- 2012 - September - 24th -

Remembering 50 years of the Middle District of Florida

by Richard S. Dellinger

Until 1962, “roving” federal judges from the Northern and Southern Districts handled federal cases in Central Florida. And, until 1962, hearings and trials could not take place in the federal courts in Central Florida until the annual two- to three-month federal session began. And, until 1962, clerks and the U.S. marshals traveled to Central Florida from cities like Miami or Tallahassee to assist with cases.

Prior to 1962, federal civil rights laws passed and were beginning to be enforced. And, prior to 1962, the Warren Court decided cases that applied more stringent constitutional limits on searches and seizures, the right to counsel, school desegregation and voting rights.

By 1962, Central Florida’s population was exploding. Cape Canaveral was full of life as the country embarked on a race to the moon. Defense contractors were expanding their presence. Air conditioning and mosquito control made Central Florida more attractive to new residents. And, Castro’s succession to power in 1959 fueled a decade of Cuban migration.

By 1962, the time had come for the Middle District of Florida to be carved out of the Northern and Southern Districts. And, on July 30, 1962, the Middle District of Florida was created by statute.

On Oct. 29, 1962, three judges from the Southern District of Florida (Judges Simpson, Lieb, and McRae) and a single judge who had shared the Northern and Southern District of Florida (Judge Young) were permanently assigned to the Middle District. These Middle District judges then regularly held court in federal courthouses and U.S. post offices in Fernandina, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Live Oak, Ocala, Orlando, St. Petersburg and Tampa.

The year 2012 commemorates 50 years for the Middle District of Florida. And to commemorate the occasion, attorneys, judges and other members of the legal community will gather in Orlando on Oct. 25-26 to remember 50 years in the Middle District of Florida.

The event will be held at the Hilton Orlando and will begin with a dinner Oct. 25. During the dinner, guests will honor the first Middle District judges, including Judge George C. Young who is expected to appear. Attorneys Jill Schwartz and Marilyn Moran have planned a dinner event that includes professional musicians and singers who will present musical pieces from the 50 years of the district.

The Oct. 26 symposium will also be at the Hilton Orlando. The symposium will begin with a general overview of the creation of the district by Professor James M. Denham, Ph.D, from Florida Southern College. Then, the program will turn to substantive cases with a discussion of major civil cases by Sylvia Walbolt, 11th Circuit Senior Judge Susan Black, and Senior Middle District Judges William Castagna and Harvey Schlesinger. Then, the program will continue on to major criminal cases with a discussion by Stetson law professor Robert Batey and former 11th Circuit Judge Joseph Hatchett. Then, Senior Middle District Judge Wm. Terrell Hodges will speak about his experience with segregation and integration cases within the district.

After the morning session, the program will address the life of Judge Henry Lee Adams Jr. during a lunch videotape presentation. The video will be introduced by Judge Adams’ former law partner William Sheppard.

After lunch, students from the Law Reviews at the University of Florida, Florida State University and the University of Miami will present case comments about cases decided during the 50 years in the district. The Florida Law Review will lead with five case comments regarding cases decided from 1962 through 1978. Then, the Florida State Law Review will present five case comments regarding cases decided from 1979 through 1995. And finally, the University of Miami Law Review will present five case comments regarding cases decided from 1996 through the present.

The event will be held in the conference facilities at the Hilton Orlando. The costs for the general public are $60 for the Thursday dinner and $40 for the Friday symposium.

No public monies will be used for the event. For more information on the 50th anniversary event, visit mdflhistoricalcommittee.com/academic-symposium.

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