Circuit Judge Jack Springstead's weekly calendar has few, if any, openings. There are two felony dockets, usually packed with more than 100 cases; mental health hearings at Springbrook Hospital; and the usual slate of arraignments, trials and other hearings. With little time to spare in his schedule, Springstead has developed a reputation around Hernando County and throughout the courthouse for being efficient, consistent and tireless.
But after years of this grueling schedule, the longtime judge is finally ready for a break.
Springstead sent a notice of retirement to Gov. Charlie Crist last month. His departure will bring to a close a venerable legal career spanning more than 30 years in Hernando County. He will officially step down from the bench on Nov. 30.
"Presently, I preside over several time-sensitive dockets," Springstead said in the letter dated May 5. "Therefore, I am tendering this notice at this time in order to allow your office to complete the selection/appointment process."
Springstead is one of 31 judges in Florida's 5th Judicial Circuit, which includes Citrus, Sumter, Lake and Marion counties. Hernando currently has five full-time circuit judges and one who works part time.
It wasn't immediately clear who is under consideration to fill Springstead's seat. The 5th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission, a panel of lawyers from the circuit, will interview applicants then submit three names to Crist. The governor will pick an appointee from among the three applicants chosen by the commission.
A message left at the office of Chief Circuit Judge Daniel Merritt wasn't returned Thursday evening.
Attorneys, judges and other officials around the county courthouse were slowly learning the news of Springstead's retirement and already lamenting his impending departure.
"Hernando County sure is going to miss that man," public defender David Bauer said. "He does the work of two judges."
A native of Hernando, Springstead graduated from Hernando High School in 1967. He later earned a business administration degree from the University of South Florida then a law degree from the University of Florida in 1974.
Springstead served in the Marine Corps from 1974 to 1979, working as a military lawyer and a prosecutor. He also served as a defense counsel and a legal assistance officer while in the Marines. Upon his discharge, Springstead started practicing law in Brooksville until he joined the public defender's office.
Springstead was elected to the county court bench in September 1988, the first lawyer to become an elected judge in Hernando in 40 years.
In little more than a year, Springstead was tapped by then-Gov. Bob Martinez to fill a newly created circuit court judgeship in Brooksville. The seat was created by the Legislature to help keep pace with the 5th Circuit's growing population and case load.
Springstead has remained in the seat ever since, presiding over a docket that expanded with the growth in the county. More than 70,000 residents have moved to Hernando since Springstead became a circuit judge.
"I'd like to think I earned the right to retire," Springstead said in his office Thursday. "Eventually, there comes a time when you want to enjoy a slower pace, which I intend to do."
Springstead said he has no immediate plans for retirement — just some traveling and more time spent with his wife, Robin, two children — a daughter who lives in Virginia and a son who lives in Hernando — and three grandchildren.
Springstead also owns a home in Park County, Colo., which he intends to visit a little more often.
"I haven't made many decisions right now," he said. "But I'll definitely be heading out west a little more."
Joel Anderson can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 754-6120.