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Pinellas-Pasco chief judge takes leave

Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 11, 2000

ST. PETERSBURG -- Judge Susan F. Schaeffer, chief judge of the Pinellas-Pasco circuit, left Monday on a two- to three-week medical leave for an undisclosed illness.

Bill Lockhart, the court administrator for the circuit, said Schaeffer, 58, asked that the illness not be disclosed. But he said it is not considered life-threatening.

Lockhart said the judge announced to him her departure on the medical leave the same day she left.

"She's fine," he said, "and will be back soon."

In an e-mail to circuit judges, Lockhart said the hard-working and energetic judge had suffered for several months from repeated bouts with illness, which he did not disclose to judges.

He said Schaeffer asked that her privacy be respected.

For the next two weeks, Circuit Judge Tony Rondolino will serve as acting chief judge.

Schaeffer, who was appointed to the bench in 1982 by then-Gov. Bob Graham, has long been considered one of the circuit's best judges. She is one of the leading authorities on the Florida death penalty and in 1997 was a finalist for a position on the Florida Supreme Court.

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