On Tuesday, voters will get a chance to judge the judges. They will decide whether six 2nd District Court of Appeal judges should remain on the bench in Lakeland another six years.
Under the "merit retention" system approved in November 1976, voters decide whether Florida Supreme Court justices and District Court of Appeal judges are doing a good job. On the ballot, the judges' names appear with the words "yes" or "no" beside them.
Before merit retention, the judges and justices had to run for re-election. Critics complained that judges might favor lawyers who contributed to their campaigns. They also said the judges, who are expected to be objective, were drawn into politics as a result of the elections.
Merit retention "takes the judges out of politics," said Charlie Weeks, the marshal for the 2nd District Court of Appeal. "They don't have to campaign and go out and ask for funds. They're not beholden."
Judges are forbidden from actively campaigning unless their records are criticized by interest groups or individuals. If challenged, the judges can defend their performance.
Judges can be removed by the Florida Supreme Court or by voters during merit retention votes. If voters reject a judge, a nominating commission would send a list of three candidates to the governor, who would select someone to fill the seat. So far, voters have not been angry enough to remove any of the judges in Florida.
Weeks said none of the judges on the ballot Tuesday face much criticism.
"There's nothing controversial about them," he said.
The judges are: Chris W. Altenbernd, Paul W. Danahy Jr., James E. Lehan, Jerry R. Parker, David F. Patterson and Herboth S. Ryder.
_ MARK JOURNEY
The 2nd District Court of Appeal is based in Lakeland and includes Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, Polk, Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands and Lee counties. The judges are paid $91,782 a year. They hear appeals of cases that cannot be appealed directly to the Supreme Court or to a circuit court.
CHRIS W. ALTENBERND, 41, graduated from Muscatine High School in Iowa in 1967. He earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Missouri in 1972 and three years later graduated from Harvard Law School. From 1975 to 1988, he practiced law in Tampa with Fowler, White, Gillen, Boggs, Villareal & Banker. Altenbernd was a member of the firm's board of directors from 1985 to 1988. He has served on the 2nd District Court of Appeal since January 1989. He is married. ASSETS: Home, vacation home, mutual fund, stocks. LIABILITIES: Loans. INCOME: Salary, interest dividends.
PAUL W. DANAHY JR., 62, graduated from Hopkinton High School in Massachusetts in 1946. He earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Tampa in 1951 and a law degree from the University of Florida in 1957. Danahy started his career as an assistant attorney general. From 1966 to 1974, he was a state representative. Later, he was an adjunct professor at Stetson University College of Law. He was a judge in the 13th Judicial Circuit from 1975 to 1977, when he became a judge on the 2nd District Court of Appeal. He is married and has three children. ASSETS: Home, government bonds, life insurance, savings account, individual retirement account. LIABILITIES: Loans. INCOME: Salary, government securities, investments.
JAMES E. LEHAN, 61, received bachelor's and law degrees from the University of Virginia. Lehan worked in private practice in Tampa from 1957 to 1982, when he was appointed to the 2nd District Court of Appeal. He is married and has three children. ASSETS: Individual retirement account, stocks, real estate. LIABILITIES: None. INCOME: Dividends, salary.
JERRY R. PARKER, 50, graduated from Bristow High School in Oklahoma in 1958. He earned bachelor's and law degrees from the University of Oklahoma. From 1966 to 1973, Parker was a special agent with the FBI. He was a Pinellas-Pasco assistant state attorney until 1976, when he was elected a Pinellas County judge.Parker was appointed to a seat on the 6th Judicial Circuit in 1981 and to the 2nd District Court of Appeal in 1988. He is married and has two children. ASSETS: Home, cars, boat, checking and savings accounts, individual retirement account. LIABILITIES: Mortgage, bank loans. INCOME: Salary.
DAVID F. PATTERSON, 51, graduated from high school in Pinellas County in 1957. He earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Florida in 1962 and a law degree from Stetson University College of Law in 1964. From 1964 until 1972, Patterson worked in private practice in St. Petersburg. He was a judge in the 6th Judicial Circuit from 1973 to 1988. In January 1989, he began working as a 2nd District Court of Appeal judge. He is married and has two children. ASSETS: Home, individual retirement account, cash, stocks. LIABILITIES: Loans. INCOME: Salary.
HERBOTH S. RYDER, 62, graduated from Leon High School in Tallahassee in 1946. He earned a bachelor's degree from Florida State University in 1950 and a law degree from the University of Florida in 1959. Ryder worked as a prosecutor or was in private practice until he became a judge in the Hillsborough County Court of Record in 1971. In 1972, he was elected judge in the 13th Judicial Circuit. He was appointed to the 2nd District Court of Appeal in 1977. Ryder is married and has two children. ASSETS: Home, other real estate, cash, insurance, retirement funds. LIABILITIES: Mortgage, loans. INCOME: Salary.