Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Laid-Back Judge Gets Key Cases Voucher, Abortion Issues in His Court

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Laid-Back Judge Gets Key Cases Voucher, Abortion Issues in His Court

Article excerpt

TALLAHASSEE -- Two of the biggest legal cases in the state have landed in the courtroom of a folksy, easygoing circuit judge in Leon County who seems to be taking it all in stride.

Judge Terry Lewis must rule in the coming weeks on challenges to the state's new laws permitting the use of school vouchers and requiring the notification of parents before minors can get abortions.

His decisions won't be the last word. They will undoubtedly be appealed to the Florida Supreme Court, but his reasoning could influence the justices.

That does not bother Lewis.

"I take every case seriously," he said in an interview. "Some cases end up going to the Supreme Court and some don't, but that really shouldn't make a difference.

Lewis, a wiry, athletic man with a bemused expression and a reputation for fairness, has practice in handling a heavy schedule.

After all, he managed in his spare time to write a mystery thriller that has sold several thousand copies in hardcover and is now out in paperback.

Bill Corry, who practiced law with Lewis and has known him since he was in law school, remembers that Lewis would walk through the office relaxed and whistling when he was under intense pressure in the middle of a criminal defense case.

"I've never seen him lose his temper in 20 years," Corry said.

Lewis, 47, is a native of Live Oak who grew up in Perry and got his bachelor's and law degrees from Florida State University.

He practiced civil and criminal law for 12 years before he was elected as a county judge in 1988. Ten years later, Gov. Lawton Chiles appointed him to the Circuit Court.

In good weather, he may be found on a tennis court on his lunch hour, and has been known to down a cheeseburger while warming up.

In cold or wet weather, he may head for a church gymnasium for a fast game of basketball.

Corry said when Lewis took up tennis in law school, he quickly became one of the best players in town. …

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