TALLAHASSEE — Florida Supreme Court
Justice James E.C. Perry has retired from the state’s highest court
at the age of 72.
Since 2009, the former Sanford judge has served on the Supreme
Court, where he was appointed as the 85th justice to the Florida
Supreme Court by Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican at the time.
However, because of Florida’s mandatory age for Supreme Court
justices at 70, he was forced to retire on Dec. 30.
Yet, he stayed beyond the age of 70 because of a provision
allowing justices whose “70th birthday occurs in the second half of
their six-year term (to) remain on the bench until the full term
Growing up in the 1940s and 1950s in New Bern, North Carolina,
Perry didn’t want to be a lawyer. According to the Orlando
Sentinel, it was in 1968, while he was in the U.S. Army, when
Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated that Perry — at the age of
24 — decided he wanted to make a difference by becoming an
At the time of Perry’s appointment, there was only one other
African-American on the Florida Supreme Court — Justice Peggy A.
Quince. However, as the Orlando Sentinel reported, despite Crist
receiving more than 20,000 emails, faxes and letters from
conservatives in support of finalist C. Alan Lawson, a white male,
Crist chose Perry.
Prior to his time on the Supreme Court, Perry handled civil and
family cases; however, 60 percent of the work on the Supreme Court is
related to the death penalty.
Just eight days before his retirement, Perry authored a 10-page
dissent in a death-penalty ruling in the case of Mark James Asay, a
white man who killed a black victim in Florida. In a report from the
Weekly, Perry condemned the way the death penalty is applied in
the state of Florida. Yet, while the report stated that Perry is
aware of the irony in discussing discrimination in the context of the
Asay case, he added that it is his sworn duty to uphold the
constitution of the state of Florida and the United States and not to
ensure retribution against those whose crimes he finds personally
He will also be remembered for an opinion in 2011 that tossed out
a K-9 sniff test on the porch of a Miami home, which, according to
the Orlando Sentinel, was a site for growing marijuana. Perry wrote
that since the police had no warrant, there was no right to have a
dog sniffing at the door.
Despite his role on the Florida Supreme Court, Perry also has been
actively involved in many community activities. According to the
Supreme Court, Perry is committed to improving children’s
lives. He is founder and president of the Jackie Robinson Sports
Association, which serves 650 at-risk boys and girls by providing
baseball training, mentoring and free tutoring.
Before his appointment on the Supreme Court, Perry served as a
circuit judge on Florida’s 18th Judicial Circuit, where he was
appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush in 2000 to become the first
African-American to do so. He then served as the first black chief
judge of the circuit in 2003.