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He influenced many careers in Hillsborough's legal community.
Published Feb. 15, 2008

Judge E.J. Salcines, who shaped the legal careers of countless local judges and lawyers as one of Tampa's most popular politicians, will retire from the appellate bench this summer.

July 18 marks his 70th birthday, when Florida law mandates a judge retire.

"I wish I didn't have to, but the calendar says I must," Salcines said Wednesday.

His reluctant departure comes after 10 years on the 2nd District Court of Appeal, a Gov. Lawton Chiles appointment that resuscitated Salcines' political career after a federal corruption investigation ended his tenure as Hillsborough's top prosecutor in the mid 1980s.

Salcines, a Tampa native born to immigrants of Spain, is also known widely as an authority on the city's heritage.

"His impact on our community as a whole has been huge," Hillsborough Circuit Judge Ronald Ficarrotta said.

Nowhere has Emiliano Jose Salcines' influence been felt more than Hillsborough's legal community. So many lawyers - including 10 of the county's judges, the state attorney and the public defender - attended his alma mater of South Texas College of Law in Houston that it came to be known locally as "E.J.U."

Many credit Salcines, class of 1963 and later a trustee, with getting them in.

After they graduated, he would hire them as assistant state attorneys, where they gained trial experience before moving on to private practice or judgeships.

Ficarrotta was one of them. He still keeps in his chambers a copy of Salcines' book, Trial Manual on Predicate Questions.

"It was the Bible when you were trying cases," he said.

Salcines was one of the area's first Hispanic federal prosecutors before serving for 16 years as Hillsborough's top prosecutor, first as county solicitor and then as state attorney.

He lost his bid for re-election in 1984 after U.S. Attorney Robert Merkle investigated Salcines and his office on allegations of case-fixing, bribery and drug trafficking.

No charges were filed against Salcines, but voters didn't forgive him for invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when called to testify before a grand jury.

Salcines said he plans to stay active as a senior judge and as an adviser for the Tampa Bay History Center. He also wants to see more of his two grandchildren in California.

In his resignation letter to Gov. Charlie Crist, he thanked the people of Florida for "two great career opportunities."

"It has been a genuine privilege," he said, "and I am the greater beneficiary of these opportunities."

Colleen Jenkins can be reached at or (813) 226-3337.