Phillip A. Hubbart graduated from Rock Island (Illinois) High School in 1954 and received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1958 from Augustana College, also in Rock Island, graduating magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. He was a member of the two-person debate team from Augustana that won the National Debate Tournament held at West Point, New York, in 1957. He also won the Best Speaker award at this tournament in 1956 and the second-place Speaker Award in 1957 and 1958.
Thereafter, he attended Duke University Law School where, in 1961, he received his Juris Doctor degree (originally an LL.B.) and was managing editor of the Duke Law Journal. He then earned an LL.M. degree from Georgetown University Law Center as an E. Barrett Prettyman Fellow in 1962.
He began practicing law as a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Agency (now the Public Defender Service) in Washington, D.C., in 1962, where he handled a large number of felony and misdemeanor cases. He left that position in 1963 and moved to Miami. His first position in Florida was with the firm of Nichols, Gaither, Beckham, Colson & Spence, from 1963 to 1964.
He next served as an assistant public defender for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida from 1965 to 1969, where he handled a large number of appellate and trial cases. He was then elected to the office of Public Defender for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit in 1970 and was later reelected in 1972 without opposition. He is widely credited with converting the Public Defender’s Office into a full-time, effective, highly professional law firm, counting among its members many lawyers who later became very successful private practitioners. While serving as a public defender and a criminal defense attorney, he represented Freddie Pitts and Wilbert Lee from 1965 to 1975 in a first-degree murder case arising in the Florida Panhandle. These defendants were eventually pardoned in 1975 by Governor Reubin Askew and the Florida Cabinet.
Judge Hubbart was then elected without opposition to the Third District in 1976 and was retained in all subsequent retention elections in 1982, 1988 and 1994. He served as chief judge from 1980 through 1983. Judge Hubbart consistently enjoyed the highest rating as the “most qualified” judge among all judges on the Third District in every Dade County Bar Association Judicial Poll conducted from 1977 to 1996. He also was rated either the “most qualified” or tied for the “most qualified” in every Florida Bar Judicial Poll conducted among all Florida District Courts of Appeal and Supreme Court judges in 1982, 1988 and 1994.
Judge Hubbart served as an adjunct law professor at the University of Miami School of Law from 1967 to 1976 and 1981 to 2006, teaching appellate and criminal law-related courses. Throughout his career, he has been very active in numerous professional organizations. He was president of the Florida Public Defenders Association; a member of the Board of Directors of The Florida Bar Foundation; one of the drafters of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure adopted by the Florida Supreme Court in 1968; a member of the Supreme Court Committee on Standard Jury Instructions in Civil Cases; and a member of the American Law Institute.
Judge Hubbart received the Selig I. Golden Award from The Florida Bar Criminal Law Section in 1986 and the L. Clayton Nance Award from the Florida Public Defenders Association in 1984 for outstanding contributions to the field of criminal law. He is the author of a major treatise on the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Making Sense of Search and Seizure Law: A Fourth Amendment Handbook (Carolina Academic Press, 2005), which took him 25 years to research and write. He is also a co-author of Florida Evidentiary Foundations, a treatise on Florida evidence (2d ed. Michie Publ. Co., 1997).
Judge Hubbart retired from the Third District in 1996 and returned to private practice as one of the founding members of Wetherington, Klein & Hubbart, P.A. He specializes in appellate practice. He has been selected as one of the Best Lawyers in America for the past three years. He and his wife, Martha, are the parents of one child, Ted, and the grandparents of Bradley and Allison.