Editor's note: The Times offers candidates not recommended by the editorial board an opportunity to reply.
Edward Liebling, Group 18
I have 22 years continuing courtroom experience; board certified in criminal trial law since 1995; highest level of recognition awarded by the Florida Bar. I am the only candidate in Group 18 with jury trial experience. I have experience in civil, criminal, state and federal courts; state and federal appellate experience; Florida Supreme Court capital case qualified. I am licensed for the United States Supreme Court, Florida and Michigan supreme courts; Federal Middle District of Florida; and the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
I have a master's degree in international business, and I am fiscally responsible and debt-free. I am married and have resided in the same home for nearly 20 years. I am a charitable contributor and volunteer to many causes, and I am not a politician.
Patricia "Trish" Muscarella,
I am honored to be endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police and Sun Coast Police Benevolent Association, State Attorney Bernie McCabe, Public Defender Bob Dillinger and Ken Burke, clerk of court.
As the only AV-rated attorney in this race, I am proud that Martindale-Hubbell has found that my peers rank me at the highest level of ethics and professional excellence. My experience includes 25 years in the practice of law, primarily in the area of civil law. For the past nine years, I have specialized in dispute resolution, serving as a mediator in over 1,000 cases and special/master/arbitrator in over 350 cases.
Special master cases are quasi-judicial in nature. As a special master/arbitrator, I rule on motions and admissibility of evidence, make findings of fact and conclusions of law, and prepare orders disposing of cases. My background gives me the most experience in Group 18 in the skill set required of a judge.
Tom Ramsberger, Group 20
Thank you for considering me an "excellent candidate.'' I have over 22 years of experience as a lawyer in nearly all areas of law. I have spent the past 11 years as an adjunct professor of law at Stetson Law School and currently serve as a Supreme Court-certified circuit civil mediator while maintaining my own successful law practice. I was born here, attended Pinellas County public schools and earned my law degree from FSU with honors. My wonderful wife, Angela, and I are blessed with three healthy and happy children. I have always participated in numerous community service programs and provide pro bono services to indigent people. If elected, I will be a fair, competent and hard-working circuit judge for the people of Pasco and Pinellas counties.
Kelly Ann McKnight, Group 27
It is unfortunate the Times did not cite those admirable traits of the opponents in Group 27 or their qualifications. Experience is not measured in the number of years. Experience is measured by what you do in those years. I have been proven to be dedicated, passionate and hard-working and it is those qualities that make me rise above the rest. I have tried over 50 jury trials including very complex cases such as first-degree murders, human trafficking, capital sexual batteries and more where the recommended candidate has not. It is the extensive trial experience that has taught me the importance of being prepared, articulate and knowledgeable in the courtroom, qualities a circuit court judge must embody.
Jeff O'Brien, Group 27
As a litigator in the courts of the 6th Judicial Circuit for over 37 years, a Florida Bar Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer (a distinction held by less that 2 percent of Florida Lawyers) for over 26 continuous years and an AV peer review rated attorney by Martindale-Hubbell of over 20 years, I strongly urge readers go to the campaign websites for Jeff O'Brien, Keith Meyer, LeAnne Lake and Kelly Ann McKnight. Readers should set aside campaign puffery, theater and expensive productions, and decide for themselves who has the most legal experience, peer recognition and qualifications to sit as a circuit judge and then vote accordingly.
Deborah Moss, Group 29
The Times surprised no one by its endorsement. After a distinguished 23-year career in public and private practice, it would be an honor to serve on the bench. My decision to challenge an incumbent was difficult. Many attorneys and court personnel concerned and offended by the demeanor and attitude of the incumbent influenced my decision. If my opponent, who was appointed to his position, refuses to address complaints, an election is the only mechanism to air these issues without fear of retaliation. The response that he is a "tough" judge who makes lawyers work hard avoids the issue and does not address the problem. Judges impact citizens, not lawyers. This is about citizens seeking fair and respectful treatment from our courts. Good "tough" judges demand excellence from lawyers, while exhibiting an appropriate demeanor. Maturity and respect come with age and experience. This race is about giving the citizens a choice.
Susan St. John, Group 30
Thank you to the St. Pete Times for acknowledging my reputation for strong legal skills and professionalism. I can also offer life experience and a dedication to serving our community.
I spent six years in the United States Army Airborne Corp. learning the true meaning of discipline and hard work. While serving, I started a family and attended night school. I used the GI Bill to finish my degree in legal studies while working as a paralegal. Those experiences will certainly assist me as a judge.
As a prosecutor, I served our community in many ways, whether by prosecuting violent offenders or assisting children discuss sexual abuse.
Prosecutors and judges alike must be tough and compassionate. I served our country in the Army and I serve our community as a prosecutor. It would be my honor to serve as one of your next elected circuit court judges.