Saturday, May 24, 2008

Bell joins Cantero heading out Florida Supreme Court door

By Paul Flemming • Florida Capital Bureau • May 23, 2008

Justice Kenneth Bell will resign the Florida Supreme Court in October, giving Gov. Charlie Crist a second vacancy to fill on the seven-member court.

Bell, of Pensacola, said he will return there because of family reasons. Bell's decision comes after Justice Raoul Cantero April announcement that he would resign from the court.

“Serving the people of Florida as a justice,” said Bell, “has been the greatest privilege of my public life. Indeed, I wish I could continue to serve. However, similar to the reasons recently expressed by Justice Cantero in his resignation, my family responsibilities require that I return full-time to Pensacola.

Bell last year wrote the court's sweeping decision on financing for redevelopment districts. The unanimous ruling stemmed from an Escambia case and reversed a 27-year precedent that allowed local governments to issue tax-increment finance bonds without a public vote.

Bell, like Cantero, was appointed by former Gov. Jeb Bush. The 52-year-old justice joined the court in January 2003.

Bell graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in Pensacola, then went on to earn a bachelor's degree from Davidson College in North Carolina. He earned his law degree from Florida State University.

Bell's private practice in Escambia County focused on real estate law.

For 12 years prior to his appointment to the state's highest court, Bell was a circuit court judge in Santa Rosa County.

Crist will make his picks to replace Bell and Cantero from at least three and as many as six names presented to him by the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission. Six of the commission's nine members will be Crist appointees by the time the two justices' vacancies come up.

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