Judges, First District Court of Appeals

Voters are being asked whether or not to retain four judges who currently on Florida's First District Court of Appeals, which runs form Duval County west to the Panhandle.

Florida appeals court judges and Supreme Court justices are on the ballot in non-partisan elections every six years so voters can determine whether they should stay in office. This regular vote is called "merit retention."

Here is information the four judges on the ballot in Bradford, Clay, Columbia, Duval, Nassau and Union counties.  The source is the First District's official website.

Judge Simone Marstiller

Judge Marstiller was appointed to the First District Court of Appeal in 2010 by Governor Charlie Crist. Her varied legal career, which began in 1996, has been exclusively in service to the State of Florida.

She spent her first five years as a lawyer in the appellate arena, serving initially as a judicial law clerk in the Fifth District Court of Appeal and then as appellate counsel for the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). As Senior Appellate Attorney and Chief Appellate Counsel for AHCA, she represented the agency in the district courts of appeal defending disciplinary action taken against the licenses of health care practitioners. Her appellate cases also included issues relating to rule challenges, Medicaid provider contracts and reimbursements, and other agency decisions.

In 2001, Judge Marstiller became Assistant General Counsel to the Governor of Florida. In that position, she assisted the General Counsel in overseeing the legal operations of the Governor's agencies and advising the Governor on a wide variety of legal and policy issues. Her work included managing trial and appellate litigation initiated and defended by executive agencies in both state and federal court, and providing guidance to agencies on substantive legal matters.

Judge Marstiller was selected in 2002 to serve as General Counsel for the Department of Management Services (DMS), the administrative agency for state government. There, she managed all legal affairs for the agency, including matters related to government procurement, outsourcing, state facility management, and collective bargaining. While serving in this capacity, the Governor appointed her Interim Secretary of the agency.

From DMS, Judge Marstiller returned to the Governor's Office in 2003 to serve as Deputy Chief of Staff to the Governor. In 2004, the Governor appointed her State Chief Information Officer to head state government's central technology planning and policy organization, and in 2005 she became Secretary of the Department Business and Professional Regulation, the state's largest regulatory agency.

In 2007, Attorney General Bill McCollum appointed Judge Marstiller Associate Deputy Attorney General for the State of Florida. In addition to serving on the executive management team for the Office of the Attorney General, she was the agency's General Counsel and was responsible for overseeing four agency divisions, including the Civil Rights and Opinions Divisions.

When appointed to the appellate court in 2010, Judge Marstiller was serving as Executive Director for the Florida Elections Commission. There she oversaw the investigation and prosecution of complaints filed with the Commission and was the chief administrative officer for the agency.

Judge Marstiller was born in Monrovia, Liberia, and grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida. She earned her Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Stetson University in DeLand, Florida, and her Juris Doctor, cum laude, from Stetson College of Law in Gulfport, Florida.

Judge Stephanie W. Ray


•         Born June 6, 1970, in Vicksburg, Mississippi

•         Married, two children



•       J.D. (with Honors), Florida State University College of Law, 1995

                Florida State University Law Review

                Journal of Land Use & Environmental Law

                Journal of Transnational Law & Policy


•       B.A. (Cum Laude), Vanderbilt University, 1992



•         June 27, 2011, by Governor Rick Scott



•         Judge, First District Court of Appeal (2011 to present)

•         Chair, State of Florida Public Employees Relations Commission (2008-11)

•         Second Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission (2002-06; Chair 2005-06)

•         Associate/Assistant Dean, Florida State University College of Law (2000-08)

•         Attorney, Ausley & McMullen, P.A., Tallahassee (1995-99)



•      The Florida Bar Labor & Employment Law Section Executive Council

•      The Florida Bar Appellate Practice Section Executive Council, Judicial Representative

•      William H. Stafford American Inn of Court (President-Elect and Master of the Bench)

•      First District Appellate American Inn of Court (Executive Committee and Master of the Bench)

•      Tallahassee Women Lawyers (Board of Directors and Mentoring Chair)

•      Florida State University College of Law Alumni Association Board of Directors (President)

•      Federalist Society Tallahassee Lawyers Chapter (President, 1995-99; Member, 1995 to present)

•      Justice Teaching Volunteer for Florida State University Schools

•      The Florida Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism (2010-12)

•      The Florida Bar Standing Committee on Professionalism (Chair, 2010-12)

•      The Florida Bar Judicial Nominating Procedures Committee (2006-12)

•      The Florida Bar Student Education and Admissions to the Bar Committee (Chair, 2004-05)

•      Tallahassee Bar Association (Board of Directors, 1998-2000; Member, 1995 to present)


CIVIC ACTIVITIES: Leadership Florida Class XXIX; Leadership Tallahassee Class XV (Board of Governors, 2005-06; Opportunity Tallahassee Chair, 2005-06); SouthWood YMCA Advisory Council (2010 to present); Junior League of Tallahassee (Sustaining Member, 2008 to present; Board of Directors, 2002-03; Active Member, 1995-2008); Ronald McDonald House of Tallahassee, Inc. (Board of Directors, 2009); Brehon Institute for Family Services (Board of Directors, 1998-2000); St. Peter's Anglican Church; Kappa Delta Tallahassee Alumni Association; Gulf Winds Track Club

HONORS AND AWARDS:  The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division Outstanding Jurist Award (2012); The Florida Bar Labor & Employment Law Section Volunteer of the Year Award (2010-11; 2009-10); The Florida Bar Standing Committee on Professionalism Service Award (2008-09; 2009-10); Selected by Florida Association of Women Lawyers as a member of the inaugural group of Outstanding Women in the Law (2010); The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division Most Productive Young Lawyer Award (1997)

Judge Ronald V. Swanson

Birthdate: April 16, 1948

Birthplace: Rock Island, IL

Spouse: Diane Bew Swanson


Daughter, Erika, son-in-law Joel, grandson Hunter, granddaughter Taylor


  • LL.M. (Highest Honors), The George Washington University (1982);

  • J.D., The University of Florida (1973);

  • B.S., The Florida State University (1970).

Judicial Offices and Positions

  • Appointed to the First District Court of Appeal by Governor Rick Scott in June 2011. 

  • Circuit Court Judge, First Judicial Circuit, April 2003 to July 2011.  Appointed by Governor Jeb Bush. 

  • County Court Judge, Santa Rosa County, May 2000 to April 2003.  Appointed by Governor Jeb Bush.

  • Military Judge, Navy and Marine Corps Trial Judiciary, 1982 to 1985.

Military Service

 Judge Swanson served in the United States Navy's Judge Advocate General's Corps for over 20 years, retiring as a Navy Captain in 1995.  While on active duty, Judge Swanson served in numerous assignments to include: in ships of the Atlantic Fleet; as Special Counsel to the Vice Chief of Naval Operations during the First Gulf War; a 1988 assignment as counsel in the Persian Gulf; duty at Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; and Commanding Officer, Naval Legal Service Office Central, Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida.  

Military awards and decorations: The Legion of Merit; Meritorious Service Medal (multiple awards); Navy Commendation Medal (multiple awards); Navy Achievement Medal (multiple awards); Overseas Service (multiple awards) National Defense Medal. 

Office of State Attorney:  Upon retirement from the United States Navy, Judge Swanson served as an Assistant State Attorney, First Judicial Circuit, from August 1995 to May 2000.  He was designated Special Prosecutor for cases of significance, 1998 to 2000.

Religious and Civic Associations:

  • Past Board Member and Vice President, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Northwest Florida, Pensacola, Florida.

  • Past Board Member Navy Home, Biloxi, Mississippi.

  • Past Senior Warden and Vestry Member, St. Francis of Assisi Episcopal Church, Gulf Breeze. Former Rotarian.

  • Past member, Inns of Court (Trial).

Judge Bradford L.Thomas

Birthdate: January 11, 1954

Birthplace: Jacksonville, Florida

Spouse: Susan Ann Cox, Gainesville, married 1982

Children: One


J.D. (with Honors), University of Florida College of Law, 1982;

B.A., Florida State University, 1977

Offices and Positions:

Judge, First District Court of Appeal, 2005, appointed by Governor Jeb Bush

Public Safety Policy Coordinator, Executive Office of the Governor, 1999-2005

Council Director, Florida House of Representatives Justice Council, 1997-1999

Staff Director, Florida Senate Criminal Justice Committee, 1996-1997

Assistant State Attorney, Second Judicial Circuit, State of Florida, 1991-1996

Assistant General Counsel, Florida Parole Commission, 1989-1991

Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Appeals Division, 1987-1989

Assistant General Counsel, Florida Department of Environmental Regulation, 1984-1987

Private practice, Big Pine Key, FL, 1984

Assistant Director, Appellate Advocacy Program, University of Florida College of Law, 1982-1984


Member, Supreme Court Committee on Standard Jury Instructions in Criminal Cases, 2005-2010

Member, Appellate Education Committee, 2007-2011

Legal Publications:

"Restricting State Prisoners' Due Process Rights: The Supreme Court Demonstrates Its Loyalty to Judicial Restraint," Cumberland Law Review, 1991.

"The Proper Standard of Appellate Review of Circumstantial Criminal Convictions," Florida Bar Journal, June, 1988.

Associations and Affiliations:

The Florida Bar; William Stafford Tallahassee Inn of Court (1995-2008); First District Appellate American Inn of Court (2008-present); Capital Rotary Club; Catholic.