by Mike Sharkey
Two judgeships in the 4th Judicial Circuit were filled Tuesday by Gov. Jeb Bush.
County Judge Linda McCallum has been promoted to the circuit bench and Ron Higbee of the Public Defender’s Office will be moving across Bay Street to the county bench.
Last spring the Florida Legislature created two new judgeships in the 4th Judicial Circuit — one circuit seat and one county seat. In July 1994, McCallum was appointed to the county bench. She was appointed to the newly-created position on the circuit bench Monday by Gov. Jeb Bush, a position she will assume in January. At the same time, Higbee will take over his new job as a county judge, ending almost 14 years with the Public Defender’s Office.
“It’s very exciting times,” said McCallum, who moved to Jacksonville in 1976 and graduated from Cumberland Law School in Alabama in 1986. “I did get the circuit court appointment.”
Although the appointments weren’t officially due from Bush until December, making them early has no bearing on when McCallum and Higbee will start their new jobs. The most important dates for both were Aug. 31 and Oct. 1.
“The actual interviews with the Judicial Nominating Committee took place Oct. 1 and the application deadline was Aug. 31,” said McCallum on Tuesday. “They [the JNC] sent my name to Tallahassee to the governor who had until Dec. 3 to make the appointments. He made them yesterday [Monday].”
The appointment of McCallum leaves an empty seat on the county bench.
“They have to start the process over again to fill my position,” said McCallum, who started her law career as prosecutor under Ed Austin in the State Attorney’s Office.
As for her new position, McCallum is anxious to make the move.
“I’m very excited,” she said. “I was ready for the challenge and ready to make the step to the next level. I’m proud that I was selected out of a group of great attorneys.”
In addition to her new position, McCallum will assume a different role with a different jurisdiction. Not only will she preside over Duval County cases, as a circuit judge in the 4th Judicial Circuit, she will also handle cases from Clay and Nassau county.
“I’ll be dealing with different aspects of law, too,” said McCallum. “My understanding is that my new assignment will be in dependency court. I’ll be dealing with children who are dependents and wards of the State. I handled dependency a little as a county judge. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
A Denver native, Higbee moved to Florida when he was 16, graduating from the University of Florida’s law school in 1978. He spent five years in the Navy as a member of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps before spending two years as an assistant State’s Attorney. After two years of private and corporate practice, Higbee joined the Public Defender’s Office in April 1988.
Like McCallum, Higbee is looking forward to the change of scenery and is intrigued by the chance to hear both sides of an argument. By joining the county bench, Higbee said he’ll be able to maintain a close relationship with the public.
“I want to still serve the people,” said Higbee of his interest in the bench. “As a judge you get to look at the law and the facts and make a decision as to what is appropriate. I like the idea of being neutral and detached.”
If there’s a drawback, Higbee said it will be leaving the office where he has worked for almost 14 years.
“This is a very nice office to work for,” he said. “I have been treated like a prince and I’ll miss the people in this office.”
Higbee said he will more than likely be designated a general county judge, handling everything from criminal cases to civil cases to small claims court.
“I haven’t talked to the chief judge [Donald Moran], so I don’t know yet,” said Higbee.