Window into time: A History of The Broward County Courthouse
For a history of the Chief Judges of the 17th Circuit click here.
This timeline attempts to represent the broad sweep of the history of the Broward County Courthouse from 1915 until the present.It is intended to represent many of the major events and people comprising the history of the Broward County Courthouse over time. It is neither comprehensive nor exhaustive.
Focusing on many of the judiciary, it attempts to be inclusive and representative of as many ‘firsts’ as may be supported by the facts. The construction of the timeline is an evolving project, which, over time, will include additional significant people and events that tell the story of an everchanging Broward County Courthouse whose Main Courthouse and branches now serve a county of nearly two million people. Any errors in the timeline are solely the responsibility of the author.
William G. Crawford, Jr. October 27, 2008
Photo Left: View from the inside of the 1928 Broward CountyCourthouse tower clock shortly before its demolition, taken on November 24,1960, looking north toward downtown Fort Lauderdale. Courtesy, Fort Lauderdale Historical Society, Gene Hyde Collection (H21772.5).
Broward County created out of northern portion of Dade County and southern portion of Palm Beach County. First courthouse is old Dade County School at Fort Lauderdale, the county seat. Nine members of the Broward Bar appear before Miami Circuit Judge H. Pierre Branning on October 26,1915.
First resident Broward County Judge, County Judge Jacob Frederick Bunn, in 11th Judicial Circuit. County Population: 4,763
Broward County Bar Association formed. Christopher Chancey is first president. Broward population nearly triples to 14,242.
Early female attorneys include Hannah Norfleet, Anne Overman Gibbons, Ella Jo Stollberg (1927) and Charlotte Farrington (Vogler) (1927).
Florida Legislature creates 22nd Judicial Circuit encompassing all of Broward County. Governor John W. Martin appoints Notre Dame law graduate Vincent Giblin Broward’s first Circuit Judge over the opposition of the Ku Klux Klan.
Second Courthouse constructed at the northwest corner of Southeast 6th Street and Third Avenue at a cost of $375,000.
All agencies of Broward County government housed in the new Courthouse
George W. Tedder, Sr., defeats Giblin in election and takes office on June 19, 1929, remaining in office until retirement in 1954. First four floors of new west-wing Courthouse named Tedder wing in 1955. Southeast Sixth Street later named for Tedder.
Broward County population grows to 20,094.
Boyd H. Anderson, Sr., succeeds Fred Shippey as Broward’s third County Judge, remaining in office until 1968. In 1934, Anderson’s efficiency in office returns in excess of $ 400.00 to Broward County after paying expenses from fees collected.
Broward census almost doubles to 39,794 despite the Depression years.
County Commission appoints John U. Lloyd County Attorney, Lloyd served in that capacity until 1975, longest tenure in County history.
Florida Legislature creates separate office of Juvenile Court Judge. Judge Dorr S. Davis was first Juvenile Court Judge, who served until his death in 1964.
Courthouse addition to the 1928 Courthouse Criminal Court of Record and County Solicitor office established. William T. Kennedy appointed first such Judge; Otis Farrington, first County Solicitor.
County population tops 83,993. 107 attorneys.
Legislature creates Small Claims Court.
Population explodes to 159,065. Courthouse expansion begins with four-floor, west wing addition to the 1928 Courthouse (George W. Tedder, Sr. wing), followed by 1961-62 addition, wrapping a torquoise-colored cladding around the old and new and dismantling bell-tower and clock. County boasts 276 lawyers and 4 circuit judges. Legislature adds Criminal Court of Crimes.
Judge Lamar Warren leads formation of the Broward County Law Library by special act of the Legislature, heads committee for decades. First librarian is Angeline Weir, later first female County Solicitor, and first woman to lead Broward County Bar Association (1983-1984). In 1957, voters abolish Justice of the Peace Courts.
Mildred S. Akerman elected first female jurist, one of three Small Claims Court Judges, assumed office on January 1, 1959.
Former Broward Clerk of the Circuit Court and state senator, Ted Cabot elected Broward Circuit Court Judge. Later, Cabot became Broward County’s first resident U. S. District Court Judge in 1969. Legislature adds Court of Record, abolishing the County Court, Criminal Court of Record, and Court of Crimes.
Broward County population quadruples in a decade to 333,946. 405 members of the Bar. Five Broward circuit judges. George W. Tedder, Sr., continues service as retired judge.
Courthouse expansion completed, housing all Broward County courts.
Broward County separates from the 15th Judicial Circuit when Florida Legislature creates 17th Judicial Circuit.
Jose A. Gonzalez, Jr., appointed first Hispanic Broward Circuit Court Judge and first Circuit Judge appointed to serve in the new 17th Judicial Circuit. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter nominated Gonzalez to the U. S. District Court, Southern District of Florida, first Hispanic to hold that office in the District.
Elizabeth Athanasakos appointed municipal judge in Wilton Manors, first female municipal judge in Broward County. She served until 1974.
State legislature creates Fourth District Court of Appeal to hear appeals from Broward County. Broward Judge James H. Walden appointed to the Court
John H. Moore II appointed Circuit Judge, serving until 1977. Chief Judge,1975-1977. Judge, Fourth District Court of Appeal, 1977-1981. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan nominated Moore to the U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida. He assumed senior status on December 31,1995.
At the end of the year, 727 lawyers were practicing in the County.
County population nearly doubles again to 620,100. In 1971, Legislature establishes nonpartisan election of judges.
Leroy H. Moe, age 31, becomes Broward Circuit Judge, after service in several lower courts, including Judge of the County Judge’s Court, with jurisdiction over probate, guardianship, authority to issue hunting, fishing, and marriage licenses, and the power to convene a coroner’s jury. As of 2008, Judge Moe is the longest-serving circuit judge in the State of Florida.
Thomas J. Reddick appointed first black Circuit Court Judge. Reddick was Broward’s first black Assistant Public Defender, first black Court of Record Judge, and first black to serve by assignment on the Fourth District Court of Appeal.
A Pine Crest School graduate, Barbara Bridge becomes first female County Court Judge after serving as Small Claims Judge; later, second female Circuit Court Judge. Bridge was first woman to serve a state (rather than a fee-based) court in Broward County.
By special election held on March 22, amendment to Article V of Florida Constitution consolidates 14 different statewide trial courts into two-tier trial court system consisting of Circuit Courts and County Courts. Amendment abolishes small claims and municipal courts, now part of County Court. jurisdiction. Judges of Court of Record and Juvenile Court in Broward County become additional Circuit Judges. County Solicitor and County Prosecuting Attorney now become part of Office of State. Attorney.
Robert A. Butterworth serves as judge of the County Court and Circuit Court (1974-1978), appointed Sheriff of Broward County, headed Florida Department of Motor Vehicles (1982), Mayor of Sunrise (1984), elected Florida Attorney General (1986-2002),Secretary, Fla. Dept. of Children & Families (2006-2008).
September, Miette K. Burnstein, a Hungarian immigrant and Hollywood attorney, elected first woman circuit judge in Broward County, assuming office in January 1977. Later, Burnstein became the first and only woman chief judge, serving from 1985 until 1991.
Alcee L. Hastings appointed Circuit Court Judge, serving until 1979. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter nominated Hastings first black to the U. S. District Court, Southern District of Florida, serving until 1989. Elected first Broward County black to serve in Congress, from 1993 to present.
Population tops one million residents, standing at 1,018,200. Broward County Women Lawyers Association established. Justice Unit of B’nai B’rith formed for Jewish judges and attorneys, with Judge Mel Grossman elected first president.
T. J. Reddick Bar Association formed for black attorneys in Broward County.
Angeline Weir becomes first woman to head the Broward County Bar Association
Bobby W. Gunther appointed first female Judge of the Fourth District Court of Appeal after service as Circuit Court Judge (1981- 1986) and County Court Judge (1973-1981). Gunther served until 2008.
William P. Dimitrouleas appointed Circuit Judge, serving until 1998. President William J. Clinton nominates him to U.S District Court, Southern District of Florida, on January 27, 1998.
Broward County Hispanic Bar Association formed for Hispanic attorneys. Court establishes Broward County Traffic Court Program.
Broward County Hispanic Bar Association formed for Hispanic attorneys. Court establishes Broward County Traffic Court Program.
Dale Ross elected Chief Judge of the Circuit and later becomes the longest serving Chief Judge in the history of the State of Florida (February 1991- September 2007).
Carole Y. Taylor appointed County Court Judge 1991-95, followed by appointment as Circuit Judge, 1995-98. Taylor appointed first black woman to serve on the Fourth District Court of Appeal in 1998.
Monday, July 1, Circuit Judge Robert J. Fogan presides over the first session of Drug Court, created by administrative order. One of the first such alternative treatment courts in the nation, this court was expected to process 1,200 offenders a year.
North Judicial Complex Building completed. Complex joins three satellite courthouses: South Regional Courthouse, West Regional Courthouse, and North Regional Courthouse.
James I. Cohn appointed Circuit Judge, serving until 2003. George W. Bush nominates Cohn to the U.S. District Court Southern District of Florida on May 1, 2003.
Monday, June 16, County Court Judge Ginger Lerner-Wren presides over the first Mental Health Court in the nation. This court implements alternative means of treating those with mental health disabilities who commit nonviolent misdemeanor offenses.
In October, Drug Court expanded to include juvenile offenders.
November 3, 1998, Florida voters adopt Revision 7 amending Article V of the Florida Constitution, shifting a significant portion of the responsibility for funding trial courts from the counties to the state.
Population increases again by nearly a third to 1,623,019.
December 21, Mental Health Court expanded to include felony offenders.
County population estimated by U. S. Census to grow to nearly 1.9 million. Florida Bar members practicing in Broward County number more than 6,000. Broward judiciary tops 88 circuit and county court judges and 12 general magistrates, and 30 traffic hearing officers resolve more than 30,000 traffic citations a month.
Photo credits, Sources, and About the Author
From a humble, remodeled school building to a twenty-story skyscraper, Broward County’s Courthouse has been rebuilt and reimagined for Broward County’s ever-growing population and their changing needs. The newest courthouse tower, the Broward County Judicial Complex West Building, officially opened May 11, 2017.
Photo credits: Photos of Judge Gonzalez and all other Judges, Courtesy, Broward County Bar Association. Photo credits: Elizabeth Athanasakos, courtesy, National Federation of Business and Professional Women, Inc.; Judge Burnstein, courtesy of Judge Burnstein; Judge Hastings, courtesy, Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774 – Present. Judge Taylor, courtesy, Fourth District Court of Appeal; all photos from 1915 to 1962, courtesy, Broward County Historical Commission and the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society; all other photos, courtesy, Broward County Bar Association. Sources: “Bench and Bar of Florida,” H. Evans, Tallahassee, Fla., 1935; Angeline Weir, ed., Broward Bar Bulletin, June 1958-Feb.1963; James H. Gilbert, Jr., “History of the Judicial System of Broward County,” New River News, January 31, 1967; “Bench and Bar of Broward County,” Broward County Bar Association, 1975; Roger Fleming and Ron Cole, “Lawyers and Law in Early Fort Lauderdale,” New River News, Vol. XXII, No. 2 (Fall 1983), pp. 4-13; “Broward County Bar Association: 1994-1995,” Broward County Bar Association; William G. Crawford, Jr., “Judge Vincent Giblin: Broward’s First Circuit Judge was Capone’s Lawyer, Dade Judge in the ’50s,” Broward Legacy, Summer/Fall 1995; William G. Crawford, Jr., “Broward County Courthouse History – the Forties,” Broward Legacy, Winter/Spring 1994; “Celebrating Florida’s First 150 Women Lawyers,” compiled and edited by Wendy S. Loquasto, The Florida Bar/Florida Ass’n of Women Lawyers, Lexis Publishing, Charlottesville, Va., 2000; Judges of the United States Courts, www.fjc.gov. Oral history interviews by author of Judges Barbara Bridge, Miette K. Burnstein, and Leroy H. Moe. Personal courthouse files of Lamar G. Warren in possession of the author.
About the author: A member of The Florida Bar and the Broward County Bar Association since 1975, William G. Crawford, Jr., is a shareholder in the Fort Lauderdale law firm of McDonald & Crawford, P.A. He is a native of Fort Lauderdale, past president and trustee of the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society, and past Chair and a longtime member of the Broward County Historical Commission. He has published numerous scholarly articles on state and local history, including Broward County legal and courthouse history. Crawford is the 2008 winner of the Rembert Patrick Award for the Best Book on Florida History presented by the Florida Historical Society for his book, Florida’s Big Dig: the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway from Jacksonville to Miami, 1881 to 1935.
© 2008 William G. Crawford, Jr.
For more information please go to Broward County Historical Commission Fort Lauderdale Historical Society