BROOKSVILLE — Fifteen applicants have their sights set on 5th Circuit Judge Stephen Rushing's seat.
Among the hopefuls are three assistant state attorneys, two assistant public defenders, and an assistant county attorney. Three of the applicants made it to the final round for the last judge vacancy in Hernando County, to replace the retired Judge Jack Springstead.
Rushing, 64, notified the governor's office in November that he will step down on March 31 due to health reasons. The former Pinellas County judge was appointed to the circuit bench by then-Gov. Jeb Bush in November 2005 after the Legislature created two judicial positions for the 5th Circuit, which covers Citrus, Hernando, Marion, Lake and Sumter counties.
Rushing's current term would have ended in 2014. His appointed successor will have to run for election in 2012.
Circuit judges serve six year terms and are paid $142,178 a year.
The applicants, according to the 5th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission:
• Lawrence P. Cartelli of Orlando is assistant regional counsel for the state's Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel in Tavares.
• Lisa D. Herndon of Ocala is an assistant state attorney and supervises the sex crimes unit for Citrus, Hernando and Sumter counties.
• Thomas R. Eineman of Spring Hill is a private practice attorney.
• Geoffrey "Jeff" Kirk of Hernando Beach is an assistant county attorney for Hernando County.
• Barbara Kwatkasky of Ocala is a judicial hearing officer.
• Michael Lamberti of Spring Hill is an assistant public defender.
• Denise A. Dymond Lyn of Hernando is a private practice attorney.
• John E. Napolitano of Weeki Wachee is a private practice attorney.
• Robert W. Rasch of Altamonte Springs is a private practice attorney.
• Milan "Bo" Samargya of Brooksville is a private practice attorney.
• Raymond E. Sloan of Clermont is an assistant public defender.
• Anthony M. Tatti of Ocala is an assistant state attorney.
• Clifford A. Taylor of Tallahassee is a senior attorney for the Florida Department of Management Services.
• Stephen E. Toner, Jr. of Spring Hill is a private practice attorney.
• Brian Trehy of Inverness is an assistant state attorney specializing in sex crimes and child abuse cases in Citrus, Hernando and Sumter counties.
Napolitano, Toner and Tatti were among the six names sent by the nominating commission to Gov. Crist's office last September to replace Springstead.
Tatti made it to the final round of three applicants who interviewed with Crist. The governor tapped Heidi Davis, a family law attorney from Tavares who had served as judicial magistrate in Lake County for six years.
The nine-member nominating commission will interview all 15 applicants from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Jan. 31 in Room 432 of the Hernando County Government Center, 20 N Main St., Brooksville.
The interviews are open to the public. The commission will then deliberate in a closed session to whittle the list to a maximum of six names to send to Gov. Rick Scott's office, said commission chairwoman M. Meredith Kirste.
Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.