Supreme Court of Florida
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Justice Thomas Baltzell

Served 1846 – 1851 as Justice  and  1853 – 1859 as Chief Justice
b. Frankfort, Kentucky – July 1, 1804                      d. January 14, 1866 – Tallahassee, Florida

According to Supreme Court historian Walter Manley, “Thomas Baltzell’s strong personality and willingness to venture where others feared to tread made him one of the most colorful Justices to serve on Florida’s Supreme Court.”  Baltzell read law in Kentucky and traveled to Florida with his friend William P. DuVal (soon to be Territorial Governor) in 1825.  Settling in Jackson County by 1832, he fought a duel with the father of future Justice James D. Westcott.  Both survived.  He participated in the Territorial Council and was a member of the Constitutional Convention in 1838.  He set up a law practice in Tallahassee and supervised the financing of the 1845 Capitol Building, still standing as part of today’s 1902 Old Capitol.  Baltzell strongly supported the Democratic Party and when Florida became a state in 1845, he soon gained appointment as Florida Middle District Circuit Judge / Supreme Court Justice.  When the Whig party gained the upper hand in Florida politics, Baltzell was not reappointed at the end of his term in 1851.  However, he ran for the newly created separate office of Supreme Court Justice in 1853 and succeeded.  He promoted education in the state, especially legal education at the new West Florida Seminary.  In 1859 he became engaged in a major controversy with his two Associate Justices, at one point ordering the arrest of Justice Bird Pearson.  The dispute was settled, though the unfavorable publicity led to Baltzell not being reelected to the Court.  He served in the Florida wartime Legislature and as a member of the 1865 Florida Constitutional Convention, but died soon after the end of the convention.     

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