History of the Florida Supreme Court

Volumes I, II, & III

Commissioned by the Florida Supreme Court Historical Society

The Florida Supreme Court Historical Society works to save and maintain for future generations the records of the people and events that have shaped the evolution of Florida’s court system from the early 1800s, through the 20th Century, and beyond. The Society is committed to making sure people understand the importance of a strong, independent judiciary in our governmental balance of power. These books has been sponsored by the members of the Florida Supreme Court Historical Society.



        the Florida Supreme Court      A Journey toward Justice 1972-1987 

VOLUME III in the Series

By Neil Skene


“A fascinating judicial study. The importance of the modern high court’s docket is thoroughly and expertly chronicled in this book: reapportionment, courtroom cameras, personal injury, family law, environmental law, capital punishment, criminal justice, and equal justice under law.”—Thomas E. Baker, coauthor of Appellate Courts: Structures, Functions, Processes, and Personnel


A highly readable portrait of a crucial time in the history of the state high court. It brings to life the jurists and lawyers who contributed so much to contemporary Florida law.”—Mary Ziegler, author of After Roe: The Lost History of the Abortion Debate


“A richly sourced, thoroughly researched, and entertaining account of one of the most significant eras in the history of what is arguably the most important (and least reported) branch of Florida government.”—Martin A. Dyckman, author of A Most Disorderly Court: Scandal and Reform in the Florida Judiciary


“Necessary reading for anyone interested in law and politics in Florida.”—Jon L. Mills, author of Privacy in the New Media Age


This third volume in the history of the Florida Supreme Court describing the court during its most tumultuous years. Amid the upheaval of the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, and Watergate, the story begins with reform in the entire Florida court system. It includes the court’s first black justice, Joseph Hatchett; Governor Reubin Askew’s new system for merit selection of justices; and revision of Article V, the section of the state constitution dealing with the judiciary.


Neil Skene moves on to cover landmark court decisions; the introduction of cameras in court; changes to media law, personal injury law, and family and divorce law; privacy rights; gay rights; death penalty cases; and the appointment of the first woman justice, Rosemary Barkett. This book is an absorbing portrayal of a judicial institution adapting to a time of deep political and social change.


Downloads available: 


Table of Contents 


Excerpt from Chapter One 


Neil Skene, former president and publisher of Congressional Quarterly, is deputy chief of staff at the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.


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the Supreme Court of FLORIDA,   1917 -1972

VOLUME II in the Series

By Walter W. Manley II and Canter Brown, Jr.



"Bravo! Manley and Brown's Volume II does its predecessor proud. With its publication, we now have a highly readable account of the first 150 years of the Florida Supreme Court."--Robert M. Jarvis, Nova Southeastern University


Brown and Manley, two award-winning legal and Florida history scholars, offer an in-depth analysis of the court, the individuals who sat on its bench, the major subject areas of appeals it considered, and the influences that propelled its evolution during an era that was crucial to Florida's emergence as a national force. This court presided through two world wars, the issues of desegregation and growth management, court scandals, and the emergence of drug trafficking in South Florida. In a series of distinct but connected vignettes that draw effectively on oral interviews, the volume provides the first examination of the events that shaped the Florida Supreme Court. One of the few such studies of any state supreme court in the United States, it provides insights into judicial, political, and governmental processes applicable beyond the state. Further, it places hundreds of crucial court decisions within the context of state and national history.


The authors delve deeply into controversies within the Supreme Court, including the associations, interests, and actions of individual tribunal members. Justices forgotten by history or subjected to professional slight emerge as dynamic and positive factors while the reputations of others, previously heralded for their service, face a level of critical scrutiny they had eluded. All of the men who served on the tribunal during the period appear unencumbered by the mystique of their office. As such, the authors offer a solid foundation for understanding scandals that rocked the court in the mid-1970s. From these circumstances emerged the court whose decision to recount the 2000 presidential election votes was reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court.


Walter W. Manley II is professor of business administration at Florida State University. Canter Brown Jr. is special assistant and counsel to the president, Fort Valley State University (Ga.),


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the Supreme Court of FLorida and Its PREDECESSOR COurts   1811-1917

VOLUME I in the Series

Edited by Walter W. Manley, II, Canter Brown, Jr. And Eric W. Rise

Foreword by Richard W. Ervin, Stephen C. O’Connell, and Kenneth W. Starr


"I highly recommend this book to all members of the bench and bar. . . . [It] would have been of immense value to me as a lawyer, attorney general, and supreme court justice. It historically depicts in flesh-and-blood images the litigators and jurists who participated in formulating the rules of law that govern in Florida today."--Richard W. Ervin, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Florida, 1969-1971 "


"This major and outstanding work . . . establishes a lofty standard for state high court histories."--Stephen C. O’Connell, chief justice of the Supreme Court of Florida, 1967; President of the University of Florida, 1967-73 "


"A thoughtful, meticulously researched examination of the Florida judicial system's evolution."--Kenneth W. Starr, Solicitor General of the United States, 1989-1993


This is the first in-depth history of the Florida territorial courts, the Supreme Court of Florida, and the judges of both from 1821 to 1917, the golden age of state constitutional law.


The Supreme Court of Florida and its territorial predecessors often were at the center of leading political, social, and economic controversies. By examining the court's opinions on issues such as slavery, internal improvements, and business regulation, the authors reveal the way the court shaped and was shaped by the competing interests that transformed Florida. Court efforts at the same time to define the scope of each branch of government reveal the ways that political power influenced the court's work. Virtually all jurists on the appellate courts during the era held other prominent positions in business or government. The biographies of these men--usually the most extensive accounts ever written--include their background and accomplishments as well as weaknesses, and demonstrate that their political and legal philosophies often overlapped significantly.


The book presents the facts of such controversial issues as the court's role in Florida's political Redemption after the Civil War and its efforts to ensure access to the court system by African-Americans. At a time when the courts are poised to assume greater responsibilities, this work reveals the challenges faced by an earlier court in arbitrating constitutional struggles over power and liberty.


Walter W. Manley, II, professor of business administration at Florida State University, has been a visiting professor at Oxford and Cambridge universities. He is the author of five books, including Critical Issues in Business Conduct: Legal, Ethical and Social Challenges for the 1990s.


E. Canter Brown, Jr., historian in residence at the Tampa Bay History Center, is the author of numerous books, including Ossian Bingley Hart, Florida’s Loyalist Reconstruction Governor and Florida's Peace River Frontier (UPF, 1991).


Eric W. Rise, assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of Delaware, is the author of several books, including The Martinsville Seven: Race, Rape, and Capital Punishment.


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