Longtime Pinellas County Judge Patrick Caddell, known for his quick wit on and off the bench, died Tuesday after a battle with cancer. He was 60.
"He was kind of the Yoda of judges," said Thomas McGrady, chief judge for the Pinellas-Pasco circuit.
Caddell had been a mentor to him and many others, offering tips on how to be a good and effective judge. "It was all good advice," McGrady said.
Caddell, who was elected county judge in 1986 and was the county's administrative judge, also was well known for his somewhat acerbic sense of humor
In 1987, shortly after Caddell was elected, an irate business owner flew an airplane over downtown St. Petersburg with a banner that read: "Judge Caddell lies from the bench — violates civil rights — Is he fit to stay on the bench?"
Afterward, Caddell quipped: "I'm sorry I didn't get a picture of it for my mom. She always said I'd be famous someday."
When Caddell recently ruled a portion of St. Petersburg's sign ordinance was unconstitutional, the St. Petersburg doctor who challenged the law stood up and thanked him "for recognizing the natural born rights I have of free speech."
Caddell dryly responded: "It's what I do for a living. Don't think you're anything special."
This was cited this month when Caddell received the Clearwater Bar Association's George W. Greer Judicial Independence Award. Caddell was too sick to accept the award in person, but he greatly appreciated it and wrote some remarks for McGrady to read aloud:
"I cannot imagine a higher award to which any judge could aspire than to be deemed 'independent' by his or her profession."
Caddell also was chairman of the Pinellas County Canvassing Board, which supervises election procedures. "No one cared more about ensuring the integrity of election results," Pinellas Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark said in a statement.
McGrady said the news of Caddell's passing came as a shock. "We all knew he was sick. … We were cautiously optimistic that he could beat the cancer and be back. It came much quicker than any of us thought."
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Times staff writers Anne Lindberg and Craig Pittman contributed to this report.