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Graham soothes relations with Bar

Though the relationship has a stormy past, it was all sunshine and smiles Thursday afternoon as County Judge Gary Graham addressed the county's lawyers. The judge explained his ideas on sentencing and courtroom procedures during the 90-minute luncheon with the Citrus County Bar Association. Equally important to the advocates, though, was what Graham called his attempt to "establish a closer communication with the Bar."

"I think open communication is a step in the right direction," Inverness lawyer Joseph Indelicato said after the luncheon.

In late August, just days before the county judge election, Graham skipped a Bar luncheon where he and opponent Charles Horn were scheduled to speak and answer questions.

Graham, citing a busy docket, said at the time that "court business is more important than politics."

Earlier during his term on the bench, Graham likened members of the legal community to a group of squalling babies. The comment prompted a stinging letter from the Bar Association and, subsequently, a lukewarm apology from Graham.

Now Graham says he plans to meet with Bar members quarterly. He said, though, that the meetings would be in a private hall and off-limits to the media.

With a bright sun shining outside Andre's of Citrus Hills restaurant, Graham explained the typical sentences he issues to criminal defendants charged with misdemeanor and traffic offenses.

The judge emphasized, though, that defendants who hurt people or are a danger to society can expect stiff sentences in his courtroom.

Graham also said that, when considering a sentence, he likes to see the defendant recognize his crime, show remorse and actively seek rehabilitation.

He also tried to dispel the notion that he likes to put people in jail.

"Folks, that's the worst part of my job. I hate it," he said.