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Facing retention vote: Five appellate justices have no opposition and voting is nonpartisan.

Published October 26, 2004

Five of the 14 judges on the state's 2nd District Court of Appeal face a merit retention vote to keep their jobs for another six-year term.

No judge has ever been voted out of office through the merit retention process.

On the ballot, they face no opposition, and the voting is nonpartisan. People vote on the justices separately and can either vote for or against retention.

In a poll by the Florida Bar, lawyers recommended overwhelmingly that all five be retained. The judges up for a vote this November are Charles Canady, Patricia Kelly, Stevan Northcutt, Craig Villanti and Douglas Wallace.

Of the lawyers polled, Canady received the lowest total with 79 percent voting to recommend his retention. Northcutt received the highest tally with 89 percent recommending his retention.

Canady, 50, is a graduate of the Yale Law School who practiced law with Holland and Knight in Lakeland. He served three terms in the Florida House, ending in 1990. He then served four terms in the U.S. House, ending in 2001, and was a member of the House Judiciary Committee. Canady was Gov. Jeb Bush's general counsel at the time Bush appointed him to the appeals court in 2002.

Kelly, 47, is a graduate of the University of Florida School of Law and practiced with firms in Tampa and West Palm Beach before becoming a staff attorney at the appeals court. After four years, she returned to private practice, specializing in appellate work and received board certification. Bush appointed her in 2001.

Northcutt, 50, is a graduate of the Florida State University College of Law and worked as a journalist before graduating from law school, including at the Tampa Tribune and in the Washington bureau of the Chicago Tribune. He practiced law in Tampa before Gov. Lawton Chiles appointed him to the appeals court. He served as chairman of the Hospice of Hillsborough Inc. from 1994 to 1996.

Villanti, 52, is a graduate of the Stetson University College of Law and entered private practice in New Port Richey, where he was primarily a sole practitioner. In 1990, he was appointed as a Pinellas-Pasco traffic magistrate and in 1992, he was elected to the circuit court bench, serving in Pasco. Bush appointed him to the appeals court in 2003.

Wallace, 56, is a graduate of the Yale Law Schoo l and practiced with his father in Bradenton from 1972 to 1974. Afterward, he was a sole practitioner whose work focused on civil litigation, probate, real estate and bankruptcy. He also worked part time in the appellate divisions of the Public Defender's Office in the 10th and 12th circuits. Bush appointed him to the district court in 2003.


The 2nd District Court of Appeal is based in Lakeland and includes Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Lee, Manatee, Polk and Sarasota counties. Judges hear criminal and civil appeals from state courts in those counties. They are paid $143,363 a year.

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