Judge's tough stand rewarded

Published May 5, 2007

BELLEAIR - It was just six months ago that then-Gov. Jeb Bush accused Pinellas Circuit Judge Crockett Farnell of having a "judicial temper tantrum," for fining state officials for not moving mentally ill jail inmates to hospitals.

But Farnell, whose independence was honored by the Clearwater Bar Association on Friday, may have the last laugh.

"All I've got to say is, eat your heart out, Jeb Bush," Farnell said after accepting the George W. Greer Judicial Independence Award.

The Greer award and three other special awards were presented during the association's 46th Law Day luncheon and annual meeting at the Belleview Biltmore.

"It's incredible what has happened since the turnover," Farnell said as he accepted the award. Shortly after Gov. Charlie Christ took office in January, the Legislature allocated $16.6-million to pay for 373 additional treatment beds.

That came months after Farnell found Florida's Department of Children and Families in contempt of court and imposed $80, 000 in fines for ignoring a long-standing law that requires any jail inmate found mentally incompetent be held no longer than 15 days and then offered treatment.

Farnell, senior judge of the Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court, said the $80,000 has been used to fund a program that gives legal services to the inmates during the 15 days.

Also recognized Friday:

- Anne Cooper, provost of the Clearwater campus of St. Petersburg College. She received the Liberty Bell Award that recognizes a nonlawyer for outstanding contributions in fostering a better understanding and appreciation of the law. For the past two years, Cooper has arranged for the bar association's annual People's Law School to have free meeting space at the college, helping to elevate the program's stature in the community.

- Clearwater police Lt. George E. Koder. He received the Allen L. Moore Gold Badge Award that recognizes an outstanding law enforcement officer in north Pinellas County. Koder is the coordinator of the Child Development-Community Policing program that promotes the concept that criminals are made, not born, and that both active and subtle influences can create a personality that has little respect for the law.

- Anthony J. Griffith, a lawyer with Tanney, Eno, Tanney, Griffith & Ingram of Palm Harbor. He received the Ralph Richards Award for professional excellence. He is a former president of Pinellas County Habitat for Humanity and was coordinator of the Clearwater Bar's Habitat Project. A 20-year Clearwater Bar member, he has supported its projects both financially and with his time.

Also Friday, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Raymond Gross swore in the bar association's 2007-2008 officers and directors.

The officers are Gregory K. Showers, president; Jeffrey A. Albinson, president-elect; Sherri M. Stinson, secretary, Peter A. Rivellini, treasurer; and Jewel White Cole, immediate past president.