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Prosecutor named to replace Smith as County Judge

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By The Staff

 

Assistant State Attorney Tim Browning, 53, of Archer, has been named to replace Levy County Judge Joseph Smith on the bench. Smith is due to retire on Dec. 31 Gov. Charlie Crist's office announced the appointment Monday afternoon, just days after Smith was honored at a retirement reception. Browning was chosen over two attorneys who have full-time practices in Levy County: Ronald Stephens and Charlotte Weidner. He has prosecuted sex crimes, deomstic violence and drug cases while serving in State Attorney Bill Cervone's office in Gainesville,  In April, Browning and and James Colaw were designated to staff the Special Prosecutions Unit, focusing on cases and defendants who are considered to be of significance to the community.  Browning was also responsible for such cases in Gilchrist and Levy Counties, while Colaw had responsibil- ity for Baker, Bradford and Union Counties Browning and Colaw prosecuted the case against Oliver Travis O'Quinn, a former nurse at Shands at the University of Florida, who is serving life without parole in the Nov. 8, 2005, killing of a woman who was injected at her Gainesville home with a fatal dose of propofol, a fast-acting anesthetic. The drug has been cited more recently in the death of singer Michael Jackson. O'Quinn, who was trained as an anesthesia nurse, was found guilty of killing 24-year-old Michelle Herndon in 2005. Browning, who has handled high profile cases in the 8th Judicial Circuit, was asked how he would make the change to what one interviewer called “the people’s court” during the judicial nomination process. The prosecutor said from the day of his appointment he would be preparing for the position by training. He said in preparation for the interview he had pulled and studied three months of county court dockets. “You have to move the dockets,” he said, noting the county judge carries a large workload or more than misdemeanor and traffic citation cases. He noted that in the period Smith handled 22 criminal cases and seven civil cases. He said the judges he most admired were those who approached the bench without any philosophical bent. “Because I am an attorney I have not walked as rough a road as the people who appear before me,” Browning said.   He also noted in a response to a personal question, “I am a homebody. I have a self-imposed insulation.” Even though he is a prosecutor, Browning assured the committee he does not favor law enforcement over the defendant. “I have looked law enforcement in the eye and said this is not enough,” he said. “The people of Levy County want a judge; they don’t want a prosecutor.”