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Lawyer files for county judgeship

Former Pinellas-Pasco Assistant State Attorney Declan Mansfield filed papers this week to run for the county court seat that Dan C. Rasmussen now holds.

Mansfield, 40, has practiced criminal law and been a partner in the New Port Richey firm of Bianco & Mansfield for the last year.

Before that, Mansfield worked four years for the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office. There, he was lead felony trial attorney and headed the misdemeanor and juvenile divisions in the state attorney's New Port Richey office.

Before coming to Pasco County, Mansfield worked as a prosecutor for eight years in Westchester County, New York. He received a bachelor's degree from Pace University in Pleasantville, N.Y., and a law degree from Fordham Law School in New York.

Mansfield, who lives in New Port Richey with his wife Catherine and their three children, said he has considered entering the non-partisan race for county judge for a "number of years."

In addition to his legal experience, Mansfield said his work coaching youth soccer, basketball, baseball and football has helped him develop the patience he thinks a judge needs.

"I think I am a fair person," Mansfield said. "I am even-tempered, and I think I have the ability to listen to both sides before making up my mind."

Mansfield declined to comment on Rasmussen's sometimes controversial tenure.

Rasmussen was first elected in 1972 and has made a reputation for dispensing stringent, even-handed justice, but his conduct on and off the bench has been called into question several times.

Last year, Rasmussen prompted a public outcry when he sentenced a man to six months in jail on a traffic offense and told the man to "stop whining" when he said his wife had been murdered a year before, leaving him to raise five daughters.

In 1989, Rasmussen made national headlines for a remark to a female traffic offender who asked for a postponement of her jail sentence so she could get an abortion. "Do you want a continuance so you can murder your baby, is that it?" Rasmussen asked her.

In 1987, Rasmussen was transferred to Pinellas County for a month, then returned to Pasco and heard only county civil cases for four months as the result of a criminal investigation into an unsubstantiated allegation that he committed a lewd act in front of a young girl.

Rasmussen denied the allegation, and no charges were filed.

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