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- 2014 - September - 1st -

50 years ago: Florida Bar proposes changes in rules for judges

Compiled by Max Marbut

The Florida Bar announced proposals to separate the judiciary from politics would be aired at a public hearing Sept. 11 in Jacksonville.

The Bar, which already had approved several suggested new laws in principle, but not in detail, said lawyers and laymen would be given the opportunity to criticize the proposals and to recommend changes.

If given final approval by the Bar, the proposed changes would be submitted to the 1965 Legislature with the suggestion the Constitution be revised to incorporate them.

One of the measures dealt with nonpartisan selection of judges rather than having candidates run under political labels, subject to opposition if a candidate materialized, and that judges be elected by the people.

The other proposal dealt with a new way of disciplining and removing judges from office for misconduct, which at the time was handled by impeachment through the state House of Representatives and a trial in the state Senate.

A demand for another method of reprimanding judges was made after impeachment proceedings against two circuit judges since 1954 had resulted in acquittals after tedious and expensive trials.

Under the new proposal, a commission on judicial qualifications would be created with authority over all but city court judges. It would be composed of two state district appellate court judges, two circuit judges and a county judge, all named by the Supreme Court; two attorneys named by the board of governors of the Bar; and two laymen appointed by the governor and confirmed by the senate. All members would serve four-year terms.

The commission, after hearing charges, could privately reprimand judges or remove them for willful misconduct, persistent failure to perform their duties, habitual intemperance or conduct unbecoming a member of the judiciary. It also could force retirement on a seriously ill or disabled judge.

• “I kept telling them I didn’t belong there, but nobody would listen to me,” said Carrie Pittman, 4, after a two-hour search for her ended in an elementary school auditorium.

Pittman was anxious to get to kindergarten, but her eagerness resulted in a search party of nearly 600 Navy personnel and civilians who scoured the Cedar Hills area looking for her.

It started about 7:45 a.m. on Tuesday when Pittman stepped out of her home at 7464 Centauri Road to await the school bus that was to take her to kindergarten along Blanding Boulevard.

A few minutes later, a car pulled up driven by a woman who asked, “Are you Judy?”

When Pittman said, “No, I’m Carrie,” the woman asked if she was ready to go to school.

“Yes, I am,” Pittman said and she climbed into the car.

Her mother, Nina Pittman, heard the car door slam and noticed her daughter was gone. After a quick search, she frantically notified the Duval County Patrol.

While police were en route, an attempt was made to contact the girl’s father, Navy Lt. J.R. Pittman. A pilot, Pittman was in the air at the time with Heavy Photographic Squadron 62. His squadron members volunteered to join in the search, as did volunteer firemen and other civilians.

Police made a thorough check of all kindergartens in the area, but none reported having the girl. The tension built until the woman in the car stopped by the area, noticed the search in progress and remembered where she had dropped off her young passenger.

County Patrolmen B.K. Kennedy and Clarence Rowe rushed to the school and found Pittman sitting in the auditorium. She apparently had been placed there and forgotten temporarily, but the girl knew she was at the wrong school.

It was noted she appeared “a little put out” because no one had listened to her.

• The new $15 million, 150-megawatt electric generating unit at the Southside Generating Station went into limited production.

It was able to generate only about 60 megawatts of electricity because of the failure in August of a transformer at the city’s other generating site, the J. Dillon Kennedy Generating Station along Talleyrand Avenue. A transformer at the Southside plant was moved to the Kennedy plant and would remain there until October.

While plans were going ahead to put the new Southside unit into production on a limited basis, other problems developed at the Kennedy plant. A motor on a 38,000-gallon-per-minute circulating water pump burned out and capacity at the plant had to be cut in half.

The city issued an appeal to residents to reduce their power usage as the capacity was being pushed beyond its maximum limit. The breakdown was cleared up in about five hours.

“I want to express my deepest appreciation to the public for cooperating with us in the emergency,” said Utilities Commissioner J. Dillon Kennedy.

• In Tallahassee, trustees of the state Internal Improvement Fund decided there were so many boat docks in the Ortega River between the Ortega River and Roosevelt Boulevard bridges that another one would not matter, particularly since it would be a replacement for one already there.

The trustees overruled objections of adjacent property owners and residents across the river to allow Rose Watson of 4228 Lakeside Drive to build a 450-foot commercial dock which would be about 300 feet longer than the one she already had in place.

Objections were received from Charles T. Boyd Jr., Dr. Ashbel Williams and Dr. Samuel M. Day, who lived along McGirt’s Avenue, and from Dr. John L. Goedert of 4234 Lakeside Drive, along with a petition signed by 18 other property owners in the area.

The complainants contended there were so many docks that boats eventually would not be able to navigate the river.

William Kidd, IIF director, told the trustees that the staff in July had advised Watson that they were of the opinion that further docks would simply clutter what already had become an abused waterway.

The trustees ruled, however, that since others had been allowed to build their docks, Watson should have the same privilege. It was noted during testimony that there were three 450-foot docks on property adjoining Watson’s.

• City Attorney William Madison said revenue from on-street parking meters was pledged in the contract with holders of the city’s waterfront parking lot bonds.

“The city has a contract with the bondholders to pay the revenue that the city cannot impair in any way,” he said, adding that any attempt to cut off the revenue would be a violation of the bond agreement and would be stopped in court.

Madison’s declaration was in response to a report that the Parking, Traffic and Public Transportation Committee of the Downtown Council of the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce was undertaking a study of the feasibility of removing parking meters along Downtown streets.

Committee member Richard Brook presented the measure for consideration, citing a report by the City of St. Petersburg, where metered parking was abolished in May 1963. He said the chief advantage of the proposal would be free parking for shoppers.

For the first seven months of 1964, total meter receipts were $66,030, as compared to $70,930 collected in the same period in 1963.

• Teachers who were new mothers or about to give birth were the focus for the Duval County Board of School Trustees as it began a review of the public school maternity leave policy.

At the board’s request, Superintendent Ish Brant said he would bring the matter before a committee of physicians, although any change in policy would have to come from the Duval County Board of Public Instruction.

The policy in 1964 required teachers to take a one-year maternity leave. They were required to stop teaching at the beginning of their fourth month of pregnancy and could not return to the classroom until their child was four months old.

Trustee Richard Barker Jr. questioned the wisdom of the rule. He said the mother’s doctor could best determine when she could resume her profession.

The majority of leaves in the school system were due to maternity cases and the policy had come under fire, both because of a shortage of teachers and from mothers who needed to return to work to earn a salary.

Barker recommended that the policy be reviewed with a suggestion that teachers who became mothers be allowed to return to their jobs earlier upon approval by their physicians.

“In no case, however, should the teacher be allowed to resume teaching earlier than two months after the birth of her child,” he said.

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