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Justice Harry Lee Anstead

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Florida Supreme Court
500 South Duval Street
Tallahassee, Florida



Justice Anstead on the Bench

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Former Justice Harry Lee Anstead

Former Justice Harry Lee Anstead was raised as the youngest of six children by his mother, Loretta, in Jacksonville's Brentwood housing project just after the Great Depression and in the years during and after World War II. He began work at a young age, cutting lawns, moving furniture, doing anything to help support himself and his family, and ultimately build a future career as a lawyer and public servant. Justice Harry Lee Anstead

Justice Anstead worked his way through both undergraduate and law school at the University of Florida and he later was the first sitting judge in the United States to earn an academic degree in the judicial process when he was awarded a Master of Laws degree at the University of Virginia. Between undergraduate and law school he served with the National Security Agency in Washington, D.C.

Justice Anstead was a trial and appellate lawyer in South Florida until 1977 when he became a judge of the Fourth District Court of Appeal, where he served as Chief Judge and from time to time as a circuit and county judge throughout the district. As an appellate judge, he was especially noted for his many dissenting and other opinions later approved or adopted by the Florida Supreme Court. During his tenure he was honored by being nominated for appointment to the Supreme Court by four successive statewide nominating commissions. On August 29, 1994, he was appointed to the Florida Supreme Court by Governor Lawton Chiles.
While on the Court, Justice Anstead has initiated a number of changes to the Court's internal procedures to improve the quality and efficiency of the process, including the creation of a central staff of lawyers to facilitate the processing and disposition of cases, and the standardization of the work of the judicial staff lawyers. He also initiated a comprehensive statewide program to improve professionalism among judges, lawyers, and law schools in the state. His initiative included the creation of a Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism and a permanent Center for Professionalism at The Florida Bar. The American Bar Association has recognized this initiative as the most significant recent professionalism initiative in the nation, and Justice Anstead has been recognized by Florida lawyers as the father of the modern professionalism movement in Florida. He has also served on the Judges Advisory Committee to the ABA Committee on Ethics.

Justice Anstead advanced to the highest judicial office in state government on July 1, 2002, when he became Florida's 50th Chief Justice. The major priority of his administration as Chief Justice was to maintain the excellence of Florida's trial courts during a time of transition and improving the lot of children whose lives are affected by the courts. Under a recent constitutional amendment, funding for the operation of Florida's trial courts was shifted from local budgets to the state budget and the Chief Justice successfully led a unified judicial effort to insure that all Florida communities were provided with adequate judicial resources.

Justice Anstead is the author of numerous publications on the law published in law reviews and other scholarly journals, and has lectured at numerous law schools. He has also served on the boards of trustees of two Florida law schools. During his judicial tenure, he has consistently ranked among the highest in statewide polls. As a citizen, lawyer, and judge he served his community and profession in a host of ways including service to charities, government, church, schools, children, and numerous other community-building institutions. For example, he was the founder of a county-wide beautification organization in Palm Beach County and a founder of an Urban League branch in the county. He has consistently led efforts in his community and in the justice system for equal rights and access to justice for all. He and his wife Sue have been life-long child advocates, and the Chief Justice has been inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America in recognition of his service to children. He is a direct descendant of veterans of the American Revolutionary War and the American Civil War and is a member of the Sons of the American Revolution.

Justice Anstead and his wife Sue, a lawyer and leading child advocate herself, have five children and four grandchildren. Chris is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the University of Florida law school. Jim is a graduate of Florida State University. Laura is a graduate of Florida State University and South Texas College of Law. Amy is a graduate of Arizona State and the University of Miami College of Medicine. Michael is a graduate of the University of Florida.

Justice Anstead retired from the Court on January 5, 2009.

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