Five attorneys nominated for Duval County Court vacancy

Gov. Ron DeSantis has 60 days to appoint Judge Ronald Higbee’s successor.

  • By Max Marbut
  • | 5:57 p.m. May 7, 2021
  • | 5 Free Articles Remaining!
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After interviewing seven applicants May 7 for the vacancy created by the retirement of Duval County Judge Ronald Higbee effective June 30, the 4th Circuit Judicial Nominating Committee sent the names of five candidates to Gov. Ron DeSantis for his consideration.

The commission convened and interviewed the applicants at the Duval County Courthouse. The public was allowed to watch the interviews on Zoom.

The nominees:

Margaret Gibbs Gulliford
Margaret Gibbs Gulliford

• Margaret Gibbs Gulliford is an assistant state attorney in the 4th Judicial Circuit.

In her interview, Gulliford said being appointed to the county bench would be an opportunity to start slowly and get a good foundation for the future, possibly as a circuit court judge.

“I like to walk before I run,” Gulliford said.

She said her experience in the State Attorney’s Office taught her how to read the law and apply it fairly. She said being a county judge would allow her to learn more about civil law.

Matthew Lufrano
Matthew Lufrano

• Matthew Lufrano is owner of Lufrano Legal in Jacksonville.

He said he feels qualified to be a county judge based on taking 75 cases to a jury verdict, his balanced temperament and his age (redacted on his application available to the news media).

“Youth is a potential benefit. It allows the governor’s judicial legacy to last longer,” Lufrano said in his interview.

Jonathan Sacks
Jonathan Sacks

• Jonathan Sacks is an assistant state attorney in the 4th Judicial Circuit. 

A public school kindergarten teacher before he went to law school, Sacks was hired as an assistant state attorney by former State Attorney Harry Shorstein.

He is board certified by The Florida Bar in criminal law.

He applied for a vacancy in 2012, but hasn’t appeared before the commission since.

Asked about the gap, Sack said nine years ago he realized he wasn’t ready for the bench.

“I promised myself I wouldn’t put myself out there until I was ready,” he said.

Julie Taylor
Julie Taylor

• Julie Taylor is general counsel, special magistrate and civil traffic infraction hearing officer for the 4th Judicial Circuit.

Taylor said her experience in traffic court would be valuable as a county judge because that allowed her to preside over people who represent themselves without an attorney.

“I’ve learned patience and how to control the calendar and the court,” Taylor said.

Susan Zerbe
Susan Zerbe

• Susan Zerbe is an assistant public defender in the 4th Judicial Circuit.

A three-time applicant who previously was nominated twice, Zerbe said her 15 years of experience in the State Attorney’s Office prosecuting domestic violence cases and later as a public defender allowed her to learn how to help people through trauma.

She also said in her interview that she is comfortable carrying a heavy caseload.

“I think I have the experience to step right in,” Zerbe said.

Each nominee will be interviewed by the governor’s staff. Within 60 days, DeSantis can appoint one of the candidates to succeed Higbee or ask for additional nominees.



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