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Veteran prosecutor lands judicial post

STORY BY LISA ZAHNER (Week of May 18, 2023)
Photo: Newly appointed Judge Anastasia Norman.

One of State Attorney Tom Bakkedahl’s few remaining seasoned prosecutors has been tapped by Gov. Ron DeSantis to replace Circuit Court Judge Dan Vaughn, who retired in January after 32 years on the bench.

Newly appointed Judge Anastasia Norman, 40, had been working major crimes cases for the State Attorney’s Office in Ft. Pierce. At the time of her application for the judicial post in February, she’d tried more than 150 cases since being admitted to the Florida Bar in 2007.

Norman submitted an impressive set of recommendation letters from both the Martin and St. Lucie County sheriffs, and from 19th Circuit Public Defender Diamond Litty, whose defense attorneys she opposed in court.

Retired Assistant State Attorney Lev Evans, Norman’s predecessor in major crimes, wrote a persuasive letter recommending Norman, too. “Anastasia will be an excellent judge. Very polite, very understated, and very smart. In essence, she has the temperament, the experience, and the intelligence necessary to be a great judge,” Evans said.

Evans said he’s spoken to numerous lawyers who have gone through the nomination process for open judicial seats, and gone are the days of the political appointment. He said lawyers are evaluated on their skills and experience, scrutinized about their approach to the law and “grilled” to see how they handle the pressure.

Since retiring in April 2022 and waiting the required one-year period before being able to help out his former colleagues, Evans has recently returned to major crimes part time to help with case management and trial preparations. Though he works behind the scenes two days a week, Evans said he won’t be trying any cases.

“Anastasia’s appointment is of course a loss to the State Attorney’s Office. In recent years, the low pay scales and increased workloads have made prosecution a less and less attractive profession,” said Evans, who got his criminal law training in New Orleans, but returned home to Martin County to practice.

“However, Tom Bakkedahl has managed to snag some qualified recruits and the governor has vowed to increase salaries.” 

Norman, a St. Lucie County resident, beat out two Vero Beach lawyers who made it through the first round of interviews to be recommended to the governor.