Do you know who is running for judge in your community? Do you know what the candidates’ backgrounds are? Do you even care? Well, you should know and you should care. Judges are the keepers of the law, and very important to the effectiveness of our justice system.
Let me start by saying that a lot of years as a lawyer does not make one qualified to be a judge. Let me also say that just a few years as a lawyer probable does preclude one from being qualified to be a judge. Experience is everything. So, take a close look at the lawyers in your vicinity, and find out how long they have been doing their job. In Tampa, Caroline Tesche, Samantha Ward, and Lisa Campbell have been attorneys for between 18 and 20 years, each. Probably more. Their experience is vast and would serve the community well from the bench. They would all make excellent judges, and all have the bLAWgger’s endorsement. In Pinellas, attorney Violet Assaid is a very experienced attorney and has the bLAWgger’s endorsement in her race (please go to www.voteviolet.com for more info).
There are other things to consider, too. Has the candidate been on all sides of the courtroom? For instance, for a criminal court judge, has the candidate been both a prosecutor and a defense attorney? Those who have been on both sides are most qualified, those who have only done defense work are absolutely qualified, and those who have only been prosecutors may be qualified BUT are generally not at the top of my list to be criminal court judges (****bLAWgger note: they may be fine judges, as many that I know are: Covert, Siracusa, and Crane in Pasco; Nazeretian, McNiel, Pomponio, Ficarrotta, and many others in Tampa; Spoto in Polk). But the prosecutors scare me a little – they may be inherently fair people, but there is something to be said for having dealt with the ups and downs, in and outs, and heartbreaks of representing a criminal defendant. The solution is that if the prosecutor is elected, they should spend some time in the civil courts to get all that “convicting” out of their system!!!!
The real biggie, though, is the candidate’s reputation. Does the candidate have a name for himself as an outstanding, honorable attorney? Or does she have the reputation as being hard to deal with and unethical? It is the stories that you hear around the courthouse that really make you think. For instance, you would never want to elect an attorney to be a judge when that attorney had, say, withheld favorable evidence in a trial, or knowingly lied to a jury in a trial. Those are unforgivable offenses that should preclude an attorney from EVER being a judge. Even at a dogshow. Being difficult and unfair is one thing . . . being a liar is “a-whole-nother” story, as we say in the South.
Why? Because if you get charged with a crime, you want the judge handling your case to be fair. You would hate to think that the judge lied and cheated to win cases as an attorney. What confidence would any of us have in the judicial system if such a person were to be elected?
So, know your candidates. Know their reputation. Know if they are honest and fair, or cheat and lie. Your decision at the poll could be a life altering decision if you or a loved one are one day standing before that judge.