Judge Janette Dunnigan is the fourth Wonder Woman in our series of 25, brought to you by the Bradenton Herald to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the WRC of Manatee.
Janette Dunnigan moved to Florida with her family in 1960 to a small town called Zephyrhills. In her senior year of high school, she began working for one of the two lawyers in town. After a divorce, Janette, as a single mother, worked her way through college and law school as a legal secretary. She graduated from Florida State University with a Bachelors in Business Administration in 1978 and from the Florida State University College of Law in 1980 with honors.
Following an internship at the Public Defenders’ Office in Sarasota, in 1981 she was hired as the first full time misdemeanor attorney in Bradenton. She soon became a Felony Assistant Public Defender where she worked in both Sarasota and Bradenton for over four years. Thereafter, she practiced civil, commercial and criminal law privately in Sarasota. However, Janette returned to public service in 1989 by joining the administration of newly elected State Attorney Earl Moreland, where she served as an Assistant State Attorney and Supervising Attorney until she was appointed by Gov. Lawton Chiles to the Circuit Court bench in 1994. She was the first woman to be recommended by the Twelfth Judicial Circuit Judicial Nominating Committee and the first woman to be appointed to the Circuit Court bench.
As a circuit judge, she has presided in every division (Civil, Criminal, Family, Juvenile, Probate and Guardianship) and acted as Administrative Judge for Manatee County for eight years. She worked diligently with the committees in the design of the Manatee County Judicial Center. She is currently presiding in the Family Division.
Since 2014, Judge Dunnigan has been an Adjunct Professor at the Thomas Cooley School of Law in Tampa, Florida, teaching Advanced Legal Writing. As a student instructor, she had taught Legal Research and Writing to first year law students at FSU College of Law. She had also been an Adjunct Professor at Manatee Community College (now known at State College of Florida) for five years, teaching Civil and Criminal Procedure, Contracts and Totts. and Legal Research and Writing in the paralegal program.
Her law related activities have included membership in the American Inns of Court, the Florida Association for Women Lawyers, Manatee FAWL, Sarasota FAWL, the Manatee County Bar Association and as a Director of the Alumni Board for the FSU School of Law. During her career she served on the Florida Bar Long Range Planning Committee, the Twelfth Judicial Circuit Grievance Committee, Sarasota Teen Court Board of Directors, Manatee County Teen Court Advisory Board, the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board, the Manatee County Public Safety Commission, and the Legal Assisting Advisory Committee for Manatee Community College. She has previously served the community as a board member for Manatee County Children’s Services and the American Cancer Society.
Judge Dunnigan had been recognized by the Florida Association of Women Lawyers as one of the top 100 Women Lawyers in the State of Florida. She served as President of the American Inns of Court, Manatee Chapter, from 1993-1995 and received its President’s Award for Distinguished Service in 1997. She was a Girl Scouts Crystal Heart Finalist in 1995. In 2004, she received the Junior League of Manatee County Setting the Pace Award. She was named Judicial Woman of the Year in 2007, presented by Manatee FAWL.
Recognizing the tremendous toll that drug abuse has on individuals, the Courts, and the community, Judge Dunnigan worked diligently to establish a Juvenile Drug Court Program and promoted the Adult Drug Court Program in Manatee County. For her efforts, The Manatee County Board of County Commissioners proclaimed January 4, 2005, “Honorable Janette Dunnigan Appreciation Day” and she received the Palmetto Youth Center’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Citizenship Award in 2005.