TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Stephen Grimes, a former chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court who authorized the creation of the court's website in the 1990s, received the institution's highest honor when his body was laid in state in the court's rotunda Wednesday, five days after his death at the age of 93.
What You Need To Know
- Former chief justice Stephen Grimes was honored by the state Supreme Court
- His body was laid in state at the Florida Supreme Court rotunda Wednesday
- Grimes died last week at the age of 93
- He was famous for authorizing creation of the court's website in the 1990s
Grimes, whose family moved to Lakeland when he was 12, was appointed to the Supreme Court by Gov. Bob Martinez, a Republican, in 1987. He had previously been appointed to the 2nd District Court of Appeal by Democratic Gov. Reubin Askew, and his friends often said that his political views were opaque at best.
It was Grimes' decision to lead the court into cyberspace in 1994, something that remains one of his landmark accomplishments. Posting and maintaining court records online was viewed as trailblazing in those early days of the internet, and the move had a transformational effect, according to the Supreme Court's longtime spokesman, Craig Waters.
"It was almost like the Wild West,” Waters said Wednesday. “People didn't trust it because it seemed like it was almost a lawless territory, but it also had great potential for distributing documents, and to a lot of people, what happened during Bush v Gore was the first time they realized the value of that potential.”
The crush of international media attention during the 2000 Florida recount, he added, was made more bearable by the efficiency of real-time opinion releases on the court's website. Limiting such releases to traditional paper circulation could have caused even more confusion about the rapid-fire rulings.
"I think it would have been more tense, and I think it would have been disastrous in terms of public access," Waters said.
When Grimes authorized the court's website, however, the implications of the decision might not have seemed obvious. He was famously technology-averse, said his former law clerk, Tom Duffy.
"The phone would ring, and he would answer it, and if it was for me, he would just yell 'Tom!' because he didn't know how to put the phone on hold."