Pinellas County Court Group 8
Thomas Freeman, 65, has been on the county court bench since 1981, when he was appointed by Gov. Bob Graham. Freeman remains more than competent at his job, which primarily involves working with people who have violated the terms of their probation. Those who know him say Freeman is a well-regarded jurist who has helped shape generations of young lawyers — the kind often seen in county court. Although he is known for having his own style — sometimes described as quirky — Freeman is by all accounts a fine judge and should remain on the bench.
Freeman brings a wealth of experience dealing with people struggling to keep on the straight and narrow. The people Freeman sees are often saddled with an addiction problem, yet he remains hopeful. "If I can get the probation conditions finished, and people go from addiction to recovery, they will not be back and they can stop living the nightmare most are living," Freeman says.
In addition to his work as a judge, Freeman has been a member of the Judicial Qualifications Commission since 1987. He is one of two county court judges selected to be on the 15-member JQC, the body that reviews complaints about judges accused of misconduct. The state's county judges elected him to the post, demonstrating a solid reputation among his peers.
Wayne Mineo, 49, is a Clearwater lawyer who suggests that because Freeman has entered the state's DROP program he should not be running for re-election. In fact, there is nothing unethical about Freeman seeking re-election while accruing this retirement benefit. Under current rules, he will be allowed to finish out another six-year term. And Freeman will only be receiving his county court salary — not a pension — while employed.
Mineo has his own small firm that includes himself and a part-time associate. He has a civil law practice and has commendably devoted himself to significant community involvement. But there is no credible case for removing the incumbent.
In Pinellas County Court Judge Group 8, the Times recommends Thomas Freeman.