Marion County will soon have a circuit judge vacancy
The Marion County Judicial Center is shown in Ocala on Wednesday, August 5, 2020. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2020.
As a result of the Fifth Judicial Circuit announcing the retirement of Circuit Judge G. Richard Singeltary of Lake County, effective April 25, Marion County will have an open seat for a circuit judge.
The fifth judicial circuit comprises Marion, Sumter, Citrus, Lake, and Hernando counties.
When a judicial vacancy occurs, judges in the same circuit sometimes use the opportunity to put in for transfers to other counties. In this case, after factoring in judicial transfers within the circuit, it will be Marion County short a circuit judge once the Honorable Kristie M. Healis returns to serve Sumter/Citrus counties.
According to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ website, when the governor is notified of a vacancy because of a judicial resignation, retirement, death, or elevation of a sitting judge, the governor requests the chair of the Judicial Nominating Committee (JNC) convene the committee to select and submit names of qualified individuals to the governor for possible appointment to the bench.
The governor’s office has not published that request; however, it is expected.
Applicants who apply for the position interview with the JNC, which then determines by majority vote which applicants are to be recommended to the governor for consideration.
The JNC has no more than 60 days from the time it is requested to convene to nominate no fewer than three and no more than six applicants.
The governor then has 60 days to appoint a judge from among the nominees.
The appointee will serve until they face election in the year following their appointment, according to Jeffrey Fuller, spokesperson for the Fifth Judicial Circuit.
“They get to serve at least one year before facing election,” explained Fuller.
Robert W. Hodges, the Administrative Judge for Marion County, indicated that Judge Healis’ docket comprises the probate, guardianship, and dependency dockets, which are what the judge appointed by DeSantis should expect to take over.
Those interested in being prepared to apply for the vacancy once the JNC formally announces its applicants can review the application and related information at flgov.com/ under the website’s judicial tab.
According to Fuller, judges will not transition to other counties until the governor’s appointment fills the vacancy, so it will be Lake County Circuit judges, not Marion County, having to make up the extra caseload that will result in being short a circuit judge.
This report will be supplemented once the governor’s office notifies the JNC to start the nominating process.