Russell Healey got the call about 3:30 p.m. Monday.
“Hello, this is Jeb Bush. I understand you want to be a judge.”
And so it went. Gov. Bush let Healey know he would be the next to join the Duval County Court bench, filling the vacancy left when Linda McCallum transitioned to Circuit Court Jan. 2.
Healey, a partner at Mahon, Mahon & Healey in the Blackstone Building, is one of 16 original candidates who submitted application packets in January for the position. The 4th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission screened the applications and pared the list to five: A. Wellington Barlow, Kevin Blazs, Tad Delegal, Leatrice Walton Williams and Healey.
“You never know what can happen,” Healey said of the outcome. “Obviously I thought I was qualified when I submitted my application. I had a lot of people who wrote letters on my behalf. You go through two interviews and there are a host of other considerations but you don’t always know what the governor is thinking. I certainly had faith I was well-qualified for the position.”
Very often, the governor’s judicial appointments are steeped in political agenda. While the finalists the JNC forwards to the governor are more or less equally qualified for the position, Bush can appoint judges based on how he wants to shape the judiciary — more females, increased minority representation or more white males.
The 46-year-old Healey had done the dance before, making it to the final five when he applied for a newly created circuit court position last year. That judgeship, coincidentally, was eventually awarded to McCallum. His name still fresh in the JNC’s and Bush’s mind, the second time was his time.
Healey has over two decades of legal experience as both assistant state attorney and private practitioner in criminal prosecution and defense cases. Over the course of his career, he has dealt with a wide breadth of legal matters including juvenile dependency, juvenile delinquency, family law and general civil cases. He has been with Mahon, Mahon & Healey since 1988.
While there is no firm start date, Healey points to mid-May to make the move to the County Court.
“I’ve got to wrap up some things, notify some clients and finish some trials,” he said. “They’d like me there tomorrow, but I think I’ll be there within 60 days. I can’t wait to get started.”
He expects his investiture to take place in late July.