Pasco County voters will elect a county court judge on Nov. 6 to replace retiring Judge Robert Cole. The top two finishers from the August primary — west Pasco attorney Frank Grey and Tom Hanlon, the public defender's chief deputy in east Pasco — are vying for the Group 2 seat in this nonpartisan race.
Both offer positive attributes, but it is Hanlon's significant courtroom and management experience that makes him the stronger candidate.
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 has a resume of varied experience, but an imperative element is absent. Grey has never argued a jury trial.
Grey 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. Hanlon, too, displays a demeanor and temperament necessary to be a successful judge. He admitted that wasn't always the case, but said he has learned the value of not being obstinate simply for the sake of disagreeing with opposing counsel. His prior attitude, he said, served little purpose and slowed court efficiency.
The resume of Hanlon, 58, includes his own private law practice, followed by 15 years as the 6th Judicial Circuit Public Defender's chief deputy in Dade City. He estimated he had been lead trial lawyer for more than 100 cases in state criminal court. While in private practice, he tried 19 federal cases and three civil cases in state court.
As Public Defender Bob Dillinger's top assistant in east Pasco, Hanlon not only represents indigent criminal defendants — including those charged with murder — but also oversees eight other lawyers each of whom carries an active workload of roughly 110 cases. It has prepared Hanlon to manage the overflowing dockets that dominate county court as well as allowed him to mentor young attorneys, who are the kind of lesser experienced lawyers likely to appear before county court judges.
Hanlon is the better choice in this race. The Tampa Bay Times recommends Tom Hanlon for Pasco County Court judge, Group 2, in the Nov. 6 general election.