Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls is applauding the announcement of the confirmed St. Petersburg location of the 2nd District Court of Appeal, which will be named after the late state prosecutor Bernie McCabe.
The Bernie McCabe Courthouse will be at the Sebring Building at 525 Mirror Lake Drive North, a site selected after the House and Senate agreed in the 2021 Legislative Session on the contested placement of the 2nd District Court of Appeal. Lawmakers moved to place the new courthouse in Pinellas County.
“The establishment of the Bernie McCabe Courthouse in Pinellas County is an important step in addressing the unique needs of the Second District,” Sprowls said in a statement. “This courthouse will serve as a physical symbol of McCabe’s deep legacy of devotion to justice and to Pinellas County. There is no one more deserving of this honor than the late Bernie McCabe — my friend, my mentor, and a stalwart public servant.”
This decision to place the courthouse in Pinellas County came amid budget deliberations between the two chambers near the conclusion of this year’s Legislative Session. While both the House and Senate approved $50 million for a new 2nd District Court of Appeal building, the location of the facility was left undecided until Sprowls championed a budget bump offer, which the Senate OK’d.
Sprowls, a Pinellas County Republican, clashed with fellow Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel on the location, making clear the location of the courthouse in his home county was a priority.
Sprowls also used the move as a chance to honor McCabe, who Sprowls previously worked under. McCabe, who died in January, served as the area’s top prosecutor for nearly three decades and was a longtime mentor to Sprowls.
“I appreciate the leadership of Speaker Sprowls as we worked on this important infrastructure project last Session,” Senate President Wilton Simpson said in a statement. “Bernie McCabe was a good man and a pillar of the community. He is remembered for his fairness and integrity over four decades of service, and it is certainly fitting that the new courthouse bear his name. I am pleased to see this important project moving forward.”
Currently, court cases for the 2nd District are being heard in a classroom in downtown Tampa, as the dilapidated courthouse in Lakeland was making its workers sick from mold infestation, according to a news release from the Speaker’s Office.
“The Florida Department of Management Services is honored to be a part of designing and building a courthouse that reflects the important work of the Court and the services it provides to Floridians,” Todd Inman, Secretary of Management Services, said in a statement. “The Department is very appreciative of the work that the Florida Legislature accomplished in order to move the Bernie McCabe Courthouse forward.”
Inman has notified affected state agency leadership, and in the coming months, will work on the movement of employees based on individual agency needs.
The location of the new courthouse was a contentious subject among Tampa Bay lawmakers, with Stargel advocating for a new facility in Polk County. Plans for a Polk County location were also included in the Senate’s original budget proposal this past Session.
Stargel’s husband, John Stargel, is a judge in the 2nd DCA, appointed last summer by Gov. Ron DeSantis, and lives in Lakeland.
The original proposal stipulated that if a Polk County site cannot be identified, “funds may be used to purchase state or local lands within the jurisdiction of the 2nd District Court of Appeal.” While that means a location in another Tampa Bay county was not completely off the table, the proposed funding line prioritized Polk County, where Lakeland is the largest city.
Back in 2020, the Legislature approved a $21 million expenditure to begin plans for a new facility in Pinellas County. However, the project fell victim to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “Red Wedding” veto spree, spurred by expected revenue shortfalls due to the pandemic.