Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

5th Circuit chief judge, public defender stepping down as 2012 qualifying deadline passes

BROOKSVILLE — After six years as chief judge of the 5th Judicial Circuit and 14 years on the bench, Daniel Merritt Sr. will step down when his term ends in January.

Howard "Skip'' Babb will also retire from the public defender's job he has held since 1980.

Friday was the deadline for candidates for judge, state attorney and public defender to qualify for the 2012 election ballot.

Merritt's circuit judge seat will be filled by Spring Hill lawyer Stephen Toner Jr., the only person who qualified for the seat by the deadline. Toner has sought judicial appointments several times in recent years.

He could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

Without opposition, Brad King will serve another four-year term as state attorney. He first won the job in 1988. Before that, King served as a prosecutor.

Merritt could not be reached for comment after Friday's filing deadline He turned 70 earlier this year, and the state Constitution forbids circuit judges from serving after that age.

Merritt, who was born and raised in Brooksville, graduated from the University of Florida's law school in 1967 and returned to Brooksville, where he practiced law for 30 years before becoming a judge. In 2006, he became chief judge, the first in recent memory from Hernando County in a circuit dominated by Lake and Marion counties. The circuit also includes Citrus and Sumter counties.

Babb is also a native Floridian and has spent the majority of his life in Lake County, working for a time as a private attorney, then starting his career in public service as an assistant state attorney in Sumter County in 1975.

He said Friday he was looking forward to his retirement and noted that his years working with the training committee and serving as president for the Florida Public Defender Association were especially rewarding.

Babb vowed to work with whoever is elected to the public defender's job "to try to make it as smooth a transition as possible.''

Two attorneys in the circuit will face one another to fill the post: Mike Graves of Tavares and Bo Samargya of Inverness.

Samargya said his varied background — working for public defenders and state attorneys as well as in the private sector and as a conflict counsel, providing representation for indigent clients — has uniquely qualified him for the job.

"I've been doing criminal defense work for a long time,'' he said.

Graves could not be reached for comment.

Facing no opposition and therefore winning six-year terms as circuit judges in Hernando County are: Merritt's son, Daniel Merritt Jr.; Heidi Davis; and Anthony Tatti.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.

5th Circuit chief judge, public defender stepping down as 2012 qualifying deadline passes 04/20/12 [Last modified: Friday, April 20, 2012 8:02pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Police: Clearwater man attempted to rob Largo Speedway with knife

    Crime

    LARGO — A Clearwater man is facing multiple charges after police say he tried to rob a Speedway store with a knife early Tuesday morning.

    Geoffrey Davis, 31, faces a charge of armed robbery after Largo police said he attempted to steal items from a Speedway at 2698 Roosevelt Blvd. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  2. From the food editor: Shout out to my husband, the world's least picky eater, with this bowl of pappardelle

    Cooking

    Oh, hello, end of October. When the heck did you get here?

    Pappardelle with Cream Sauce and Mint. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times food editor.
  3. Bucs: Quick and easy fixes for what ails Tampa Bay?

    Bucs

    The Bucs are 2-4 and have lost five straight road games, so there's plenty to fix. What's the quickest and easiest fix for coach Dirk Koetter and Tampa Bay? The Times' Bucs coverage team weighs in:

    PLAY A COMPLETE GAME

    Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter, seen during the first half, had a heck of a day calling plays, Tom Jones writes. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  4. New Orleans celebrity chef John Besh steps down after sexual harassment allegations

    Celebrities

    Celebrity chef John Besh became a symbol of the rebirth of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina leveled the city. Now he faces a storm of his own. On Monday, Besh stepped down from the restaurant group he founded and co-owns after more than two dozen women alleged his company fostered a culture of sexual abuse.

    Chef John Besh attends the Supper to benefit the Global Fund to fight AIDS in New York in May 2015. Besh is stepping down from the restaurant group that bears his name after a newspaper reported that 25 current or former employees of the business said they were victims of sexual harassment. [Brad Barket | Invision/AP, File]
  5. No serious injuries after deputy rear-ends school bus in Thonotosassa

    Accidents

    THONOTOSASSA — No one was seriously injured Tuesday morning after a Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputy rear-ended a school bus, authorities said.