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Sue Carlton, Times Columnist

Sue Carlton

Sue Carlton is a native Floridian from a longtime Southern family that her father always said consisted of thieves and cattle rustlers run out of Georgia. She grew up in Miami and joined the Tampa Bay Times in 1988. Over the years she has covered community news, politics, cops, government, and her all-time favorite, criminal courts. For nearly nine years she wrote about the kind of strange cases that only seem to happen here, about intriguing legal issues and courthouse politics. On that beat, she authored a lengthy narrative series on a trooper who killed his wife and co-authored a series on a suburban mother murdered by her teenage daughter and her friends. Sue was the deputy editor of the features section and was the Tampa city editor before she became a columnist in 2005. Three times a week, she writes about politics, outrages, observations, court cases of the day and whatever else comes up. She lives in Tampa with her husband and their very good dog.

Phone: (813) 226-3376 or toll-free 1-800-333-7505, ext. 3376


  1. Last two lawyers disbarred in Diaco DUI setup


    TAMPA — Calling it "among the most shocking, unethical and unprofessional" conduct they had ever witnessed by lawyers, the justices of the Florida Supreme Court made it both official and unanimous Thursday:

    All three Tampa attorneys who set up opposing counsel for a DUI arrest during a bare-knuckles trial in 2013 can never be lawyers in this state again.

    Though they hoped for a sentence short of forever, Robert Adams, 47, and Adam Filthaut, 42, are now permanently disbarred. Stephen Diaco, 47, was banned from practicing law for life in January....

    From left, Stephen Diaco, Adam Filthaut and Robert Adams have all been disbarred for setting up the DUI arrest of a rival lawyer during the Bubba the Love Sponge Clem defamation trial in Tampa in 2013. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times (2015)] 
  2. Carlton: Not a smoker's world anymore


    Now and again someone comes out with a list that ranks who is least popular in America. Politicians, lawyers, people who sell us cars —and, yes, journalists — usually make the cut.

    But we may have a new champion in smokers.

    Kicked outdoors by laws to protect those of us who don't care to inhale what they exhale, they gather outside in designated areas as if they were under quarantine. In the rain they huddle under office awnings to puff away as nonsmokers pass by holding their collective breath. At restaurants where ashtrays once shared table space with the salt and pepper, they are sent outside like disobedient dogs....

  3. Carlton: The dark ages for domestic violence


    He hit her on a weekend, when the courthouse where she could file for a restraining order to keep him away was closed.

    She had gotten herself somewhere safe. She called the local domestic violence shelter, but no workers deputized as court clerks were available to take her sworn statement about what happened to her. And that was the document a weekend-duty judge would consider in deciding whether to grant her protection....

  4. Carlton: Why are so many Hillsborough kids in foster care?


    How kids wind up in the foster care system is pretty much the same across Florida.

    Investigators look into allegations of parents who are angry, absent, in trouble or just unable to do the job of parenting. They look into reports of children who are not being cared for, neglected, hurt or worse.

    But according to a recent report by the Tampa Bay Times' Christopher O'Donnell, Hillsborough County moves more of those children from their homes and into safe shelter than any other county in the state. That's 1,672 in the last fiscal year, with kids going into foster care 14 times for every 100 investigations. That's compared to a state rate of eight in 100....

  5. Carlton: Finally, a no-brainer ferry between downtowns


    Here is the biggest no-brainer in the history of the world, or at least the history of around here.

    Okay, that much enthusiasm for ferry service between the downtowns of St. Petersburg and Tampa may be a little over the top. But only a little.

    In an unusual show of — wait, can that actually be regional cooperation we're seeing? — the cities and counties necessary to make this happen are sounding downright enthusiastic at the idea of pitching in $350,000 each for a six-month study to see if such a ferry would work....

    The 98-foot, 149-passenger vessel would travel round-trip between the Tampa and St. Petersburg downtowns twice a day Saturday through Thursday and three times on Fridays, at $10 a ride.
  6. Carlton: Flossing bravely on, and other notes from the week

    Human Interest

    You do a thing thinking you are being virtuous.

    You recycle. You pick up what your dog leaves behind at the park. You put your neighbor's far-flung newspaper on the porch for easier reach.

    And you floss.

    You floss because you have been told to do so practically since you lost your last baby tooth and the tooth fairy quit showing up. You do it even if it is not especially fun. The first floss I used felt like shoving fishing line between your teeth until a kindhearted hygienist introduced me to the more satiny stuff — still dental floss, but with power steering....

    FILE -- Dental floss products in New York, March 30, 2015. Although dental floss may not improve your health, it can help with many ordinary tasks, such as cutting cakes, and not-so-ordinary ones, like escaping form prison. (Tony Cenicola/The New York Times) XNYT14
  7. Carlton: Gov. Rick Scott shuns gun control in favor of absurd logic

    Public Safety

    Sometimes if you say a thing often enough, it is widely perceived as truth. (Example: Kale tastes good.)

    Last week at a news conference following Florida's latest big shooting — this time, at a Fort Myers nightclub where young people had gathered for a summer bash — Gov. Rick Scott brushed off the matter of whether it's time to take a look at our gun laws.

    "I support the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment has never shot anybody," the governor said. "Evil does this."...

    “I support the Second Amendment,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott says. “The Second Amendment has never shot anybody.” [Associated Press] 
  8. Carlton: I wish my mother was here to see this


    A lot of women in America probably had the same thought as I did this week:

    Man, I wish my mom was still alive to see this.

    Hillary Clinton just became the first woman with a true shot at becoming president of the United States, a gender accomplishment other countries that we consider inferior to us have somehow already managed.

    No doubt this is less remarkable to younger women who have seen persons of their gender in power long enough not to notice. That they can be nonchalant is because of women who came before them, like my mother....

  9. Carlton: What do we call not-Vinikville?


    Buzz has long been building over Lightning owner Jeff Vinik's plan to transform, rebuild and revitalize a southern swath of downtown Tampa. It just got a big buy-in from the City Council, and shovels will soon hit the dirt to get things started.

    So. What are we supposed to call it?

    As the Times' Justine Griffin reports, Vinik's big real estate venture has yet to be named. (Though one would assume a snappy moniker would be valuable for getting people who live here behind it.) The generic "Vinik project" seems to chafe some involved who think any reference should represent both Vinik and Cascade Investment, which formed the developer Strategic Property Partners, or SPP....

    Jeff Vinik seems to have thought of everything but a name for his project. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times] 
  10. Carlton: Foster kids deserve more than makeshift


    It's not the worst story we've heard about how abused or neglected children taken from their homes are treated once they're in the system. Sadly, it's not even close.

    But kids sleeping on air mattresses in offices because there are no foster beds — because there's nowhere else for them to go — is not okay. It's not okay even in Florida, with our abysmal record for how we treat kids who need help the most....

  11. Carlton: A Joe Redner you may not know


    Joe Redner is on fire, mad at the state of the world.

    Tampa's undisputed strip club king and official rabble-rouser is running for his umpteenth political office, for the state Senate, his toughest opponent being Republican Rep. Dana Young. When I ask why he's angry, he is up from his desk and pointing at stacks of press clippings and other damning documents laid out on a table in precise piles....

  12. Can you spell "commission?"


    Candidates in the crowded District 6 race for the Hillsborough County Commission have a potential new campaign slogan against a former commissioner hoping for a comeback:

    Jim Norman Can’t Even Spell County Commission!

    Norman, a former state senator who withdrew from re-election in 2012 after an ethics scandal, is now running for a county seat against Democrats Tom Scott, John Dicks, Pat Kemp and Brian Willis and fellow Republican Tim Schock....

    Hillsborough County Commission candidate Jim Norman's
  13. Carlton: What Stacy would want you to know


    When someone you know dies unexpectedly and too young, you tend to make them larger than life, maybe to hold on to the best things about them.

    But with Stacy Frank, there was no need. Stacy spoke for herself.

    If you knew her you felt one way or the other about her — no gray area. She was a political wonk who took wonking up a notch, a fierce Democrat on the phone to friends mornings after absorbing her newspapers and cable news. She fished and boated and loved everything about Florida, except the politics and politicians who seem determined to hurt it....

    Stacy Frank, a non-smoker, died six months after a lung cancer diagnosis.
  14. Carlton: The politics of jury duty, pontificating and Prince


    If you think only working stiffs and people without courthouse connections get stuck with jury duty, consider this:

    Among the Hillsborough County citizens summoned to show up Monday morning is Mark Ober, who would have to take the day off from being the state attorney.

    You know, the elected official responsible for the criminal charges faced by people going on trial.

    One could assume Ober would have a pretty good excuse for ducking jury duty — not to mention some useful courthouse connections....

  15. Carlton: Tampa Bay's new urban frontier: up, with a view

    Economic Development

    First, it was the water, or more specifically, the waterfront.

    Florida long ago realized the huge value in simply allowing people to see it — from epic views of the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico to riverfronts, lakesides and the occasional overhyped, alligator-infested borrow pit beside a restaurant. St. Petersburg has known forever what Tampa's just starting to pick up: Parks, bistro tables and walks on your waterfront can really pack a place....