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Chief Judge Tim Corrigan wins William M. Hoeveler Judicial Professionalism Award

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'His reputation amongst the judges on my court is outstanding, second to none. He is a judge’s judge'

Chief Judge Corrigan

Chief Judge Tim Corrigan

Chief U.S. District Judge Tim Corrigan was in his Florida room in 2013 when an assassin’s bullet splintered a window and lodged in a wall 1.6 inches above his head.

A disgruntled former criminal defendant, armed with a .30-06, was later apprehended, and ultimately sentenced to 343 years.

“Some might think this harrowing experience would diminish his commitment to — and enthusiasm for — public service, but they don’t know Tim Corrigan,” recalls U.S. District Judge Roy B. Dalton, a colleague in Florida’s sprawling Middle District.

Instead, Dalton recalls, Corrigan calmly returned to work the next day, “without fanfare or timidity,” and “continues to serve with great integrity and distinction.”

Dalton and other admirers referred to the incident in a stack of glowing nominations for the 2024 William M. Hoeveler Judicial Professionalism Award, which Corrigan will receive at the Bar’s Annual Convention in June.

Dalton and other nominators note that Corrigan carefully deflected the limelight away from himself after the attack — so the public could better appreciate the gravity of the crime.

“For Judge Corrigan, what mattered was not that this act was directed at him, what mattered was that it was an attack on the Rule of Law.”

Friends and colleagues say few judges venerate the rule of law more than Corrigan, or do more to promote professionalism, service to the profession and community.

Sponsored by the Standing Committee on Professionalism, the Hoeveler Award recognizes a “judge who best exemplifies strength of character, competence, commitment and civility as a jurist, lawyer, and public servant.”

A 1981 Duke University Law graduate, Corrigan spent a year clerking for U.S. District Judge Gerald B. Tjoflat at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The promise Corrigan showed as a beginning lawyer has been realized many times over, Tjoflat assured the committee.

“I have been grading Judge Corrigan’s papers and observing his work for 22 years. His reputation amongst the judges on my court is outstanding, second to none. He is a judge’s judge.”

Corrigan practiced in the Jacksonville area for 14 years before becoming a federal magistrate in 1996. In 2002, President George W. Bush appointed Corrigan to fill a newly created U.S. District Judgeship in the Middle District. He became chief judge in 2020.

Corrigan has been careful to instill the values he learned from Tjoflat and other mentors in the next generation, say Susanne Weisman, Jared Burns, and Kelly Milliron, nominators who identify themselves as “current and former clerks.”

Corrigan gives every new clerk “the talk,” they note.

He insists that all his clerks treat everyone, “lawyers, criminal defendants, pro se litigants, the press, court, and agency staff,” with “kindness and respect.”

“[T]hey are all our customers, and we are in the customer service industry,” the clerks wrote.

Corrigan sets the example, the clerks note, by shaking every juror’s hand and wishing every criminal defendant well.

Former Florida Bar presidents Michael Tanner (2021-22), Hank Coxe (2006-07), and Howard Coker (1998-99) have known Corrigan for decades.

They recall that in 1993, before Corrigan came to the federal bench, he was one of the drafters of the first “Guidelines for Professional Conduct.”

The guidelines were adopted by the Trial Lawyers Section and endorsed by the Florida Conference of Circuit Court Judges and the Conference of County Court Judges, the Bar presidents note.

“The Guidelines were one of the earliest efforts in Florida to formulate specific professionalism standards and they are now in their fourth edition (2017)…No judge in Northeast Florida has been called upon more often to write and speak about professionalism,” the presidents wrote.

Other friends and colleagues point to Corrigan’s tireless efforts to promote pro bono service, access to justice, and mentoring.

Many point to his extraordinary administrative skills in a Middle District that encompasses 35 of Florida’s 67 counties, stretches 350 geographic miles from end to end, and serves 12 million Florida residents with court facilities in Jacksonville, Ocala, Orlando, Tampa, and Ft. Myers.

In terms of filings per active judge, the Middle District is in the top 15 in the nation. Unfortunately, his colleagues stress, the Judicial Conference of the United States has consistently recommended that the Middle District of Florida receive five more judgeships, without success. Even more challenging, the district has three vacant district judge positions, and is facing another in November.

“His may well be one of the most challenging chief district judgeships in the nation,” wrote U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard. “Judge Corrigan has addressed all of these challenges with thoughtful judgment, compassion, patience, and a firm commitment to the administration of justice.”

U.S. District Judge Mary S. Scriven says Corrigan works hard to keep others from feeling discouraged and isn’t above playing “Court Santa” or sending tongue-in-cheek video greetings to court staff.

“He is as humble and amicable a guy as you would ever want to meet,” Scriven wrote.

Or, as his current and former law clerks observed, “Great people make great judges.”

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