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Judge recalled as a teacher

Paul H. Roney helped mold the 11th Circuit Court and many lives.

Published September 24, 2006

ST. PETERSBURG - As they gathered to remember Judge Paul H. Roney at his church, his friends, colleagues and family called him a great judge - and perhaps an even better teacher.

J.L. Edmondson, chief judge of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, told the crowd of several hundred at First Presbyterian Church on Saturday that Judge Roney had written more than 1,300 opinions and heard more than 10,000 cases.

But Edmondson said Roney's greatest contribution may have been the scores of lawyers and judges that he mentored.

"He was a leader," Edmondson said. "We all know the big influence teachers have. ... The lessons are amplified.

Judge Roney was a St. Petersburg lawyer who rose to become chief judge of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in 1986. He died Sept. 16 at 85 of complications from leukemia.

Judge Roney held the position of chief judge for three years, and played a crucial role in molding the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court, which heard cases from much of the Southeast.

He also influenced the legal thinking of hundreds of judges and lawyers, many of whom came to pay their respects Saturday.

Michael V. Elsberry, an Orlando lawyer who spoke on behalf on Judge Roney's law clerks, choked up as he spoke of how Judge Roney approached his work, and inspired through example instead of pontificating.

"On the most fundamental level, he cared about people," Elsberry said. "He was a teacher, a mentor and a friend. We'll all miss him."

Judge Roney was known for asking sharp questions inside courtrooms, and writing concise opinions about cases that colleagues say still serve as a model for other judges.

Judge Roney was also active in the community. He was past president of the St. Petersburg Junior Chamber of Commerce, the St. Petersburg Council of Human Relations, the Family and Children's Service Bureau and the Community Welfare Council.

He still found time to take scenic trails in life. Sam Mann Jr., a former colleague and longtime friend, drew laughs as he described Judge Roney's triumphs and travails as he traveled across the country in recent years in an RV.

Edmondson said most judges in the Southeast today are familiar with at least one Paul Roney story. "Paul will be missed by me and all the federal courts in this country," Edmondson said. "We have been blessed - richly blessed - to have had Paul with us."

Abhi Raghunathan can be reached at or 727 893-8472.

[Last modified September 24, 2006, 01:10:52]

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