Pasco County voters will elect a county court judge this year to replace retiring Judge Robert Cole based in Dade City. Often called the people's court because of the garden variety of cases on the docket, county court judges hear misdemeanor criminal cases, traffic offenses and small claims. The Group 2 race is nonpartisan, and open to all voters countywide.
Four strong candidates are seeking the post including two, Chief Assistant Public Defender Tom Hanlon and Assistant State Attorney Eva Vergos, who offer considerable criminal court experience and the logistical and management skills to process substantial workloads while supervising other attorneys. Sole practitioners Frank Grey and Joseph Poblick complete the field.
Grey, 57, of New Port Richey, runs his own civil practice focusing on real estate, probate and contracts. He is a certified mediator and has been special magistrate to the Value Adjustment Board for 18 years. He lost a tight race for county court judge six years ago and said he was encouraged to run again by colleagues who cite his even-tempered demeanor. Certainly, that is a favorable attribute, but Grey's work history has one significant hole — he has never argued a jury trial.
Poblick, 37, bases his practice in Zephyrhills and is building a resume that makes him a likely contender for a position as government administrator/attorney. He currently serves as city attorney for both the cities of Zephyrhills and Port Richey, holds a master's degree in public administration, and teaches classes in government ethics, and administrative/public law as an adjunct professor for Barry University. Poblick's candidacy has positive characteristics, but he can't match the extensive courtroom experience of his opponents.
Vergos, 35, is a native of Greece who came to the United States as a child and grew up in west Pasco. She is an 11-year prosecutor with the 6th Judicial Circuit who specializes in child abuse cases. She is both a lead attorney and supervises and mentors other assistant state attorneys.
The strongest candidate, however, is Hanlon, 58. His compelling life experiences — overcoming a learning disability and later alcoholism — is coupled with a professional resume of private law practice followed by 15 years as the 6th Judicial Circuit Public Defender's chief deputy in Dade City.
Hanlon continues to grow professionally. He said he has learned the value of not being obstinate simply for the sake of being disagreeable to the prosecution. Too frequently, he said, he objected to evidence stipulations because he saw no benefit to his clients' interests; an attitude that served little purpose and slowed court efficiency. Hanlon now displays a demeanor and temperament necessary to be a successful judge.
The Tampa Bay Times recommends Tom Hanlon for Pasco County Court judge, Group 2 in the Aug. 14 election.