Just after 9 a.m. Friday, Anthony Tatti's secretary told him she had someone on the line who wanted to talk.
"She said she had Rick Scott on the phone," he recalled. "I said, 'You're kidding me, right? She said, 'No, I'm not kidding.' "
The governor called to tell the Ocala prosecutor, who goes by "Tony," that the 49-year-old was being appointed to the 5th Circuit Court. Tatti will take the position vacated by Circuit Judge Stephen Rushing, who's retiring at the end of this month for health reasons.
"I feel great. A little foggy and disoriented," he said. "After 25 years in law, I haven't changed jobs before."
Tatti was among six finalists for the vacancy. It was his fourth nomination.
"The waiting is horrible," he said. "I was just hoping for a phone call, one way or the other."
He expects to begin his tenure on the bench within the next couple of weeks, but in what specific capacity, he's not sure. He was certain, however, that he would be based in the Brooksville Courthouse.
Tatti said he's already spoken to Chief Circuit Judge Daniel Merritt Sr., who told him the judiciary had made arrangements to cover Rushing's heavy docket for the coming weeks.
Friday morning, as he prepared for his last full day in court, Rushing said he would have liked to work with the new appointee to help the incoming judge get acclimated. He was disappointed the governor had not made the decision earlier.
"Judges usually let you shadow them," he said. "You kind of get your feet wet."
Tatti has been a prosecutor with the State Attorney for the 5th Circuit Court since 1988. Previously, he was an assistant public defender in the 5th Circuit from 1985 to 1988. He earned his bachelor's degree from the University of South Florida and his law degree from the University of Florida.
Since he graduated from law school, Tatti said, he's lived in Marion County, and he doesn't intend to move. He said he looks forward to the one-hour drive he'll take each morning and afternoon.
In a press release, Scott said he believed Tatti was well prepared for the role.
"As someone who has both defended and prosecuted the most serious of criminal cases, Tony has demonstrated both dedication to public service and respect for the rule of law," Scott said.
"Tony's experience on both sides of the courtroom give him a unique understanding of the impact of decisions from the bench. I am confident he will appropriately consider all cases before him in a principled and judicially conservative manner."
The other nominees for the position were Thomas R. Eineman of Spring Hill, a private practice attorney; Lisa D. Herndon of Ocala, an assistant state attorney who supervises the sex crimes unit for Citrus, Hernando and Sumter counties; Geoffrey "Jeff" Kirk of Hernando Beach, an assistant county attorney for Hernando County; John E. Napolitano of Weeki Wachee, a private practice attorney; and Stephen E. Toner Jr. of Spring Hill, a private practice attorney.
Tatti will fill Rushing's unexpired term and will face an election in 2012.
John Woodrow Cox can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432.