TAMPA — A general magistrate who is serving in Afghanistan has been named Hillsborough County's newest judge.
Gov. Charlie Crist appointed Richard A. Weis to the county bench Tuesday. But Weis, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, won't be able to begin his new job until he returns from deployment sometime next month.
He'll be greeted by a significant pay bump. He will earn about $134,000 as a county judge, compared with his $80,837 general magistrate salary.
Chief Judge Manuel Menendez spoke with Weis about his selection Tuesday afternoon — after midnight by Afghanistan time.
"He's very happy," Menendez said. "He's pinching himself."
Weis sent the St. Petersburg Times an e-mail about 1:30 a.m. his time saying he needed permission from his superiors before he could discuss his good news.
"I'll call or e-mail you as soon as practical," he wrote.
According to the chief judge, Weis is serving with the Combined Forces Special Operations Component Command in Afghanistan. He was deployed in June.
A member of the Army Reserve since 1991, he is also a U.S. Air Force veteran.
"I am honored to appoint such a decorated member of our nation's military to serve on the county bench," Crist said in a released statement.
One other member of Hillsborough's judiciary currently serves in the Army Reserve. Like Weis, County Judge Lawrence Lefler is a judge advocate general but has not been deployed.
Hillsborough court officials hired Weis as a general magistrate in 2005. He is assigned to the family law division, where he hears requests to modify visitation, child support and alimony arrangements.
A graduate of the University of Tampa and Stetson University College of Law, Weis previously worked as a senior appellate attorney for the Florida Department of Transportation and in private practice. He has served as a military magistrate and a command judge advocate, according to the governor's office.
He replaces Judge Elizabeth Rice, who was appointed in May to the circuit court.
Colleen Jenkins can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3337.