There is one race for Hillsborough Circuit Court judge on the ballot. Circuit judges preside over felony criminal and juvenile cases and civil disputes involving more than $15,000. Judges are elected to six-year terms. The race is nonpartisan and open to all Hillsborough voters.
Both candidates who emerged from the primary, Gary Dolgin and Melissa Polo, are standouts well-qualified to serve as circuit judge. Both have sought judicial office before and are comfortable in the public eye. Dolgin has the edge for his broader legal experience and expertise in family law.
Dolgin is a former prosecutor and public defender who opened his own practice in 1993. His vast trial experience, and familiarity with both criminal and civil law, give him the experience to run a courtroom. Dolgin, 52, is widely admired for being smart, polite and attentive to his clients, all valuable traits in a busy circuit juggling a heavy caseload.
Polo, 47, is a former prosecutor who started her own practice in 2009. Though she specializes in personal injury cases, Polo has a wide grasp of the law and a serious approach that would demand respect in the courtroom. Her mentoring work shows a commitment to the community. Polo has a strong sense of fairness and an even demeanor that would inspire public confidence in the judicial system.
Dolgin, though, offers wider experience. A certified mediator and expert in family law, Dolgin has valuable experience in the fast-growing and highly charged field of family law. Dealing with the impact of broken families is one of the biggest challenges for the courts and society. Dolgin has navigated this area for years. He is a known professional who is able and willing to take on complex and emotional cases that end up in the court system. His broad civic involvement gives him a rich understanding of Hillsborough, and he gives back to the community and the profession by mentoring younger lawyers. He is organized, task-focused and disciplined, and his high ethical standards would reflect well on the circuit and stand as a model for litigants before him.
For Hillsborough Circuit Court judge Group 24, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Gary Dolgin.