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Former Florida Attorney General Robert A. Butterworth Jr. has been selected as the new dean of the St. Thomas University. The private, Catholic-affiliated law school that opened in northern Miami-Dade County in 1984 planned to announce his appointment at a news conference this week. Butterworth, one of the most prominent Democratic politicians in the state, will succeed John Makdisi who had served as dean for four years. He was chosen to lead the 215-student law school by a search committee headed by past Florida Bar president Herman Russomanno. Butterworth, 60, stepped down in November after serving four terms as attorney general. He was barred by the state term-limit law from running again. In November, he made a surprise run for a state senate seat covering parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties, but was defeated by Republican Jeff Atwater. Makdisi announced his resignation last August after just 49.4 percent of that year’s graduating class passed the July 2002 Florida Bar exam. Makdisi said he made his decision prior to the release of the exam results. Butterworth takes the helm of a law school that some observers say faces a struggle to find its niche in an increasingly competitive South Florida law school market that now consists of four law schools. St. Thomas’ newest rival is the state-funded Florida International University law school, which offers a much lower tuition. St. Thomas is known for serving working students. Before becoming attorney general in 1986, Butterworth was appointed interim mayor of Sunrise, headed the Florida Division of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, and served as a Broward Circuit Court judge and as Broward County sheriff. He is a graduate of the University of Miami’s law school.

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