On Aug. 14, voters in Pinellas and Pasco counties will be deciding who will dispense justice in the region. There are three circuit court judicial races open to all voters in both counties. These are nonpartisan offices with six-year terms. Circuit judges hear felony cases, probate and family law issues as well as civil disputes involving damages in excess of $15,000.
Andy Steingold Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court Group 15
The two lawyers vying for the seat vacated by retiring Circuit Judge Richard Luce have markedly different backgrounds. Both civil litigator Andy Steingold and Assistant State Attorney Bill Burgess have the legal acumen, experience and skills to be qualified for the bench. On balance, it is Steingold's diverse legal experience and people skills that give him the edge.
Steingold, 51, has been the mayor of Safety Harbor since 2006. As mayor of a small city he has presided over quasijudicial hearings and handled a variety of difficult issues. He knows how to balance multiple interests. Over 25 years as an attorney, Steingold's peripatetic career has given him wide experience in areas including personal injury, criminal, family and juvenile law, all areas where he could be assigned to judge.
Steingold is at the firm of Maney & Gordon, where he specializes in medical negligence and nursing home violations cases. He began his career as a prosecutor in Hillsborough County. Steingold's political skills in dealing with people will serve him well as a judge.
Burgess, 59, is a career prosecutor in the office of Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe. He has been a lawyer since 1995, following a career in the Army. Burgess is an expert on Florida sentencing law and has written an impressive reference guide to the subject. But he lacks Steingold's varied experience.
For Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court Group 15, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Andy Steingold.
Kimberly "Kim" Campbell Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court Group 31
Both attorneys seeking the seat of retiring Circuit Judge David Demers could be fine jurists. Kimberly Campbell and Brian Battaglia have good legal credentials and experience. But Campbell's life experiences and approachable demeanor are appealing and suggest that she will be a diligent, compassionate judge.
Campbell, 42, obtained a joint law degree and MBA from Stetson University in 2000 after spending years at a variety of secretarial jobs. Originally from Tennessee, she says neither of her parents finished high school. Campbell specializes in family law at the law offices of Thomas J. Donnelly. People familiar with her work say she is good at trial as well as at the law's more therapeutic side. Campbell previously practiced criminal law as an assistant state attorney.
Campbell's engaging personality suggests she'll be a positive presence on the bench. She recently ended a stint as president of the Clearwater Bar Association and is well-known and liked in local legal circles.
Battaglia, 51, is a respected attorney who practices in a variety of areas, including employment and land use law. Battaglia has spent his legal career at the St. Petersburg firm of Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & Wein, P.A., which his father, Anthony Battaglia, founded more than 50 years ago. Brian Battaglia has a commendable record of doing pro bono work for indigent clients, particularly early on when he won awards for his efforts.
For Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court Group 31, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Kimberly "Kim" Campbell.
Jack Day Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court Group 45
Circuit Judge Jack Day, 63, was elected to the bench in 2006 and is the only incumbent to draw an opponent. Early on, Day was assigned to criminal divisions in Clearwater and New Port Richey and is now in Unified Family Court, where he makes judgments on cases involving juvenile delinquency and dependency. Day is known as a smart and hardworking judge whose rulings follow the law. He says he loves his work for its intellectual stimulation and because it makes "a positive difference in people's lives." But questions have arisen over his temperament and docket management.
One of the essential qualities of a good judge is respect for those who come before him. Day has been criticized by area attorneys for failing to live up to that ideal. Day recognizes there are parts of the job he needs to work on and says he is addressing them. Despite the criticisms, there is nothing in Day's record that rises to the level where he should be replaced. (Full disclosure: Day performed legal work in the past on behalf of the Times.)
Agnes Theresa McCabe, 55, is a prosecutor in the office of Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe, who is not related. She is known as a fair prosecutor, but she is not a more compelling candidate than the incumbent.
For Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court Group 45, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Jack Day.