Judge Thomas D. Sawaya

Birthplace: Ocala, FL


  • B.A., University of South Florida, 1974;
  • J.D., Stetson University College of Law, 1977 (graduated fourth in his class)

Legal Offices & Positions:

Maintained a general law practice in Ocala from 1978 to 1986; worked part-time as an Assistant State Attorney in 1985-1986. Elected as a Marion County Judge in 1986, and elected Circuit Judge in 1990.   Served on the Circuit Court in the Fifth Judicial Circuit for ten years, including four years as Presiding Judge of the appellate division of that circuit.  Appointed to the Fifth District Court of Appeal in February 2000.  Elected Chief Judge, Fifth District Court of Appeal, July 1, 2003 - June 30, 2005. Elected president of the Florida Conference of District Court of Appeal Judges, December 2004 to December 2005.  Served on the following committees: Select Committee on Justice Teaching; Florida Courts Technology Commission; Appellate Court Technology Committee (Chair from 2002-2006); Appellate Education Planning Committee; DCA Conference Bylaw Committee; Fifth DCA Technology Committee; Budget Committee.

Honors & Awards:

Awarded the Erskine Mayo Ross Award from the American Bar Association Journal for a published article entitled, Willie Loman Joins the Bar: Death of a Profession (October 1990). Other awards include the 1993 Distinguished Service Award from the Florida Council on Crime and Delinquency for "outstanding service in the judicial field" and the 1997 Distinguished Graduate Award from the Department of Elementary Schools of the National Catholic Educational Association for exemplifying "the highest qualities of a Catholic education" and rendering "distinguished service to the Catholic Church and the United States of America."

Judicial & Bar Activities:

Founding member and past President of the D.R. Smith Inn of Court in Ocala; member of the faculty of the Conference of Circuit Court Judges and College of Advanced Judicial Studies, including teaching courses to the judiciary. Written and published extensively in such legal publications as the Florida Bar Journal, the ABA Journal, the University of Florida Law ReviewLitigation, and For the Defense.

Other Civic Activities:

Vice-President of the Marion District of the North Florida Regional Council of Boy Scouts of America; Board of Directors for West Central Florida Driver Improvement School

Articles & Publications:

  • Florida Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Actions (West Group 2003). This book contains 27 chapters dealing with the substantive law relating to personal injury and wrongful death litigation in Florida. This work is revised and a new publication issued annually.
    Attorney's Right to Compensation When Prematurely Discharged Without Cause, 63 Fla. B.J. 23 (1998);
  • Coverage Under the CGL: A Gordian Knot of Interpretation, 30 For the Def. 19 (May 1988);
  • Coverage Under the New Commercial Policies: Loosening the Gordian Knot of Interpretation, 30 For the Def. 22 (June 1988);
  • Denying Coverage Under Liability Insurance Policies in Florida: The Claims Administration Statute, 64 Fla. B.J. 25 (1990); 
  • From the Bench: Hypnotic Testimony (Admissibility of Hypnotically Enhanced or Retrieved Testimony in Criminal Proceedings), 15 Litig. 3 (1989);
  • The Accident Report Privilege after Brackin: A Step in the Right Direction, 55 Fla. B.J. 23 (1986);
  • The Work Product Privilege in a Nutshell, 67 Fla. B.J. 32 (1993);
  • Use of Criminal Convictions in Civil Proceedings: Statutory Collateral Estoppel Under Florida and Federal Law, 62 Fla. B.J. 17 (1988);
  • Use of Criminal Convictions in Subsequent Civil Proceedings: Statutory Collateral Estoppel Under Florida and Federal Law and the International Act Exclusion Clause, 40 Fla. L. Rev. 479 (1988); 
    Willie Loman Joins the Bar: Death of a Profession, 76 A.B.A. J. 88 (1990).