by Joe Wilhelm Jr.
The process of choosing the next two judges for the First District Court of Appeal will move to the next step June 13, when seven candidates will be interviewed by Gov. Rick Scott.
The vacancies in the First District Court of Appeal were created by the retirement of Judges Charles Khan and Peter Webster.
The openings are significant because Webster’s retirement leaves one judge from Jacksonville, Judge William Van Nortwick Jr., and Khan’s retirement leaves the First DCA without a judge from Pensacola.
“I sure hope that someone from Jacksonville is chosen. We’ve got two good candidates on the list,” said Van Nortwick. “But the people from Pensacola are equally adamant about getting someone on the court.”
Webster is a former Fourth Judicial Circuit judge and, prior to the bench, was in private practice at Bedell, Bedell, Dittmar, Smith & Zehmer.
He also clerked for U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Gerald Tjoflat when Tjoflat was a U.S. District judge. Van Nortwick was in private practice in Jacksonville at Martin, Ade, Birchfield & Mickler and Milam Martin & Ade before being selected for the bench.
The list of candidates for the First DCA includes Fourth Judicial Circuit Judges Jim Daniel and Waddell Wallace, both from Jacksonville; Miguel Olivella Jr., Charles Stampelos, Jessica Enciso Varn and Stephanie Williams Ray from Tallahassee; and Ronald Swanson from Pensacola.
After the June interviews, the governor has 10 days to make his selections.
Van Nortwick remembered that preparing for the interview was more stressful than the interview itself.
“The first time I interviewed with Gov. Lawton Chiles, Jacksonville had just been awarded the Jaguars and he was very interested in how the Jacksonville community was reacting to that,” said Van Nortwick.
“The second time I was interviewed, when I was appointed, he was interested in the kind of law I practiced and we probably talked for about a half an hour about the practice of law. It was very casual. He was just trying to get to know who I was,” he said.
Those seeking the judgeship must have been members of The Florida Bar for the preceding 10 years, registered voters and residents of the territorial jurisdiction of the court at the time of assuming office.
The First DCA consists of the First, Second, Third, Fourth, Eighth and 14th Circuits.