14th Judicial Circuit to receive two new judges

BAY COUNTY – For the first time since 1973, the 14th Judicial Circuit is appointing two new judges at the same time.

Last month, Governor Ron DeSantis approved funding for two new circuit judgeships.

“This is a huge development and a positive development for the 14th Circuit,” said Chief Judge Christopher Patterson.

The local judicial nominating committee, chaired by Waylon Graham, is now tasked with finding qualified candidates.

“That committee will make recommendations to the Governor and then he will make a final determination of who he wants to appoint,” said Patterson, noting that he expects those judges to be selected and ready to serve by early 2022.

“We’re gonna have them in different courthouses because sadly were still very cramped for space here in Bay County,” Patterson said.

The lack of space in Bay CountyÂ’s courthouse is due to Hurricane Michael. But Patterson says having additional circuit judges will help them on their road to recovery.

“We need to work down the Hurricane Michael claims cases so civil cases and we also need to address the backlog of criminal cases that are here,” he said.

Patterson expects it to take two to three years to work through the backlog, which fortunately coincides with the new additions.

“We typically rotate our assignments every 2-3 years, we have a very targeted approach,” he said.

These appointments will bring the total number of circuit judges in the 14th Circuit from 11 to 13.

The 14th Judicial Circuit includes Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, and Washington counties.

Carol Kent Wyatt contributed to this report.