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For more than a century, Floridians were served by two United States District Courts: the Northern District and the Southern District. Recognizing Florida's unprecedented growth, Congress established the Middle District of Florida on July 30, 1962, to serve 33 counties that had been in the Southern District. The new district stretched from the Georgia border at Fernandina almost to the Everglades. Three Southern District judges moved to the Middle District: Bryan Simpson, Joseph Lieb, and William McRae. In 1962, George Young was appointed district judge for all three districts and in 1966 was permanently assigned to the Middle District. In 1966, two additional district judges joined the court: Charles Ray Scott and Benjamin Krentzman. Divisions were established in Jacksonville, Tampa, and Orlando during the first decade. Divisions in Ocala and Fort Myers followed.
The Middle District of Florida came into existence during a tumultuous decade. Issues that had been unresolved since the Civil War came to the fore early in the district's life, most famously civil rights issues. It fell to the district's judges to navigate constitutional questions that bore the weight of a complex history and deep emotions. During the same period, Americans experienced a presidential assassination and the war in Vietnam. These events were reflected in the caseload during the first decade of the district.

In its more than 50-year history, the Middle District of Florida has been a forum for noteworthy cases, including:

  • one of Florida’s first challenges to school segregation, with Thurgood Marshall serving as counsel;
  • the trial of Colombian drug lord Carlos Lehder Rivas;
  • one of the country’s first statewide stays of execution for a death row inmate;
  • challenges to the 2000 presidential election recount; and
  • seminal employment cases on disability discrimination and hostile working environments.

For a detailed history of the court, see James Denham’s Fifty Years of Justice: A History of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida.