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Hal P. Dekle, 87, former state high court justice

By CRAIG BASSE, Times Obituaries Editor
Published May 26, 2005

Hal P. Dekle, who resigned from the Florida Supreme Court amid allegations of improper favors for friends, has died at 87.

Mr. Dekle, elected to the high court in 1970 after a career as a lawyer and judge in Miami, died Monday (May 23, 2005) at Brandon Regional Hospital.

In a scandalous period for the court, he and another justice, David McCain, resigned in the mid-1970s while being investigated by a House impeachment committee on separate charges.

Gov. Reubin Askew, who came into office in 1971, had already initiated reforms by appointing nominating commissions to recommend judges for mid-term vacancies, and this was cemented into the Constitution in 1972.

The Supreme Court scandals led to another amendment: All appellate court vacancies would be filled only by appointment on merit, and the judges would run on their records every six years. This is called "merit retention."

Before his election to the Supreme Court, Judge Dekle was listed as "well qualified" or "qualified" by 80 percent of lawyers in a statewide vote. After practicing law for 17 years in Tallahassee and Miami, he served as a judge for the Civil Court of Record of Dade County and a Dade County circuit judge. He was a former assistant U.S. attorney.

A resident of Venice at the time of his death, he was a native of Marianna and received his law degree in 1940 from Stetson University College of Law when it was in DeLand. He was president of the student body.

He was a Methodist and a Democrat. He served in the Army in World War II and was a member of the National Guard from 1947 to 1949.

His wife, Dorothy Jane (Clark), died in April 2003. Survivors include two sons, Patrick, Valrico; and Keith, Largo; a daughter, Dawn Dekle Stoddart, Venice; seven grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

A service will be at 10:30 a.m. today at the Venice-Nokomis United Methodist Church, 208 Palm Ave., Nokomis, with burial at the Jesse Knight Memorial Cemetery, Nokomis. Ewing Funeral Home, Venice, is in charge.

Information from Times files was used in this obituary.

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