Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pasco lawyer Steve Herman wins professionalism award

Lawyer Steve Herman, 54, has worked in the field for 30 years — the last six as a public defender. He lives in Wesley Chapel.


Lawyer Steve Herman, 54, has worked in the field for 30 years — the last six as a public defender. He lives in Wesley Chapel.

DADE CITY — As a young lawyer navigating the criminal court system, Steve Herman never had a mentor to show him the way.

He found it on his own, developing an approach to practicing law rooted in meticulous preparation and always keeping an open mind.

Now, after working in the field for 30 years — the last six as a public defender — Herman is being honored with the Richard T. Earle Jr. Professionalism Award from the Barney Masterson Inn of Court.

A mouthful, yes. The award is voted on by all of the county and circuit judges in Pasco and Pinellas counties, and it recognizes the lawyer "who demonstrates the highest degree of professionalism in the practice of law."

Inns of Court are legal societies modeled after Britain's system that seek to raise the level of professionalism in the court system.

Past winners of the professionalism award include some of the biggest names in criminal and family law — top prosecutors and high-dollar private defense attorneys.

In that light, here's something worth noting: Before Herman, no one from Pasco County, and no public defender, had ever won the prestigious award.

"He is always going to bat. I've never seen him let a client down," said Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa, who sits on the criminal bench in east Pasco. He nominated Herman for the award.

• • •

Herman, 54, grew up in Miami and went to college at the University of South Florida, where he started off majoring in pre-med. A semester of organic chemistry pushed him to change course. After attending law school at Stetson University, he worked for a few years in Brevard County, getting a taste of all different types of law. Marriage brought him to Pasco County.

He joined another attorney briefly before striking out on his own, first setting up shop in a strip plaza on U.S. 301 in Zephyrhills. Then he and his then-wife seized on an old building downtown, the two-story, yellow H.B. Jeffries house on Fifth Avenue. They rehabilitated it into a historic focal point and ran ads for Herman's attorney services with his picture.

He had a "new lawyer in town" distinction and limited competition for business in still-rural east Pasco. His business got a jump start with a quick succession of high-profile criminal cases.

Herman represented a man named Bruce Demo who was accused of killing a friend and burying him in Ridge Manor. Herman won a lesser conviction, but Demo's dirty past still earned him a life sentence.

"A partial victory," Herman calls it.

In another case, he defended a Lacoochee teen accused of beating and robbing a man, then leaving him lying unconscious across railroad tracks where a train struck and killed him.

Herman's client, Kimboy Partain, was convicted only of misdemeanor battery.

After a brief flirtation with retirement in the mountains of Georgia, Herman returned to Pasco, separated from his wife and heard about a job opening at the courthouse. That was in 2003.

The public defender's task suits him, he says, both for the opportunity to help people who have little means and few advocates, and because he has learned to accept that not every client can be wholly satisfied.

"Having an attorney is kind of like being married," he said. Communication and working hard at getting along are the only ways to maintain a happy union.

He emphasizes communication, making sure he's in the office when the weekly calls from the jail come in; that's often the only time his clients can reach him.

"The harder thing," he said, "is convincing your clients that you don't think the way they think you do because you're a public defender."

That's the skepticism that often greets him about the quality of the representation and how much public defenders care.

"I want to beat their expectations," Herman said.

His boss and fellow award nominee, Public Defender Bob Dillinger, said Herman is particularly adept at handling such clients.

"We're dealing with a lot of scared people and people with mental health and substance abuse problems," Dillinger said. "It's difficult. There's a lot of lawyers that simply could not do it."

• • •

Herman remarried about four years ago. His wife, Laura Lucin, is an attorney for the court administration.

They commute to work together from their home in Wesley Chapel.

Herman stands out in the small courthouse for his sleek style of dress and unhurried gait, the gait of a content man.

"He is truly one of the nice guys, and a nice guy who will never finish last," said Pasco County Judge William Sestak, who is also a former public defender.

Herman said he can see himself continuing in his job for years to come. Even with hundreds of cases crossing his desk through the years, he sees each one for its uniqueness.

"If you look at every case the same, you're going to get tired of it," he said.

He stays ahead of schedule, and in doing so defies the reputation that lawyers have for procrastinating.

Last week, Herman had his assistant line up his case files for the week of July 13.

Said Judge Siracusa: "Steve's got work to do."

Pasco lawyer Steve Herman wins professionalism award 06/13/09 [Last modified: Saturday, June 13, 2009 10:35am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Despite Hurricane Irma, Hillsborough remains on pace to unlock hotel tax that could pay for Rays ballpark


    TAMPA — Despite the threat of a catastrophic storm, it was business as usual at many Hillsborough County hotels in the days before Hurricane Irma bore down on the Tampa Bay region.

    The Grand Hyatt near TIA closed during Hurricane Irma, but many other Hillsborough hotels were open and saw an influx.
  2. Pinellas votes 7-0 to help sue Legislature over new law favoring charter schools


    LARGO — They said they had no choice but to do it. They said they would rather reach a compromise.

    Gov. Rick Scott, right, kicks off the 2017 legislative session on March 7 in Tallahassee. Scott later signed a massive education bill that is being challenged by several school districts. On Tuesday, Pinellas became one of them. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  3. Deputies find 24 dogs, 2 birds, 2 cats, 1 child in Hernando home

    Public Safety

    SPRING HILL —A woman was arrested Monday on charges of animal cruelty after deputies said they found injured animals at her Spring Hill home.

    Jennie Card, 44, was arrested on two counts of animal cruelty after deputies said they found her injured animals at her Spring Hill residence.[Courtesy of Hernando County Sheriff's Office]
  4. New Graham-Cassidy health care plan stumbles under opposition from governors


    WASHINGTON — The suddenly resurgent Republican effort to undo the Affordable Care Act was dealt a blow on Tuesday when a bipartisan group of governors came out against a proposal gaining steam in the Senate.

    Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., joined by, from left, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., speaks to reporters as he pushes a last-ditch effort to uproot former President Barack Obama's health care law, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. To win, 50 of the 52 GOP senators must back it -- a margin they failed to reach when the chamber rejected the effort in July. [/J. Scott Applewhite | Associated Press]
  5. Joe Maddon on being back at Trop, Cash, a new stadium


    More to come later, but a couple of quick early highlights from former Rays manager Joe Maddon's return to the Trop with the Cubs:

    Joe Maddon, right, speaks with Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey before Tuesday's game at Tropicana Field.