Assistant State Attorney Peter Brigham will be seeing the courtroom from a different perspective beginning April 1.
Gov. Rick Scott appointed Brigham, 56, on Feb. 14 as a Fifth Judicial Circuit Judge to Hernando and Citrus counties. Brigham, who was one of six candidates for the job, will fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Richard Tombrink Jr. As judge, Brigham will spend three days a week in Hernando County and two days a week in Citrus County.
"I am humbled and honored that the governor appointed me," Brigham said. "It's a dream come true."
Brigham, of Morriston, on the Marion/Citrus county border, earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Central Florida and his law degree from the University of Florida in 1994.
He has been an assistant state attorney with the Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney's Office since 2002. While he has spent countless days in court litigating cases, it is what he has done apart from that that separates him from the rest, co-workers said.
Namely, said Marion County Judge Jim McCune, his involvement with the Marion County Veterans Treatment Court and his training of new attorneys.
"Together we've worked hard to create something from nothing," McCune said. Brigham championed the Veterans Treatment Court and has acted as "a gatekeeper" for it, he said.
The Veterans Treatment Court, which began in the summer of 2012, is a court-supervised program for people arrested in Marion County who have a mental illness, substance abuse or other mental health condition related to their military service, according to the court's website. Veterans in the program tend to have committed crimes of a more impulsive nature, Brigham previously told the Star-Banner. Someone who committed a thought out white-collar crime would not be eligible, neither would someone accused of murder, kidnapping, aggravated battery, sexual battery or lewd or lascivious battery.
Brigham is a Army veteran who served in Saudi Arabia and Iraq at the time of the first Gulf War. He was awarded a Bronze Star Medal — given to members of the armed forces for heroic achievement, heroic service, meritorious achievement, or meritorious service in a combat zone — for his combat operations during that time.
"He didn't bring just his lawyer competence, but also his experience with being in the trench" into the courtroom, McCune said.
"He's always served," Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney Brad King said. "Both in the military and in state civil service."
Training new lawyers for the State Attorney's Office, though, is what Brigham said made him want to become a judge.
"I never went to law school or became a lawyer with any idea of becoming a judge in my mind," he said.
But through training other lawyers, he said, he began to see the courtroom and its proceedings through a different perspective. He started to see himself not as a prosecutor trying to obtain a conviction, but as a lawyer and a judge trying to follow the rules of the court.
Brigham submitted his application for judgeship to the Judicial Nomination Commission, a nine-member commission of lawyers and non-lawyers, late last year. The commission conducted interviews — Brigham's was on Dec. 15 — and evaluated applicants before sending a list of six names to the governor.
"(Brigham) is a great person," King said. "He's very serious about his work and about doing a good job ... I think he'll be a great judge."
Brigham plans to meet with Citrus and Hernando county judges to learn as much as he can before he dons a black robe and takes the bench. He said he looks forward to serving the people and learning as much as he can from his fellow judges and from the attorneys who enter his courtroom.
"I'm not there because I'm the best attorney in the room," he said, "I'm there because I went through the (selection) process.
"I hope to do a good job and will not fail for a lack of trying," he said.