Monday, November 21, 2016

Two of Eleven Florida Supreme Court Justice Candidates Have Ties to St. Johns County

Posted November 15, 2016 03:12 am - Updated November 15, 2016 05:32 am
By Associated Press
Applicants for Florida Supreme Court have local ties

Former St. Augustine prosecutor and Circuit Judge JUDGE WENDY BERGER takes oath of office as Fifth District Court of Appeals Judge, with Bible held by husband LARRY BERGER, before Supreme Court Justice Charles Canaday

TALLAHASSEE — Eleven applicants, including several judges, a prosecutor, and a state legislator remain in the running to become a Florida Supreme Court justice.

A state nominating panel voted Monday to interview everyone who applied for a spot on the court. Justice James Perry is stepping down on Dec. 30 because he’s reached the mandatory retirement age. Gov. Rick Scott will appoint his replacement.

Jason Unger, an attorney who heads up the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission, suggested interviewing all the candidates because the final number of applicants was “manageable.” The panel plans to conduct interviews Nov. 28.

The list of applicants includes former Circuit Court Judge Wendy Berger, who handled felony cases in St. Johns County. Berger was appointed to the 5th District Court of Appeal in 2012. She had been a circuit court judge since 2005.

Among the other candidates are State Rep. Larry Metz, Charles Lawson, the chief judge of the 5th District Court of Appeal, and State Attorney Brad King, the lead prosecutor for five central Florida counties.

King also has a local connection. He was appointed as a special investigator to review the death of Michelle O’Connell in St. Johns County following conflicts with the investigations by the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Another investigation was ordered later, but State Attorney Jeffrey Ashton reached the same conclusion that there was insufficient evidence to bring criminal charges in the case.

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