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    Tampa Bay briefs

    By Times staff reports
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published May 31, 2002


    Court decides to remove judge

    The Supreme Court of Florida ruled Thursday that Hillsborough Circuit Judge Florence Foster should be removed from the bench for medical reasons, effective immediately. The court's ruling followed a recommendation May 22 by the Judicial Qualifications Commission.

    Foster, 48, has been off the bench since last month, when she announced that her worsening multiple sclerosis prevented her from performing at full ability.

    It is unclear yet whether her seat will be filled by election or by a governor's appointment.

    Storms start fires, damage homes

    TAMPA -- Afternoon lightning caused several fires Thursday in eastern Hillsborough County, including one that damaged a home in Brandon.

    Hillsborough Fire Rescue crews battled two small brush fires and a larger fire east of Interstate 75 south of Big Bend Road.

    A home on Blackberry Road in Brandon was damaged and its sole occupant -- a 52-year-old woman -- was displaced. Another home also suffered damage when a tree struck by lightning fell on the building, said Fire Rescue spokesman Ray Yeakley.

    Courthouse program is lauded

    TAMPA -- A program at the Hillsborough County Courthouse designed to guard seniors from domestic violence has won plaudits from Gov. Jeb Bush's office.

    Last month Bush presented the Peace at Home Award to the courthouse's Elder Justice Center, which helped more than 100 senior victims of domestic violence last year. Program workers help the elderly -- many of whom are homebound and disabled -- to file injunctions against domestic violence.

    Overturned mower kills man

    PLANT CITY -- A 22-year-old man died Thursday after he was pinned under a commercial lawn mower that rolled into a pond, authorities said.

    Eric Pannell, 22, was mowing the bank of a retention pond near Alexander and Reynolds streets in Plant City about 12:30 p.m. when the mower slid down the bank and overturned in the retention pond.

    Bystanders called 911, and paramedics freed the trapped man and tried to resuscitate him, said fire rescue spokesman Ray Yeakley.

    Pannell was taken to nearby South Florida Baptist Hospital in Plant City.

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