Judge Sanderlin Biography

Judge James B. Sanderlin of the Second District Court of AppealsJudge James B. Sanderlin of the Second District Court of Appeals

Judge James B. Sanderlin, a special man for special times, is honored for his courage, integrity and outstanding contributions to the political, social and legal life of the Pinellas County community, and the State of Florida.

James Sanderlin, a native of Petersburg, Virginia, came to St. Petersburg in 1962 as a law clerk in the law firm of Minnis and Williams, and since that time, he completely consumed himself in the constructive development of the legal area and the community.

A graduate of Boston University Law School, he is a man who loved the law and what it stands for, and once said, “I believe in the sanctity of the law.  I feel the law, appropriately applied, is the vehicle that can really strengthen society, help society, and help others get the benefit of society.  The law should respect all people, and I feel too, that people ought to be able to feel very strongly that the law really works for them, not against them.”

Along with his love of the law has been his love of people and justice.  In 1964, Sanderlin was the attorney for five Clearwater families and one family from St. Petersburg who successfully sued the Pinellas County School Board over segregation.  With this case, integration became a reality in Hillsborough and Sarasota Counties, also.

In 1968, when St. Petersburg sanitation workers, striking for better pay, were fired by the City, Jim Sanderlin became their attorney.  Joe Savage, the foreman at the time, and a spokesman for the workers, was quoted as saying, “He was an educated man, who was working for uneducated men.  He was up high, but he jumped down low right with us uneducated men.  He stuck right in there with us.  He brought us through, and I thank God for that.”

Also, in 1968, he was the attorney for a successful suit waged by 12 black police officers who were relegated to patrolling only the black residential and business areas of St. Petersburg, and who lived a segregated existence within the St. Petersburg Police Department itself.
Judge Sanderlin worked with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund from 1964-1971.  In all of his legal battles as a young attorney, he was a man of dignity under fire.

In 1972, he became the first black County Judge, and for years, the first black Circuit Court Judge.

In 1985, the community rejoiced when Gov. Bob Graham appointed him to the Second District Court of Appeals.
Judge Sanderlin was a member of the American Bar Association, the American Judicature Society, the National Bar Association, St. Petersburg Bar Association, and the Florida Supreme Court Rules Advisory Committee. He was the first president of the Pinellas County Headstart, Inc., past president of the St. Petersburg Council on Human Relations, and past vice-president of the Florida Council of Human Relations.  He was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity.

He received the Humanitarian Award from the St. Petersburg Council on Human Relations, the Community Service Award from the St. Petersburg Branch of the NAACP and the Outstanding Performance in the Judiciary Award from the Florida Chapter of the National Bar Association.

Judge Sanderlin has been an Adjunct Professor in the Criminal Justice Department at the University of South Florida.  He was a member of McCabe United Methodist Church.

We honor this legal giant, because we are grateful that he made Florida his home.  We are better people, because of his awesome presence.  He improved our lives and the lives of our children through his diligence, and gave meaning through his compassion.