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State trial lawyers group names Tampa judge 'Jurist of the Year'

TAMPA — Ronald Ficarrotta, the chief judge for the Tampa-based 13th Judicial Circuit, recently received the Jurist of the Year award from the Florida chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates.

The association of trial lawyers and judges, known as FLABOTA, gives the award to judges who show "a commitment to preserving and improving the jury trial system," exhibit professionalism, knowledge and preparedness in the courtroom and maintain an open and working relationship with the bar.

FLABOTA presented the award Saturday at its annual conference in Orlando. Ficarrotta, quoted in a news release, called it "very humbling."

He is only the second judge in the Hillsborough County circuit to receive the award. Former Chief Judge Manuel Menendez Jr. received it in 2010. Other past recipients include Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga.

Ficarrotta was appointed as a Hillsborough County judge in 1994 by Gov. Lawton Chiles. In 1999, Gov. Jeb Bush appointed him to the circuit bench. In his tenure as a judge, Ficarrotta has presided over the county criminal, family law, domestic violence and felony divisions.

In January 2015, his fellow local judges chose him to be chief judge of the 13th Judicial Circuit. As chief judge, Ficarrotta is in charge of assigning judges to their respective divisions. He also represents their judiciary at the local and state level.