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Article Reposted permission of The Lakeland Ledger
|Circuit Court Vacancy Filled
Friday, July 2, 1999
By SUSAN BARBOSA
BARTOW -- Polk County's newest Circuit Court judge overcame polio as a child, started law school at age 45 and is looking forward to her new duties.
Gov. Jeb Bush announced Thursday the appointment of Judith Elaine Jarriel Flanders to fill a position that has been vacant since March.
Flanders, 61, of Lakeland currently serves as a judge of workers' compensation cases.
She will fill the Circuit Court vacancy created by Charles Davis' appointment to the 2nd District Court of Appeal.
"Judge Flanders has a high level of experience and a keen understanding of the problems and challenges facing our criminal justice system," Bush wrote in a prepared statement.
"I am confident Judge Flanders will do a great job serving the 10th Circuit."
The 10th Judicial Circuit serves Polk, Highlands and Hardee counties.
The 60-day deadline for Bush to appoint Davis' replacement expired last Saturday.
Flanders said she got the call from the governor at about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, but he asked her not to tell others until midday Thursday, when he made the announcement.
"Waiting to tell was the hardest part," she said with a laugh from her office Thursday. "My first reaction was, 'Is this really real?' He asked if I was willing to serve, and I said I couldn't be more pleased.
"I told him I will do everything I can to justify his confidence in me."
She said she will need about three weeks to complete her duties at workers' compensation court before beginning her new job.
Flanders was one of 15 applicants for the Davis vacancy and one of three recommended to the governor by the local Judicial Nominating Commission.
The other two nominees were County Judge Michael Raiden and Bartow lawyer Ronald Toward.
Flanders was born and raised in Georgia. She contracted polio as a child before the vaccine was discovered but recovered to walk, skip rope and ride a bike. She wears a brace on her left leg.
She lives in Lakeland with her husband, Bennett, her high school beau. They have two children and three grandchildren.
Flanders received her undergraduate degree in English from Mercer University in 1959 and worked as a teacher in Georgia in 1960 and 1961.She received her law degreefrom Stetson Universityin 1985.
From 1988 to 1997, she was a shareholder and associate in the Lakeland law firm of Lane, Trohn.
In January 1998, when she accepted the late Gov. Lawton Chiles' appointment to workers' compensation court, she walked away from her $160,000-a-year job at the law firm to accept the $90,000-a-year judgeship.
The Circuit Court position pays $113,833-a-year.
She will have to run for election in November 2000 to keep the job.
Before joining the law firm, Flanders worked for two years as an aide to Judge Jack Schoonover at the Lakeland-based 2nd D.C.A.