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Second District Court of Appeal celebrates 50 years

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Second District Court of Appeal celebrates 50 years

Allison Gluvna and
Kimberly Jones

Fifty years after its creation in June 1957, when Chief Judge Abram Otto Kanner, Judge William P. Allen, and Judge Robert J. Pleus took the bench, the Second District Court of Appeal has grown to a 14-judge panel, managing one of the largest caseloads in the nation.

To recognize and celebrate the court’s contribution to the community over the last 50 years, the Second District Court of Appeal Historical Society hosted a commemorative banquet October 25 at the Hyatt Regency Tampa.

Attended by over 450 members of the legal community, the event was a memorable occasion.

“It was a very enjoyable evening,” said Judge Patricia Kelly, who was impressed by the large turnout and was “very happy to know our court enjoys that kind of support in our community.”

Celene Humphries, who, along with Katherine Earle Yanes, co-chaired the Anniversary Celebration Committee, agreed, noting, “It was wonderful to see just how proud our legal community is of its appellate court.”

The evening’s program began with comments by Steven Brannock, on behalf of The Florida Bar Appellate Practice Section, who presented the court with a commemorative plaque, and Henry G. Gyden, president of the historical society, who presented the court with paintings by Brandon S. Vesely, a former staff attorney at the Second District, in honor of the court’s 50-year milestone. After their presentations, Chief Judge Stevan T. Northcutt gave opening remarks, which were followed by Judge Chris W. Altenbernd’s introduction of the commemorative speaker, retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Stephen H. Grimes, who served on the bench from 1973 through 1987. A slideshow of candid and formal photographs of the 46 judges of the Second District provided an engaging backdrop throughout the evening.

The speakers commented on the history of the Second District and shared memories from their years of service. One comment made by Judge Altenbernd was particularly resonant. Noting that “this institution is far more than the sum of these funny stories about good people,” he recognized that “the Second District, as an institution, has made each of us who has served this court — as judge, staff attorney, employee, or lawyer arguing on behalf of a client as an officer of the court. . . strive to be better than the limitations of our human existence. The institution has caused us to obey the rule of law, when we, as humans, wanted to be vindictive or arbitrary or even capricious.”

This respect and admiration for the institution of the Second District has been evident throughout its growth over the years. Florida’s district courts of appeal were created in response to an overwhelming caseload at the Florida Supreme Court, which handled all appeals from Florida’s circuit courts. As increased demands were placed on the Florida Supreme Court, the Florida Legislature created the Florida Judicial Council, tasking it with finding a solution that would assist the court. That solution, reached by a committee led by Florida Supreme Court Justice Elwyn Thomas, took the form of a proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution creating three district courts of appeal to have final jurisdiction in most appeals from their districts. Voters approved the amendment in 1956, and on July 1, 1957, the First, Second, and Third district courts of appeal began reviewing appeals.

Currently, the Second DCA has jurisdiction over 14 counties near Florida’s Gulf Coast and maintains two branches — one at Lawton M. Chiles, Jr., Courthouse in Lakeland and the other at the Stetson University Law School Building in downtown Tampa, which is the first and only law school and courthouse to share quarters. In its 50 years of existence, a total of 46 judges have served on the bench, coming from a wide range of legal and cultural backgrounds. Their portraits and biographies, along with a history of the Second DCA written by Judge E.J. Salcines, were collected in a commemorative book that was given to all guests at the banquet.

This celebration would not have been possible without the dedicated efforts of the members of the Second District Court of Appeal Historical Society and the Anniversary Celebration Committee, as well as the generous financial support from 50 law firms and legal associations, and other sponsors who donated their time and expertise. Much thanks to all who contributed to this celebratory banquet to commemorate the institution of the Second District, and its contributions to the community over the last 50 years.

Allison Gluvna, an associate at Greenberg Traurig, P.A., focuses her practice on litigation and appeals. She is a 2004 graduate of the University of Florida Fredric G. Levin College of Law. Kimberly Gracia Jones is a staff attorney for Judge Chris Altenbernd at the Second District Court of Appeal, and a 2006 graduate of Boston University School of Law.

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