive sentences for the other crimes for which they had been convicted.
The judge provided favorable testimony in February 1999 to Marc Schiller, the Sun Gym gang's first victim. Before Schiller's abduction and attempted murder, he led a Medicare fraud scheme and was facing 25 years in jail. Ferrer stepped in to provide testimony as a sitting judge, which is extremely rare and set precedent in its own right. He spoke to the courage of Schiller and the conditions he faced in helping prosecute Lugo and Doorbal. Schiller's sentence was reduced to the federal minimum of 46 months in prison. Judge Alex was admonished for this action.
In 2005, Ferrer was presented with a demand for arbitration by attorney Arnold Preston, who worked for Ferrer under a "personal management" contract. Preston claimed Ferrer owed him fees under the contract. Ferrer countered, claiming Preston had acted as a talent agent without a license, and therefore under California law the contract was void and unenforceable. The question of whether a judge or an arbitrator should decide the "talent agent" question went all the way to the United States Supreme Court in the case Preston v. Ferrer. The Court ruled in Preston's favor in 2008.
Ferrer resides in the Miami area with his wife, Jane, and their two children. A licensed pilot, his other interests include music, sculpting, scuba diving, golf, and running marathons.
Judge Ferrer appeared on the January 27, 2007 episode of 1 vs. 100. On July 6, 2007, he appeared on Fox News Channel's Red Eye w/ Greg Gutfeld. He was a guest on Verdict with Dan Abrams on July 15, 2008. On November 17, 2008, he appeared on Trivial Pursuit: America Plays as the captain of America's team. On November 21, 2008, as a contestant playing for a charity during a special "Judges Week" program.
He also appeared on an episode of America's Most Wanted (episode date March 22, 2010). He appeared on Orlando, Florida's WOFL FOX 35 and the Fox News Channel as a legal expert during coverage of the Casey Anthony murder trial in 2011 and George Zimmerman murder trial in 2013.