Judge Diana Moreland of Bradenton eyes lifelong bench ambition

MANATEE -- Twenty minutes could make all the difference Monday.

Circuit Judge Diana Moreland hopes to achieve her ultimate career goal: a seat on the Second District Court of Appeals.

Moreland, 53, is among the 33 applicants for two vacancies created by the Legislature. On Monday, 20 applicants will have the opportunity to sit with the Judicial Nominating Commission.

The Second District Court of Appeals in Lakeland serves more than 3.8 million residents in Pasco, Pinellas, Hardee, Highlands, Polk, DeSoto, Manatee, Sarasota, Hillsborough, Charlotte, Glades, Collier, Hendry and Lee counties.

This is not Moreland's first attempt at a DCA appointment. In 2012, she applied and rose into the top three candidates and a meeting with Gov. Rick Scott.

Moreland began serving on the circuit court bench in 2005, and was on the family division bench two years in Sarasota.

Since then, she has served four years on the criminal bench, three years in the civil division and then another year in the family division in Manatee County.

As an attorney in private practice for about 20 years after briefly working as a public defender, Moreland has said she always loved trial court.

Even in the years she was sailing around the world while completing her bachelor's degree with U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, her goal was clear, she said. Moreland wanted to go to law school to become a judge.

"The Second DCA has always been my ultimate goal," Moreland said. "It has always been my highest aspiration. I love what I do, so if I don't get selected, I still get to do the job I love."

One of her favorite pastimes outside the courthouse is teaching new judges at judge school and students at Manatee High School, she said. Moreland also serves in the Family Division in Manatee County.