Conference Faculty - Successful Appellate Advocacy

Hon. Chris Altenbernd
Steve Brannock
Raoul Cantero
Tom Elligett
Michael Steven Finch
Hon. Jacqueline Griffin
Celene Humphries
Larry Klein
Hon. Melanie May
Rudy Sorondo
Hon. William Van Nortwick
Peter Webster

Hon. Chris W. Altenbernd is a judge at the Second District Court of Appeal in Tampa. Following law school, he entered private practice in Tampa with the law firm of Fowler, White, Gillen, Boggs, Villareal & Banker, P.A. He became a partner in that firm in 1979 and a member of its board of directors in 1986. While in private practice, he was a civil litigator and frequently appeared before the Second District Court of Appeal. He was also a member of the Florida Defense Lawyers Association and the International Association of Defense Counsel, and was Chairman of the Florida Bay Area March of Dimes. Judge Altenbernd was appointed to the Second District Court of Appeal on Jan. 3, 1989, by Governor Bob Martinez and retained by the electorate in 1990, 1996, and 2002. He served as chief judge of the court from February 2003 to June 2005, and currently serves as president of the Conference of District Court of Appeal Judges. He was named Jurist of the Year by the Florida Board of Trial Advocates in 1998 and by the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers in 1999. He was awarded the James C. Adkins Award from the Appellate Practice and Advocacy Section of The Florida Bar in 2002. He has served on many Supreme Court Committees, including service on the Committee on Standard Jury Instructions in Civil Case from 1992 until 2004.

Publications include: "Briefly State: The True Confessions of a Legal Grease Monkey", The Record, Journal of Appellate Practice & Advocacy Section, The Florida Bar, Vol. III, No. 1, p.9 (Apr. 1995); "Living with Dr. Canakaris in the Ivory Tower", The Family Law Commentator, The Florida Bar, Vol. XVIII, No. 1, p.3 (Nov. 1992); Raymond T. Elligett & John M. Scheb, Florida Appellate Practice and Advocacy, The Summary of Argument: Walking in the Court's Shoes" p.171, Book World Publications (1998); "Quasi-marital Children: The Common Law's Failure in Privette and Daniel Calls for Statutory Reform", Florida State University Law Review, Vol. 26, No.2, p.219 (Winter 1999).

Steve Brannock is a founding shareholder of Brannock & Humphries, and has been an appellate specialist for nearly his entire legal career. Board Certified in appellate practice by the Florida Bar, his experience includes litigating appellate matters in all five Florida District Courts of Appeal, the Florida Supreme Court, five federal circuit courts of appeal, and the United States Supreme Court.  He has handled hundreds of appeals in virtually every subject area of the law.  He is recognized by numerous "Best Lawyer Lists," including Best Lawyers in America, Chambers, USA, Florida Trend Legal Elite, and Super Lawyers. He was named to the list of 100 top practitioners in Florida by Super Lawyers in 2008, 2009, and 2010.  He also holds the highest rating obtainable from Martindale-Hubbell (AV preeminent).  Mr. Brannock has been active in the Appellate Section of the Florida Bar, having served as Chair of the Section. He has also served as chair of the Florida Appellate Rules Committee. He is a frequent lecturer and writer on appellate topics. Brannock earned his J.D., with high honors, in 1980 from the University of Florida College of Law, where he was a member of the Order of the Coif.

Raymond T. Elligett Jr. is a partner at Buell & Elligett, P.A., in Tampa. He grew up on Lake Keystone, in northwest Tampa. He graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in mathematics, with high honors, in 1975, and from Harvard Law School, cum laude, in 1978.

Elligett practiced law at Shackleford, Farrior, Stallings & Evans, P.A., and was a shareholder until 1990, when he joined Schropp, Buell & Elligett, P.A., as a shareholder. The firm became Buell & Elligett in 2007. His litigation practice encompasses insurance coverage litigation, personal injury and commercial litigation, with an emphasis in civil appeals. He has been a Florida Bar Board Certified Appellate Lawyer since 1994, when the first examination was given, and received the first Justice Harry Lee Anstead Award as The Florida Bar's Board Certified Lawyer of the Year in 2005. He has participated in over 400 appeals, chaired the Hillsborough County Bar Association Appellate Practice Section, and chaired The Florida Bar Appellate Practice and Advocacy Section in 1996-97. He has taught appellate practice as an adjunct professor at Stetson University College of Law since 1989. Elligett served as chair of The Florida Bar Judicial Administration, Selection and Tenure Committee in 1991-92. He was president of the Hillsborough County Bar Association in 1997-98. He is a Master of Law in the Honorable Clifford J. Cheatwood American Inn of Court, and was president of that Inn in 2003-2004. He is admitted to practice in Florida, the U.S. District Courts for the Middle District of Florida and the Southern District of Florida, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, and the U.S. Supreme Court. He is the co-author (with Judge John M. Scheb, deceased) of the book, Florida Appellate Practice and Advocacy (Sixth Edition). He has authored over 100 published articles and spoken at over 75 seminars on appellate practice and other topics.

Hon. Jacqueline R. Griffin is a judge at the Fifth District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach. Her degrees include: University of North Carolina at Greensboro, B.A., 1968; University of Florida, M.A.T. (Spanish), 1970; University of Florida, J.D. with high honors, 1975. Her legal offices and positions include: Chief Judge, Fifth District Court of Appeal, 1997-1999; Judge, 1990-present; admitted to The Florida Bar, 1975; practicing attorney in Orlando, 1975-90; partner, Boroughs, Grimm, Bennett & Griffin, P.A., 1983-1989; Judicial Nominating Commission, Ninth Circuit, 1977-82; Committee Chair, Conference of District Court of Appeal Judges, 1991-present; The Florida Bar Committee on Judicial Evaluation, 1991-present; graduate New York University Program for Intermediate Appellate Judges, 1990; faculty, Advanced Judicial College and Florida Judicial College, 1992-present (organizer and interim dean, Appellate Judicial College, 1994); Judicial Management Council, 1999-present; chair, State Courts' Civil Litigation Task Force, 1997; Appellate Workload & Jurisdiction Subcommittee of the Judicial Management Council of Florida, 1997-1998; Committee on District Court of Appeal Performance and Accountability, 1998-present; member, American Law Institute, 1995-present; faculty of various Florida Bar Continuing Legal Education programs. Her bar offices and activities include: The Florida Bar, Orange County Bar Association, American Bar Association, 1975-present; U.S. Supreme Court Bar; Editor-in-Chief, "The Briefs," 1976-78; Chair, Orange County Bar Association Law and Education Committee, 1985-86; Grievance Committee, Ninth Circuit, 1988-89; Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee, 1987-89; Master of the Bench, American Inns of Court, 1992-93; Fellow, American Bar Foundation, 1993-present; volunteer, Orange County Guardian ad Litem Program, 1989; instructor, Trial Advocacy, 1987-88; Judge of Moot Court/Trial Competition, 1990-present; Supreme Court Committee on Standard Jury Instructions (Civil), 1998-present; faculty, The Florida Bar Appellate Advocacy Workshop, 1998 - present. Her publications include: "The Constitutional Stay Writ," 29 U. Fla. L. Rev. 229, 1977; "Women Lawyers in Florida: The First Hundred Years," 58 Fla. B.J. 579 (1984); Associate Editor and Author of Commercial Litigation column, Journal of The Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers, 1987-89; "The Eighth Amendment," Daytona Beach News-Journal, Dec. 22, 1991, at B1; "Judging the Judges," 21 Litigation 5 (Spring 1995).

Celene Humphries is a founding shareholder of Brannock & Humphries, and has been an appellate specialist for nearly all of her legal career.  Ms. Humphries is board certified by The Florida Bar in appellate practice.  In addition, she holds the highest rating obtainable from Martindale-Hubbell (AV preeminent), has been repeatedly included in The Best Lawyers in America in the specialty of appellate law, has been repeatedly recognized as one of Florida's "Legal Elite" by Florida Trend magazine, and has been repeatedly named by Law & Politics Media, Inc., as one of the top 50 female Super Lawyers in Florida and one of the top 100 Florida Super Lawyers.  Ms. Humphries actively participates in organizations that promote excellence in the law and serves as the Chair of the Judicial Nominating Committee for the Second District Court of Appeal and as President of the Second District Court of Appeal Historical Society.  She has also served as Chair of both the Hillsborough County Bar Association and Florida Justice Association's Appellate Sections.   In addition, she served on the Florida Bar Appellate Rules Committee and the Florida Bar Appellate Section's Executive Council.  She is also a Barrister in the J. Clifford Cheatwood American Inn of Court.  Ms. Humphries has authored and co-authored many articles, seminar materials and peer-reviewed chapters in books published by The Florida Bar.  She also frequently delivers seminars on a variety of topics.

Larry A. Klein is with Holland and Knight. His degrees include: University of Michigan, B.A., 1962; University of Florida School of Law, J.D., 1964; University of Virginia, Master of Laws in the Judicial Process, 1998. His legal offices and positions include: Judge, Fourth District Court of Appeal, 1993-present; Klein & Walsh, P.A., 1985-93; Larry A. Klein, P.A., 1975-85; Associate & Partner, Cone, Wagner, Nugent, et al., 1965-75; Research aide, Second District Court of Appeal, 1964-65. His judicial and bar activities include: The Florida Bar (Appellate Rules Committee, Chair, 1986-89); Member, 15th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission, 1976-80, Chair, 1979-80; Member, Fourth District Court of Appeal Judicial Nominating Commission, 1980, Chair, 1984; Palm Beach County Bar Association, President, 1975-76; Board of Directors, Florida Rural Legal Services, 1970-72; Board of Directors, Palm Beach County Legal Aid Society, 1970-74, President, 1974; Faculty, Florida Judicial College for New Appellate Judges, 1994-present. His publications include: Co-author with Brad Chalker of "Developments in Florida's Doctrine of Sovereign Immunity," University of Miami Law Review, September 1981; Author, "Allowing Improper Argument of Counsel to be Raised for the First Time of Appeal as Fundamental Error: Are Florida Courts Throwing out the Baby with the Bath Water?" 23 Florida State University Law Review 1, Fall 1998; author of following chapters in Florida Bar Continuing Legal Education Books: Appeals, Florida Dissolution of Marriage Manual, 1976; Principles of Brief Writing, Florida Appellate Practice Manual, 1977; Injuries to Property Rights, Florida Civil Practice Damages Manual, 1980; Appeals, Florida Proceedings After Dissolution of Marriage, 1983; editor Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers Journal, 1967-70.

Hon. Melanie May graduated from Broward Community College in 1971, and Florida Atlantic University in 1973.  She received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Nova Southeastern University in 2009.  She clerked for the Honorable Peter T. Fay, Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals from 1981-82 and practiced with the firm of Bunnell, Woulfe & Keller from 1982-91.  She served as a Circuit Court Judge on the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit from April 15, 1991, until her appointment to the court of appeal.  In that capacity, she served in the juvenile delinquency and felony drug court divisions.  She was appointed to the Fourth District Court of Appeal by Governor Jeb Bush on October 31, 2001. 

Judge May currently serves as the Chief Judge of the Fourth District Court of Appeal, and is a member of the District Court of Appeal Budget Commission.  She has chaired and co-chairs the Education Committee of the Conference of District Court of Appeal Judges.  She currently serves as chair of the Department of Children and Family Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Advisory Board, is a member of the Department of Corrections Reentry Advisory Council, and the Florida Supreme Court's newly created Task Force on Substance Abuse and Mental Health.  She also serves as vice-chair of the Shepard Broad Law Center's Board of Governors, and is an ex-officio member of the Board of Trustees of Nova Southeastern University.

She has chaired and served on the Florida Supreme Court Task Force on Treatment-based Drug Courts and as the Florida Supreme Court's appointment to the Advisory Council of the Florida Office of Drug Control.  She was a member of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Corporation.  She is past chair and an emeritus board member of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, and past-chair of the Florida Association of Drug Court Professionals.  She also served on the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee and the Supreme Court's Access to Court Records Committee.  She has served on numerous community boards, including the Junior League, the Broward County Commission on Substance Abuse, Juvenile Detention Center Advisory Board, the Juvenile Justice Board, Stephen R. Booher Inn of Court, Kids in Distress, Susan B. Anthony Center, the BARC Advisory Board, the CHARLEE program, the PACE Center for Girls, and the Youth Automotive Training Center.

Rodolfo Sorondo Jr., leader of Holland & Knight's appellate practice group in the Miami office, is a partner in the firm. He focuses his practice primarily on state and federal appeals and trial support, specializing in all types of litigation. He also serves as a mediator, special master and arbitrator in state and federal courts. Sorondo began his career as a trial lawyer and tried numerous jury and bench trials until his appointment to Florida's Judiciary. In 1992, he was appointed by then Governor Lawton Chiles to the Circuit Court of Florida's Eleventh Judicial Circuit in Miami-Dade County. He served that court with distinction through January 1997, at which time he was elevated by Governor Chiles to Florida's Third District Court of Appeal where he again served with distinction through 2002. He joined Holland & Knight on Oct. 1, 2002. In addition to his judicial duties, during his tenure on the bench Sorondo dedicated a considerable amount of time to teaching. He has served as an adjunct professor at the University of Miami's College of Law teaching litigation skills from 1995 to the present. He has also served as a faculty member for the College of Advanced Judicial Studies, and the Conferences of Circuit and County Judges where he has lectured on issues related to jury selection, dismissals for fraud on the court, Florida Evidence Code Sections 404(2)(a) [the Williams Rule], and 90.803(23) [child hearsay]. Finally, he has served as an instructor at the National College of District Attorneys in Columbia, S.C., on the subject of appellate advocacy, and the National Institute of Trial Advocacy in Boulder, Colo. Since his return to private practice, Sorondo has been invited back to teach at the Conference of Circuit Judges and has also lectured to the Dade County Defense Bar Association, the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office and to private law firms.

Hon. William A. Van Nortwick Jr., is a judge at the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee. His degrees include: A.B., Duke University, 1967; J.D., University of Florida, 1970 (with honors). His offices and positions include: Judge, District Court of Appeal, First District (1994-present); private practice in Jacksonville, Florida, with Martin, Ade, Birchfield & Mickler, P.A. (1975-1994) and Milam Martin & Ade (1970-1975). His state professional activities include: Florida Supreme Court Professionalism Commission (1995-2001, 2005-present)(Chair, Budget Committee (2002-present), Judiciary Sub-Committee (2005-present)); District Court of Appeal Performance and Accountability Commission (2002-present); Florida Supreme Court Committee on Jury Instructions in Business Cases (2006-present); Florida Bar Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services (1993-present); Judicial Liaison, Florida Bar Business Law Section (1999-present); Chair, Florida Bar Equal Access to Justice Retreat (2001); Board of Directors, Florida Legal Services, Inc. (1982-1987), President (1985-1987); Board of Directors, Florida Bar Foundation (1985-1994), President (1993-1994); Chair, The Florida Bar/Florida Bar Foundation Joint Commission on the Delivery of Legal Services to the Indigent in Florida (1990-1993); Fellow, Florida Bar Foundation; Board of Governors, Florida Bar Young Lawyers Section (1978-1979); Member, The Florida Bar. His local professional activities include: Member, Jacksonville Bar Association and Tallahassee Bar Association; Chair, Corporation, Business & Banking Section of the Jacksonville Bar Association (1982-1983); Board of Directors, Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, Inc. (1973-1980), President (1978-1980). His national professional activities include: Member, American Bar Association and International Bar Association; ABA Business Law Section; American Judicature Society; Judicial Forum of International Bar Association; Fellow, American Bar Foundation.

Peter D. Webster is an attorney in the Tallahassee office of Carlton Fields.  He has earned multiple degrees: B.S.F.S. (magna cum laude), Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, 1971; J.D. (with distinction), Duke University School of Law, 1974; LL.M. (in the judicial process), University of Virginia School of Law, 1995.  His offices and positions include: Judge, Florida First District Court of Appeal, 1991-2011; Judge, Florida Fourth Judicial Circuit, 1986-91; Associate (1975-78) and Member, Bedell, Bedell, Dittmar, Smith & Zehmer, P.A., and successors (practice limited to litigation in state and federal trial and appellate courts); Law Clerk to the Honorable Gerald Bard Tjoflat, United States District Judge, Middle District of Florida, 1974-75.  His professional activities include: Trustee, American Inns of Court Foundation, 2009-present; Master of the Bench, First District Appellate American Inn of Court (president-elect, 2011-12); Master of the Bench, Tallahassee American Inn of Court, 1992-2003 (president, 1999-2000); Master of the Bench, Chester Bedell American Inn of Court, 1988-92; American Judicature Society (Editorial Committee, Judicature, 2001-present; Board of Directors, 2002-present; Secretary, 2008-09; Vice-President, 2009-10; President-Elect, 2010-11); Florida Judicial Management Council, 2006-08; Florida Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism, 2010-present; Florida Supreme Court Task Force on Complex Litigation, 2006-08; Florida Supreme Court Committee on Judicial Evaluations, 2006-07 (Chair); Florida Supreme Court Committee on Jury Instructions in Civil Cases, 1979-2001 (Vice-Chair, 1994-98; Chair, 1999-2000); Florida Supreme Court Court Reporter Certification Planning Committee, 1995-99 (Chair); Florida Supreme Court Committee on Trial Court Information Systems, 1986-91 (Chair, Subcommittee on Civil Case Management); Florida Supreme Court Study Committee on Confidentiality of Records of the Judicial Branch, 1993-95; Florida Conference of Circuit Judges, 1986-91 (Executive Committee, 1991); Florida Bar Rules of Judicial Administration Committee (Chair 2001-02); Charter Member, Florida Bar Appellate Practice Section Executive Council; Adjunct Professor, Florida Coastal School of Law, 1997-2006.