A partner at a local megafirm and the attorney for a regional governmental agency on Monday became the two newest judges in the circuit that covers Palm Beach County.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced late Monday that he has appointed Gerard Joseph Curley Jr. and James Nutt as circuit judges in the 15th judicial circuit to replace outgoing judges James T. Ferrara and Richard Oftedal.
Curley, a 57-year-old shareholder at the West Palm Beach-based Gunster law firm, has been with the firm since 1986 and specializes in employment law. The announcement of his appointment came on the same day he won a federal case on behalf of Florida Atlantic University, whose administrators had been accused of wrongly firing communications professor James Tracy because of controversial views he posted on his personal blog.
Nutt, 55, of Palm Beach Gardens, works for the Office of the General Counsel at the South Florida Water Management District, where he leads the litigation practice group.
Scott selected Curley and Nutt from a short list of 10 applicants recommended by the circuit’s Judicial Nominating Commission. Those nominees included Assistant U.S. Attorney Carolyn Bell, Assistant State Attorney Mike Rachel and Palm Beach County Judge Reginald Corlew.
Oftedal, a former school board attorney who was appointed to the bench by Republican Gov. Bob Martinez in 1988, has consistently won high praise from lawyers and fellow judges. On bi-annual surveys of judges’ performance conducted by the Palm Beach County Bar Association, he received top scores for his judicial demeanor, knowledge of the law, impartiality and common sense.
Ferrara was a recent appointment from Scott, but abruptly retired earlier this year due to personal issues.
The new appointments come as a Wednesday application deadline approaches for another judicial appointment opening, created by the resignation of Circuit Judge Thomas Barkdull.