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Despite loss, court goes on

Just because a judge dies, crime does not take a holiday.

So the only sign on Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Grable Stoutamire's courtroom that marked his passing Tuesday was one noting that the cases in his division would be heard in another courtroom.

"We'll keep the courts going," Chief Judge Ray E. Ulmer said Tuesday.

Circuit Judge Susan Schaeffer volunteered to skip a judicial conference this week and handle Stoutamire's calendar, Ulmer said. Meanwhile, Circuit Judge Claire Luten is tending to the administrative matters that Stoutamire handled, Ulmer said.

Until the end of the year, Ulmer said, Luten will take on the responsibility of criminal administrative judge, the post Stoutamire had filled. That means dealing with motions for bail, default of property and the other nitty-gritty, unglamorous details that keep a criminal court system running.

To hear trials, Ulmer said, he will bring in a retired judge until a permanent replacement for Stoutamire is named.

The Judicial Nominating Commission will soon begin accepting applications for the empty post, Ulmer said. The commission will recommend three applicants to the governor, who will choose Stoutamire's replacement.

There may be a new judge, but no one will ever truly take Stoutamire's place, said Circuit Judge Brandt Downey.

"That's a big void to fill," he said.