Gov. DeSantis appoints new judge to fill vacancy in Okaloosa County

On Friday, Gov. DeSantis appointed Jack Schlechter to the Okaloosa County Court, filling the judicial vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Patricia Grinsted. 

  • On August 23, 2021, Judge Grinsted announced her plan to retire in a letter to Gov. DeSantis.
  • In her resignation letter, it stated December 31, 2021 as her effective end date.

“I have enjoyed serving the citizens of Okaloosa County more than I can say, but I feel it’s time to move into the next stage of my life,” wrote Judge Grinsted. “lf permitted to do so, it will be my privilege to return as a Senior Judge after l sit out the mandatory year, and I hope l will be called upon to serve in that capacity then.”

When a judge retires or resigns during their term, the governor declares a vacancy and the judicial nominating commission publishes the vacancy. From there, applicants submit their applications to the judicial nominating commission, followed by interviews.

  • Once the commission has narrowed down the list, they publish the nominees and the original application is is forwarded to the Governor’s office, who then conducts additional interviews.

Let’s meet Jack Schlechter

Like so many in Okaloosa County, Jack Schlechter arrived here by way of the military. His father was in the Air Force and was stationed at Eglin Air Force Base around the mid-90s.

While born in New Jersey, Niceville is what Schlechter considers home.

“I wasn’t born here but it’s where I have spent most of my life,” said Schlechter on Monday morning. “I graduated from Niceville High School, went off to the University of Florida, then to law school at Florida Coastal in Jacksonville.”

While he was a law student, he had the opportunity to do a Summer internship with the State Attorney’s Office in Okaloosa County. During his 2nd & 3rd year, he interned at the State Attorney’s Office in St. Augustine, followed by being hired on to State Attorney Bill Eddins’ office in Walton County.

For 10 years he served as an Assistant State Attorney in the First Judicial Circuit where he did felony work, special prosecutions that included white collar crimes, homicides, DUI manslaughters, death penalty cases, and any other complex or high profile cases assigned by Eddins.

A little over two years ago, Schlechter left the State Attorney’s Office and went to work for Michelle Anchors and Ben Gordon at AnchorsGordon in Fort Walton Beach.

  • During his time at AnchorsGordon, he has primarily done civil litigation, with some criminal defense.

“Being a judge has been my goal for quite a while,” said Schlecter. “It’s part of the reason that I left the State Attorney’s office.”

“I had a great experience at the State Attorney’s Office and worked with some great people and tried a lot of cases,” he said. “But what I handled were criminal cases. I wanted to learn some other aspects of the law to put me in a better position to be a more well-rounded candidate for a judicial position. That’s why I came to AnchorsGordon, a great civil litigation firm in the area.”

“Jack brings to the bench a strong foundation in both criminal and civil law,” said Michelle Anchors. “If you are a litigant, a lawyer, a victim, or a defendant, Jack will make you feel better about the legal system.  He is solid, steady, and smart, and even though we hate to lose him at our firm, I am glad that there people like Jack willing to serve in the public sector.”

Moving forward: Schlechter tells Get The Coast that there isn’t a firm date on when he will take his new seat, but it could be the first week of February. For now, he will be making sure that all of his clients are protected and taken care of, along with transitioning cases to other associates within the firm.

Schlecter said there is a long list of people to thank who helped him get here.

“I want to thank my wife, my kids, and my parents for all the support that they’ve given me over the years,” he said. “I want to thank Mr. Eddins, Michelle and Ben here at AnchorsGordon, and Representative Patt Maney, who was a huge help throughout this entire process.”

“Judge Grinsted has some big shoes to fill,” added Schlechter. “She did a great job in her time and I’m looking forward to getting started.”

“Gov. DeSantis made a prompt and wise decision in selecting Jack Schlechter from a short list of highly qualified nominees and appointing him as the new Okaloosa County Court judge,” said Rep. Patt Maney. “He tried a complex case in front of me and exhibited thorough preparation, a courteous demeanor and the highest ethics. I predict the people of Okaloosa County will be well served by him and see that he is patient and fair. He’s a great choice! I also thank Gov. DeSantis for making the appointment to the high volume “peoples court” so promptly.”

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