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New book, DVD recall the history of the Third DCA.

The Third District Court of Appeal is putting the "story" back in "history" with the release of its coffee table book, Florida's Third District Court of Appeal: Balancing Justice 50 Years 1957-2007, and its DVD Justice Served: The First Half-Century of Florida's Third District Court of Appeal 1957-2007.

Full-color photographs, steadfast research, tight editing, and in-depth interviews make the hardcover book and documentary-style DVD a multi-media tribute to the Third DCA.

"I think it's important to make clear that our mission is not just to celebrate court's history but to preserve it," said Kathleen O'Connor, co-chair of the Third DCA 50th Anniversary Committee.

O'Connor, along with Miami lawyer Ed Guedes and other contributors, wrote the book and produced the companion DVD. O'Connor said both take an all-inclusive look at the Third DCA.

"The DVD is a narrative; it tracks the history of the court as it parallels the history of Miami-Dade County," Guedes said.

The DVD was Guedes' idea. The inspiration, he said, came from Judge Scott Silverman of the 11th Circuit. "He did such a scholarly job of it and I thought we could do something similar," Guedes said.

O'Connor said Guedes was outgoing chair and she was incoming chair of the Dade County Bar's Appellate Court Committee when Judge Frank Shepherd first broached the idea of putting together a 50th anniversary celebration at an Appellate Court Committee breakfast three years ago.

"We wound up being co-chairs of a special committee to commemorate the 50th anniversary," O'Connor said. That special committee grew into the Third DCA 50th Anniversary Committee.

"We kind of picked up Judge Shepherd's suggestion and ran with it," she said.

Judge Gerald B. Cope, Jr., was the chief judge during the preparation period for the book, and O'Connor said Cope, current Third DCA Chief Judge David M. Gersten, and Shepherd "just opened the doors of the courthouse to us. They assisted in setting up interviews and photo sessions. They were wonderful and really cooperated so much," O'Connor said. "That was one of the rewarding parts--that the judges themselves were so excited about the project and so willing to pitch in."

O'Connor underscored the importance of chapters written in first-person by people who participated in the history of the court in addition to hardworking people who would represent South Florida's diverse community.

"We tried to include every aspect of the court and the people who worked there," O'Connor said. "It's a valuable historical document."

A chapter covering administrative arms like the clerk's office, the marshal's office, law clerks, judicial assistants, and even the IT techs was written with an insider's viewpoint, and O'Connor said, "Some parts of it are just hilarious." Other chapters included a description of a day in the life of a Third District judge, and chapters that "essentially give you a tour of the court," O'Connor said.

Guedes edited the companion DVD. "Every living judge who ever served on the Third DCA is on the documentary," O'Connor said. The DVD includes an interview with Judge Tillman Pearson, who was one of three Third DCA judges who took the bench in 1957.

O'Connor said Pearson passed away about six months after the interview.

"We were very fortunate to get ... the opportunity to preserve his recollections and capture him on film so people in the future can see, and essentially meet, one of the three original judges."

O'Connor said the book contains the biographies of several "pioneers in the field of appellate practice" like Supreme Court Chief Justice Fred Lewis and Justice Raoul Cantero, who practiced in the district. Female pioneers like Jeanne Heyward, Bertha Claire Lee, and Sharon Wolfe are included as well.

Florida's Third District Court of Appeal: Balancing Justice 50 Years 1957-2007 includes pictures of Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr., the Third DCA's first black judge who went on to the federal bench. The federal courthouse under construction in downtown Miami is being named for Ferguson, and O'Connor said Third DCA judges and the practitioners are "especially proud of Judge Ferguson but a lot of people don't know he was a judge at the Third District."

O'Connor said the committee will be changing its name to the Third District Court of Appeal Historical Society. "We're going to help maintain things like photographs and documents of historical interest," said O'Connor.


One thousand copies of Florida's Third District Court of Appeal: Balancing Justice 50 Years 1957-2007 went to print, and O'Connor said there are only a couple hundred left. To order your copy of the book for $35, e-mail O'Connor at or call (305) 278-9596.

By Theresa E. Davis

Assistant Editor
COPYRIGHT 2007 Florida Bar
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Davis, Theresa E.
Publication:Florida Bar News
Date:Oct 1, 2007
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