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    Doctor: Circuit judge's condition is worsening

    Hillsborough Circuit Judge Florence Foster is not resigning, but her medical reports will go to the state.

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published April 24, 2002

    TAMPA -- A doctor for Hillsborough Circuit Judge Florence Foster has said a downturn in the judge's battle with multiple sclerosis has made it too difficult for her to continue on the bench.

    Foster's husband, Robert Foster, also a Hillsborough judge, said Tuesday that her condition was diagnosed several years ago.

    While she is not resigning, her medical reports are being forwarded to the Judicial Qualifications Commission, which could decide to seek her removal.

    "It's a family thing right now," Robert Foster said, declining to comment further.

    Judges removed from the bench for medical reasons can gain thousands more a year in disability pay under state law.

    If a judge resigns for health reasons, a judge can get a maximum of 42 percent of their monthly salary in disability pay. But if the Florida Supreme Court removes a judge at the JQC's request for health reasons, the judge can get up to 66 percent of their monthly salary in disability pay.

    Florence Foster's removal from the bench could also affect this fall's elections. More candidates might jump into the race if Foster does not seek re-election.

    Foster, 47, has gained notoriety for her handling of the case of former New York Yankee great Darryl Strawberry, whom she refused to send to prison despite his repeated probation violations on drug and sex charges.

    When Strawberry appeared in court last week to admit to recent allegations against him, Foster was absent. She had called in sick.

    Hillsborough Chief Judge Manuel Menendez Jr. said it appeared unlikely she would return to the bench.

    "There is some concern it could affect cognitive functions as well as motor functions," Menendez said. "It is at least one physician's opinion that she shouldn't be serving at this point. Apparently it has acted up to the point that she can't serve."

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