Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday appointed Bruce L. Bartlett as State Attorney for the Sixth Judicial Circuit.
“I’m truly grateful to Governor DeSantis for his trust in me to represent the people of Pinellas and Pasco County as their State Attorney,” Bartlett said in a statement. “My life’s work has been to strive to achieve justice on behalf of victims and our entire community — through treatment and diversion to prevent future crimes, through pathways to recovery, and, when necessary, by delivering swift justice for victims and their families.”
House Speaker Chris Sprowls applauded DeSantis’ appointment and offered Bartlett a “full-throated” endorsement in a written statement.
“There is no person in the State of Florida more qualified for the job of Sixth Circuit State Attorney than Bruce Bartlett,” Sprowls said. “He was the chief assistant to State Attorney Bernie McCabe for nearly three decades and served in the prosecutor’s office for 40 years. He continues to serve the people in a way that shows compassion, integrity and great character. I am his first and most enthusiastic supporter.”
Bartlett’s appointment comes after the death of Bernie McCabe, who passed away this month after serving as State Attorney since 1992.
Judge Anthony Rondolino appointed Bartlett to serve as the acting State Attorney for the Sixth Circuit after McCabe’s death.
Bartlett previously served as Chief Assistant State Attorney and was McCabe’s longtime No. 2.
Voters will vote on the position in 2022. Bartlett told the Tampa Bay Times he would run in that Special Election.
That could be a hard climb. Chris Sprowls, himself a former prosecutor, has long been one of McCabe’s most prominent mentees. It was expected that when McCabe left office, Sprowls, currently Speaker of the Florida House for the next two years, would run to replace him.
Notably, McCabe’s nearly three-decade tenure earned him a distinguished reputation among lawmakers and beyond. His death drew reactions state leaders including Sprowls.
“A true public servant, he led a life committed to justice, fairness and truth,” Sprowls said. “Bernie was my mentor and my friend. I will miss him more than I can put into words, but I also know that I will carry the lessons I learned from him with me through all the days of my life.”
McCabe leaves big shoes to fill. Throughout his tenure, he launched several programs aimed at reducing the number of youth referrals to the criminal justice system including the 1999 State Attorney Safe Schools Program that placed prosecutors in middle schools to divert kids from the courts. By 2008, referrals were reduced to the point the program was discontinued.
He also launched a Child Welfare Legal Services Division in 2000, a youth offender program that was widely considered one of the most successful youth diversion models in the state. He also originated the Community Prosecuting Attorney Service System in 2001, also to reduce the number of youth prosecutions.
McCabe was 73 years old.