Reappointments and Congratulations
Friday was a big day for the Office of Judges of Compensation Claims. Governor Rick Scott announced the appointment of Eduardo Almeyda (Miami) to fill the vacancy left by the retirement of long-serving Judge Alan Kuker. Judge Kuker departed in September for both a well earned retirement and to begin life as a private mediator. Some had spread conjecture that Judge Kuker would not be replaced, but that conjecture was proven incorrect. The pace at which rumors can spread and become out of proportion is scary sometimes.
Also Friday, Governor Scott announced reappointments of Judges. I am proud to be in their company. The reappointments are Diane Beck (Sarasota), David Langham, John Lazzara (Tallahassee), and Neal Pitts (Orlando), as Judges of Compensation Claims.
Eduardo Almeyda has served as a mediator with the Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims in Miami since 2007. Mr. Almeyda is a fine mediator and as diligent in his work as anyone I know. I have said so many times that no one is irreplaceable, but replacing this mediator will be no easy task. He has enjoyed a long career as an advocate in the workers’ compensation system. In private practice, he was associated with Charles Hill and Sylvia Medina-Shore, who each currently serve as Judges in Miami. Almeyda received his bachelor’s degree and law degree from Florida State University. With the current standings and trends, perhaps Judge Almyeda will celebrate his appointment and a national championship this fiscal year?
Governor Rick Scott said, “Judge Almeyda’s experience as a mediator in the courts of compensation claims and long career as an advocate has prepared him to serve as a Judge. I am confident that he will continue to serve with intelligence, fairness, and respect for all the participants in the compensation claims system with this new role.” I could not have said it any better. I am proud to have Judge Almeyda join this team, and to welcome him.
Judge Diane Beck, Sarasota, has been a Judge of Compensation Claims since 1995. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh and her law degree from Stetson University. She practiced over the years in various areas of the law, and has brought her experience to bear for the Office of Judges of Compensation Claims. Judge Beck knows and understands people. I have come to rely on her perceptions and to respect her compassion and intellect. Sarasota is a busy district with significant volumes of litigation. Despite those volumes, Judge Beck has demonstrated ability to manage her docket, and to assist other judges in districts around Sarasota.
Judge Neal Pitts, Orlando, has been a Judge of Compensation Claims since 2009.Judge Pitts was initially appointed to the OJCC in Jacksonville. For about a year, he worked in the JAX office alongside Judge Rosen. When Judge Farrell passed in Orlando, Judge Pitts asked to transfer there. It was a logical relocation for a hard-working judge. For the last three years, Judge Pitts has worked in Orlando, earning the respect of the Bar. He received his bachelor’s degree from Rhodes College, his law degree from Ohio Northern University, and his master of laws degree from the University of Florida. Judge Pitts is among the first to step forward when the OJCC needs assistance in other districts. He is a gentleman in the truest sense of the word.
Judge John Lazzara, Tallahassee, has become an icon of the Office of Judges of Compensation Claims. He was appointed Judge of Compensation Claims in 1990 in Tampa. Within two years, he requested transfer to Tallahassee following the retirement of another OJCC icon, A.S. "Gus" Fontaine. Judge Lazzara received his bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Florida. He has been involved in virtually every rule effort in workers' compensation for the last twenty years, including service on the Appellate Rules Committee of the Florida Bar. He manages one of the largest geographic districts in the state, ten counties spread across north-central Florida. He is a former president of the National Association of Workers' Compensation Judiciary, and continues to serve on that organization's board.
Governor Scott graciously said Friday, “The reappointment of these four strong jurists demonstrates Florida’s continuing commitment to a high quality workers compensation system.” I could not have said it any better. I am gratified at the reappointment of these hard-working judges and proud to be among them. It is encouraging to me that people with the qualities, skills, dedication, and humanity of Judges Almeyda, Beck, Lazzara, and Pitts are willing to serve the people of Florida. I welcome them (or welcome them back), and look forward to four more years of their exceptional service.