Since 2007, Judge Robert Hodges has served the families of five counties by dispensing justice in the family law division of the 5th Judicial Circuit. He handles juvenile delinquency cases in Marion County and also is responsible for domestic violence injunctions and some foreclosure cases.
Now Hodges, 45, who was appointed to his post by Gov. Charlie Crist, is seeking a full six-year term from the electorate in Hernando, Citrus and three other counties. The Times recommends voters keep Hodges on the bench.
His opponent in the nonpartisan race is Denise A. Dymond Lyn, who made an unsuccessful run for a different seat on the bench two years ago. Lyn, 43, a sole practioner in Inverness, has a varied civil practice including general litigation, family law and government work. Her clients have included the Citrus County Property Appraiser's Office and the city of Inverness.
The significant hole in her resume is her lack of criminal court work. More distressing are revelations published in the Ocala Star-Banner that Lyn faces a $41,000 court-ordered judgment for continuing to defend a client's lawsuit when there was no factual or legal grounds to do so. Court documents quote Lyn in November 2009 as saying she likely would have to file for bankruptcy if ordered to pay the judgment — equal to half the attorney's fees compiled by a real estate developer successfully challenging the 2005 Citrus County appraisal on an affordable housing complex. Lyn said she is confident the judgment will be overturned on appeal and said a bankruptcy filing, if needed, would be done simply to protect her homestead.
Regardless, there remains a more imperative reason to re-elect the incumbent: Lyn simply does not articulate a compelling reason to replace Hodges.
An assistant state attorney for 17 years, Hodges also sat on a statewide committee reviewing the circumstances of all deaths caused by child abuse and neglect and advised governments on how to curtail such cases. It's the kind of background that allowed him to successfully assume the bench in the family law division after his appointment. Hodges worked to modernize the juvenile justice system in Marion County to reduce dockets and resolve cases more quickly. Such efficiencies means fewer children housed in juvenile detention centers.
Ambition and ego often take judges out of the family law division for rotations through the more high-profile criminal and civil court assignments, but Hodges, if re-elected, said he will resist that tradition. He wants to stay in his current assignment and continue the work he has started to improve the juvenile court system. Voters should let him do just that.
For 5th Circuit Court judge Group 1, the Times recommends Robert Hodges for re-election.
The Times offers candidates not recommended by the editorial board an opportunity to reply. Judicial candidates should send their replies no later than 5 p.m. Wednesday to C.T. Bowen, Pasco/Hernando editor of editorials, St. Petersburg Times, 11321 U.S. 19 Port Richey, FL 34668; by fax (727) 869-6233; or via e-mail to email@example.com. Replies are limited to 250 words.