BROOKSVILLE — To realize her career goal of becoming a Circuit Court judge, Denise A. Dymond Lyn will have to buck tremendous odds in her second run at the bench.
Lyn is challenging a sitting judge, Robert Hodges, which traditionally is a recipe for electoral defeat. Her opponent has raised nearly $25,000 more in campaign contributions. And Lyn is also dealing with a courtroom battle that has made headlines close to her Inverness home.
Yet Lyn remains undaunted. "I feel very good about the campaign and the things that I'm hearing from people," she said. "I've just got to get voters excited about a judicial race."
Lyn and Hodges are facing off in the 5th Judicial Circuit Group 1 race, which will draw voters from Hernando, Citrus, Sumter, Marion and Lake counties. Because there are only two candidates in the race, Tuesday's election will determine the winner of the seat.
Circuit judges handle juvenile justice, family law, felony cases and civil disputes involving more than $15,000. Judges are elected on a nonpartisan basis to six-year terms and are paid $145,080 annually.
Hodges, 45, has been urging voters to "keep" him as judge and reminds them that "experience counts" in campaign literature and signs. An assistant state attorney for 17 years, Hodges was appointed to the bench by Gov. Charlie Crist in November 2007 after the retirement of Circuit Judge Carven Angel.
Since taking the bench in January 2008, Hodges has handled juvenile delinquency cases in Marion County and also is responsible for domestic violence injunctions and some foreclosure cases.
"You name the case, I've already done it," Hodges said. "And I would remind (Hernando voters) that I do Hernando County juvenile cases. Any juvenile delinquent that's detained, I'm going to see them in Marion County the next month."
Lyn, 43, hopes voters will remember her from her run for a judgeship in 2008, when she ultimately lost to Sandy Hawkins. She has even reused campaign signs from that campaign.
Though Lyn has no experience on the bench, she argues that running her own private practice in Inverness has given her familiarity with more kinds of law than Hodges. She noted her civil practice includes general litigation, family law and government work, and that her clients have included the Citrus County Property Appraiser's Office, the value adjustment board for Hernando County and the city of Inverness.
But Lyn has also drawn notice for revelations in the Ocala Star-Banner that she faces a $41,000 court-ordered judgment for continuing to defend a client's lawsuit when there were no factual or legal grounds to do so.
According to court documents, Lyn said that she probably would have to file for bankruptcy if ordered to pay the judgment.
Lyn declined to comment about the judgment, other than to say she is optimistic about her chances to prevail in the appeal.
Hodges has seized upon the opportunity to talk about the judgment, saying that voters should take note of her resistance to adhere to the judge's ruling.
"I think that says something about her," Hodges said. "I think it's a big deal."
Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Joel Anderson can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 754-6120.