Liz Rice Hillsborough Circuit Court, Group 4
Both candidates in this race are qualified. The difference is that Circuit Judge Liz Rice has served on the bench for six years, and there is no compelling case to replace her.
Rice, a 46-year-old University of Florida graduate, was a well regarded civil attorney at two large Tampa law firms before she won election to the county court bench in 2004. Gov. Charlie Crist elevated her to the circuit court last year, and the position is a good fit for Rice's sensibilities and management skills. She is widely praised as a hard worker, an invaluable asset given the Hillsborough judiciary's heavy caseload. Attorneys who appear before her credit Rice with being a quick read. She did not practice family or criminal law before becoming a judge, but she has since brought a sense of order to both divisions.
Zilia C. Vasquez, 45, is a graduate of Nova Southeastern University. Born in Cuba, she came to America as an infant aboard one of the so-called "freedom flights" that shuttled thousands of Cubans to new lives in the United States. Vasquez is a former Hillsborough assistant public defender who now runs her own practice, specializing in family, criminal defense and immigration law. She has an engaging personality, and her life story would make a compelling example to young people in her court. Vasquez also impressed her colleagues enough to become a finalist for a magistrate's post this year.
There is no strong argument, though, for removing Rice from the bench. Complaints by some attorneys that Rice is too rigid fall short. She comes off as formal in an informal town, but that hardly counts as a character flaw for a judge. Rice clearly has a zest for the job. Her discipline well serves the taxpayers. She has been active in the community and her work ethic reflects well on the Hillsborough judiciary. The nonpartisan race is open to all voters.
For Hillsborough Circuit Court Judge Group 4, the Times recommends Liz Rice.