Clerk complaint raises questions about Pinellas judicial candidate's demeanor in court
For 11 years, Pinellas County judge candidate Curtis Korsko had an unblemished track record as a traffic hearing officer — until last year in May, when a clerk sent a scathing e-mail to court officials.
“He has taken polls of the people in the audience as to whether they agree with his ruling on a case,” it read. “He really makes the court system look bad.”
Then-chief judge J. Thomas McGrady assigned a court counsel attorney to investigate.
“Your telephone conversation to me last week NOT ONLY stole my soul, but has embarrassed me to the extent that I feel I cannot even walk into that courthouse,” Korsko wrote to the attorney.
The buzz eventually receded.
“A review was conducted and it was decided (Korsko) should continue working as a traffic hearing officer,” Sixth Judicial Circuit spokesman Stephen Thompson said in a statement. Korsko quit his post, but rescinded his resignation and presided over traffic court until this spring, when he left to run for Pinellas County judge.
But an audio recording of a three-hour traffic court hearing obtained by the Tampa Bay Times captured Korsko, a Tampa civil litigation lawyer, making some remarks that could be considered questionable.
In May of last year, a woman appeared before him with a parking citation.
As she showed Korsko a cell phone photo of her vehicle, he said: “I don’t want to see no nudies. Don’t be showing me anything. I just want to see the spot.”
When asked by a reporter about this comment, Korsko explained: “The truth of the matter is I’m trying to protect myself. ... Because I really don’t want to look at questionable material.”
That same day, he asked another woman: “This has nothing to do with anything. I’m just going to ask you because I see it. What’s your tat of?”
It was flowers and a skull. He replied, “Oh, that’s cool... It’s pretty.”
Korsko told the Times he asked about the tattoo because he’s “trying to limit any prejudice.”
The audio also included a heated exchange between Korsko and a man with a ticket for speeding in a school zone. Korsko found him guilty. The man said he would appeal.
“Maybe if we’re lucky you’ll be so disrespectful wearing your little sandals and your flip flops and your shorts too!” Korsko told him before turning to a bailiff, “You better take this guy out right now or I’m going to take him out. You hear me?"
Korsko later told the crowd: “Everybody out there in the audience, let’s take a poll. Honestly, I want to see a showing of hands who just watched that trial... who here feels based on everything I’ve explained that this gentleman should be not guilty?"
This week, he said: “I admit I maybe shouldn’t have said it the way I did.” But he added that he later dismissed the ticket when the man explained he was speeding because his terminally ill brother was hospitalized. Records confirm the ticket was dismissed.
“I just want to do a good job for the people,” Korsko said. “I’m passionate and I love what I do. That’s why I want to be a full-time judge.”