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Christopher C. Sabella

The Honorable Christopher Sabella is the Chief Judge for the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit of the State of Florida. The Thirteenth Circuit is comprised solely of Hillsborough County, which includes the City of Tampa. Judge Sabella was born here in Hillsborough County, becoming the third generation of his family to live in Hillsborough. Judge Sabella grew up in Tampa, where he graduated from Jesuit High School. Judge Sabella continued his education at Florida State University where he received his Bachelor of Arts Degree. After becoming a proud alumnus of Florida State, Judge Sabella returned to the Tampa Bay area, where he attended Stetson University College of Law and received his J.D. Degree. While at Stetson Law, Judge Sabella traveled across the nation competing with Stetson Law’s Mock Trial Team.

After graduating law school, Judge Sabella began his professional career as a legal advisor for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. Judge Sabella briefly left the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office to serve as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Middle District of Florida. Representing the United States of America was a special experience for Judge Sabella but the pull of service to his local community brought him back to the Sheriff’s Office where he was made Deputy Chief Legal Advisor to the Hillsborough County Sheriff.

Judge Sabella’s service to Hillsborough County evolved in 2006 when he was appointed Circuit Court Judge for the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit of Florida by Governor Jeb Bush. During his tenure as Circuit Judge, Judge Sabella has presided over a variety of divisions, in both civil and criminal law. Judge Sabella is best known for presiding over one of the Circuit’s Felony Trial Divisions, where many high-profile criminal trials have occurred. Judge Sabella’s training as a Felony Judge has included becoming death certified, meaning that he is qualified by the State of Florida to sentence guilty defendents to death. Judge Sabella has presided over multiple Capital Cases during his time in the Felony Trial Division and many of his high-profile cases have been featured on national television. Such cases include Florida v. Trevor Summers, Florida v. Steven Lorenzo, Florida v. Michael Keetley, Florida v. Tyrone Johnson, Florida v. Nicole Nachtman, and Florida v. Matthew Terry.

Besides serving as a Judge, Chief Judge Sabella has traveled as a guest lecturer, presented on various panels, and has taught as a law school professor. One of Judge Sabella’s most favorite experiences has been teaching trial skills to law students here in Hillsborough County at WMU-Cooley Law School, where he has been an adjunct professor since 2014. Judge Sabella has found it particularly rewarding to ensure the next generations of legal professionals are well trained and prepared to advocate for their future clients.

Chief Judge Sabella was elected by his fellow Judges to be the Chief Judge for the Thirteenth Circuit; his first term began July 1st, 2023.