Former Justice Kenneth B. Bell was appointed to the Florida Supreme Court on December 30, 2002, by Governor Jeb Bush and took office on January 7, 2003. Justice Bell is a seventh-generation Pensacolian whose paternal ancestors immigrated to the Pensacola area around 1819, when Florida still was a Spanish colony. Justice Bell is the first justice from Pensacola in a century, the first from west of Tallahassee since 1917, and the only justice on the Court with prior experience as a trial judge. He is also the first graduate of Florida State University College of Law to serve on the Court.
Justice Bell graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in Pensacola in 1974, and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Davidson College in North Carolina in 1978. He received his juris doctor cum laude from Florida State University College of Law in 1982.
Upon graduation from law school, Justice Bell entered private practice in Pensacola where he practiced until January 1991. In August of 1989, Justice Bell became the first attorney in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties to be designated by The Florida Bar as a Board Certified Real Estate Attorney. While in private practice, Justice Bell was an active member of the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Sections of both The Florida Bar and the American Bar Association. He was also active in the Escambia-Santa Rosa Bar Association and a member of the American Judicature Society. His private practice focused primarily upon commercial and residential real estate. He lectured at both state and local continuing education courses on tenancies, real estate contracts, leasing, commercial real estate financing, mechanic's lien law, attorney-realtor relationships, and other matters.
In January of 1991, Justice Bell became the youngest circuit judge in the history of the First Judicial Circuit of Florida. As a trial judge, Justice Bell presided over a general jurisdiction division for the first 10 years. He handled more than 27,500 circuit court cases in his 12 years on the circuit bench. He also served as an administrative judge and on various circuit committees.
Throughout his service on the trial bench, Justice Bell was actively involved in improving the justice process. For example, from 1996-2000, Justice Bell served as a Master Judge in the Pensacola Chapter of the American Inns of Court. In 1999, he was member of the Florida Delphi Study Commission-Judges Committee. From 2000-2002, he served on the Supreme Court's Circuit Committee on Professionalism. And from 1991-2001, Justice Bell was a member of the Board of Directors of Justice Fellowship, having served on the Executive Committee and as Vice President. Justice Bell has also emphasized improving the judicial process as it impacted children. For example, he opened the first "child witness room" in the circuit and catalyzed the opening of the only PACE Center For Girls in the First Circuit. He worked with local officials to establish a juvenile boot camp program and to develop system-wide school violence prevention programs. He also regularly trained guardian ad litem volunteers.
Justice Bell has also been active in civic affairs. As a member of the Pensacola Area Chamber of Commerce from 1982-1990, Justice Bell was an organizing member of the Committee of 100. He was the founding President of the Board of Directors for the Friends of Children's Hospital at Sacred Heart, Inc. and a member of the Sacred Heart Foundation Board of Directors. He was also a member of the Leadership Pensacola class of 1986. He served as Vice President and a member of the Board of Directors of Northeast Pensacola Sertoma Club from 1983-1986. Justice Bell served as a member of the Board of Directors of Liberty Christian College in Pensacola from 1983-1985. He served as General Counsel for the Waterfront Rescue Mission from 1988-1990 and served on its Board of Directors from 1990-2002. In 2000, the Waterfront Rescue Mission's Certificate of Appreciation was presented to him for his four years of leadership as President of the Board of Directors. Justice Bell also served on the Board of Directors of Escambia County 4-H Foundation from 2000-2002.
Justice Bell was active in helping to improve the lives of people in foreign countries. He was the Founding President and Board Member of Yan-Bian Chinese-Korean Technical University, the first private university in mainland China since the communist revolution. Justice Bell also served as a Board Member and President of Proclamation International, which assisted Ugandans in rebuilding their nation after the fall of Idi Amin.
In 2000, Justice Bell received the "Judicial Distinguished Service Award" presented by the Florida Council on Crime and Delinquency, Chapter VI. In 1996, he was awarded the "God in Government Award" presented by the Cantonment-Ensley Ministerial Association. Justice Bell also received the "Above and Beyond Award" presented by the SED Network (the Multi-Agency Network for Severely Emotionally Disturbed Children) for "dedication and commitment in service to severely emotionally disturbed children and their families" in 1995. Justice Bell was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation from the Florida Association of School Resource Officers and the Santa Rosa County Sheriff for "Continuous Assistance and Support to Santa Rosa County's School Resource and Dare Officers" for the years 1994 and 1995.
As a member of the Florida Supreme Court, Justice Bell served as liaison to the Local Rules Advisory Committee, the Committee on Standard Jury Instructions in Contract and Business Cases, the Court Accessibility Subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Fairness and Diversity, the Trial Court Budget Commission, the Trial Court Performance and Accountability Commission, and the Florida Bar's Committees on the Rules of Judicial Administration, Small Claims Rules, and Traffic Court Rules. He also serves as a member of the Judicial Management Council.
Married since 1983, Justice Bell and his wife have four children.