Gov. Bush selects first black
woman to serve on the Polk County bench.
Saturday, May 27, 2000
By BILLY TOWNSEND The
BARTOW -- Karla Foreman Wright, a veteran attorney for the state and
Polk County, will become the first black woman to hold a Polk judgeship, Gov. Jeb Bush
Wright replaces Judge Charles L. Brown, who was appointed to the 10th Judicial Circuit
Court in January.
"I'm pleased, honored and excited at the opportunity,"
She will be only the second black judge to serve on the Polk County
bench. Former Gov. Lawton Chiles appointed Judge Timothy Coon to the county court in 1995.
He remains there today.
Wright acknowledged the historic overtones of her appointment.
"I'm certainly proud to see that barrier broken," Wright
said. "It's unfortunate that we're in the year 2000 when it occurs."
Bush chose Wright, 50, from among five nominees selected by the
local Judicial Nominating Commission, which interviewed 23 applicants before sending the
names to Bush in March.
Wright said the governor called her at home Thursday night with the
"Karla has faithfully served justice by consistently upholding
the highest standards of the legal profession," Bush said in a statement released
A graduate of Northwestern University Law School in Chicago, Wright
moved to Polk County in the mid 1980s and got a job as an assistant public defender.
She left after two years and began work with the Florida Department
of Transportation. She joined Polk County government five years later in 1992 and has
worked there ever since in County Attorney Mark Carpanini's office.
County commissioners must still release Wright from her contract,
which commission Chairman Bruce Parker said is simply a formality.
"This is the opportunity of a lifetime for an individual,"
Parker said. "We're all thrilled for her."
Wright's chief area of expertise as an attorney has been real estate
and employment law.
But Chief Circuit Judge Charles Curry said she will be assigned to
Curry said Wright had appeared before him at various times as a
"I'm very familiar with her as a practitioner," he said.
"I think she'll do a tremendous job."
Republican Bush's appointment of Wright, a registered Democrat,
crosses party lines.
Wright said it reflects the governor's commitment to a judiciary
that mirrors the state's diversity.
Bush's office reports that 26 percent of his judicial appointments
have gone to minorities, with 16 percent going to blacks.
Since Bush took office in 1999, the total number of minority judges
in Florida has increased by 19 percent, according to his office.
Wright is active in a number of local organizations, including the
Polk Historical Commission, Girls Inc. and the Peace River Center for Personal
She has also been a member of the Bartow branch of the NAACP.
Ironically, Wright has been a key figure in defending the county
against a discrimination lawsuit brought by the Florida NAACP on behalf of several
employees and former employees.
"I support the historical goals of the NAACP, even though I may
disagree with specific political or litigation initiatives," she said.
Wright is married to Dr. Victor J. Wright, a podiatrist with a
practice in Bartow and Sun City.
The couple have two sons, Jahi, 24, and Ameer, 20.
The other finalists for the judgeship were Rex Dimmig, an assistant
public defender; Robin Matis-Jackson, a Bartow lawyer; Mike McCarthy, a Lakeland lawyer;
and Peter Sternlicht, an assistant state attorney.
The position pays $104,000 a year.