Federal judge retires with an LOL; will be replaced by Broward lawyer

U.S. Magistrate Judge Ann E. Vitunac isn't letting flattery, or demand for her services, stand between her and retirement.

The federal judge will spend her last day at work on Friday, May 25, after sitting full-time in the West Palm Beach courthouse since 1988. When lawyers asked about her future plans in recent months, she sometimes jokingly recited from the bench how many weeks she had to go.

Earlier this year, Boca Raton lawyer Fred Schwartz filed a tongue-in-cheek motion, which he says was totally sincere, asking Vitunac to stay on to handle one of his complex criminal cases.

Vitunac's order was succinct but displayed the good humor she has exhibited during her service on the bench.

"LOL Denied," she wrote.

Junior lawyers assumed she meant modern texting shorthand for "laughing out loud," but Schwartz, who counts himself among Vitunac's generation, said he suspects she meant the older-style "lots of luck."

Vitunac wouldn't explain, but responded with a cheerful laugh when asked to elaborate in a courthouse hallway.

Her spot on the bench will be taken by William Matthewman, a respected defense lawyer who is well known in state and federal courts in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties, as well as Puerto Rico. He has built a particular reputation as an expert on federal death penalty cases who also frequently defended police officers accused of crimes.

Matthewman, better known as Bill, is a former Miami police sergeant who joined the force in the mid-1970s. He left in the early 1980s to attend law school. Born and raised in the Westchester neighborhood of Miami-Dade, Matthewman has spoken publicly about how the accidental death of his father, who fell into an oil truck he was cleaning when his son was 4, inspired him to become a police officer and then a lawyer.

Matthewman's start date is not yet available because he is finishing up a murder trial in Miami-Dade, , courthouse officials said.

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