Judge Bonner Retires
Circuit Judge Kimberly Carlton Bonner announced her retirement in a May 2 letter to Governor Ron DeSantis. Judge Bonner was appointed to the Sarasota County Court bench in 2002 and was elevated to the Circuit Court bench in 2013.
Judge Bonner holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history, a master’s of judicial studies, and received her Juris doctor from Pepperdine School of Law. She is currently a PhD candidate in judicial studies and expects to complete the degree in 2023. She was admitted to The Florida Bar in 1990.
She has the distinction of being the first female chief judge in the history of the Twelfth Judicial Circuit (2019-2021), an administrative role in which Judge Bonner was responsible for court system operations in addition to her regularly assigned court division and caseload.
She served as the circuit’s chief judge during one of the most challenging times in our history, and she fearlessly guided the Twelfth Judicial Circuit Courts through the Coronavirus pandemic. Because of that, she was a prolific chief judge, having entered 19 emergency administrative orders in response to COVID-19 – orders that helped judges, attorneys and litigants navigate the courts through Zoom hearings, skeleton crews in support offices and court staff working from home. The emergency AOs were in addition to the dozens of non-crisis administrative orders entered during the regular course of business.
In addition to her duties at the local level, Judge Bonner was involved in making policy for courts around the state during the health emergency. She was appointed by Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady to serve on the statewide COVID Continuation of Operations Workgroup (2020-2021), tasked with instituting statewide best practices for all Florida circuit and county courts.
Judge Bonner expressed how grateful she is for having had an opportunity to serve the Twelfth Judicial Circuit for the past 20 years. Her ties to the people and legal communities of the Twelfth Circuit are strong and deep. An 8th generation Floridian, she was raised in Sarasota and chose to stay here to raise her family.
Her service to the judiciary is remarkable. Having sat on both the county and circuit benches, she is one of a small group of judges that have presided over all court divisions in all three counties in the circuit’s jurisdiction (DeSoto, Manatee and Sarasota): county criminal, county civil, and circuit family, juvenile, criminal, civil, probate, and guardianship.
Her outreach work has included presenting at various schools, civic groups, and adult education seminars. She was a volunteer 4-H leader and frequent contributor to bench-bar education seminars. In addition to local engagement, Judge Bonner has been appointed to numerous statewide committees and served in numerous leadership roles in both the county and circuit judges conferences. She currently serves as the 12th Circuit representative on the Trial Court Budget Commission and on the Florida Court Education Council. A life-long learner, she is on the Alumni Relations Committee for the National Judicial College and will continue to pursue her passion for research and writing. As part of the National Judicial College’s Reading & Robes Program, Judge Bonner participated in a virtual event with U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor at Booker Middle School. “I am always happy to share my love of books and how reading both enriches our lives and makes us more likely to be engaged in our communities,” Judge Bonner said of the reading event.
Judge Bonner once commented that if she were not a judge, she would most likely be a teacher or librarian because she enjoys books, school, and the process of learning. This quest to share knowledge is evident in her commitment to education and mentoring. Some highlights include:
- Education Chair, Florida Conference of Circuit Court Judges (2017-present)
- President: Florida Conference of County Court Judges (2012-2013)
- Education Committee, Conference of County Court Judges of Florida (2004-2013)
- Dean, Traffic Adjudication Lab (2010-2012)
- Faculty presenter at judicial education conferences (2004-present)
- Track Leader & Faculty, Florida Judicial College (2004-present; training for new judges)
- Certified Florida Mentor Judge
Now that she is going to have more free time on her hands, Judge Bonner said she is looking forward to completing her PhD and contributing as a volunteer in some capacity.
“I am looking forward to a new season of life and finding new ways to be of service. I have loved each and every moment of this remarkable career and am truly grateful for the opportunity.”
Source: 12th District Court