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Sixth Circuit candidates for judge vary in experience

Published May 2, 2014

With a handful of judges retiring from the circuit that includes Pinellas and Pasco counties, nearly a dozen newcomers say they are ready to take their places.

Here's a look at those who already have announced for circuit judge positions, though it's possible more could file before today's noon deadline.

Group 1, replacing Judge Lauren Laughlin

Laura Snell, 34, said, "I believe I'm the most well-rounded candidate in the race." She heads the Pinellas-Pasco Public Defender's juvenile division and spent a year in private practice. Snell, who is single, is proud of her community service, including serving as president of the board of the PACE Center for Girls.

Susan St. John, 40, went to the Army after high school, serving as a parachute rigger. After college and law school, she joined the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office, where she now handles gang prosecutions. St. John, who is single, has a 20-year-old disabled son whom she said has taught her patience. She has been active in raising money for fallen police officers.

Group 2, replacing Judge Raymond Gross

Ken Lark, 55, went to law school at Florida State University. He went on to start his own practice, where he does guardianship and probate litigation, medical malpractice and health law. He also works as a mediator, recently remarried and is a volunteer community lawyer with the St. Petersburg Housing Authority.

Alicia Polk, 36, was born in Dade City and went to Stetson University College of Law. She started as a prosecutor, then went into private practice, where she concentrates on family, civil and criminal defense law. Married with two young boys, Polk says she is family oriented. She is president of the Academy at the Farm Charter School's parent-teacher support group and serves on its board.

Alan Scott Rosenthal, 43, was born in the Bronx, grew up in Coral Springs and went to Stetson University College of Law. He has practiced for more than 16 years and worked in criminal, civil, probate, dependency, personal injury, foreclosure defense and bankruptcy law. Married with two children, he is a musician, a martial artist, a member of Shriners International and a woodworker.

Group 16, replacing Judge Walt Logan

Brian Battaglia, 53, said, "I think experience matters, and this month actually marks my 28th year of practicing in this circuit." He handles civil litigation, contracts, business law, land use and health law. He also has been president of the Community Law Program and a UPARC Foundation board member. He is married with two sons.

Kimberly Sharpe, 33, said that as a judge, "You want lawyers who have been in the courtroom . . . and I have done more of that in a much shorter period of time." She said becoming a partner at a prominent Clearwater law firm within five years gave her "a very intense education in litigation." Sharpe, who is single, has been a board member of Clearwater's Homeless Intervention Project.

Group 21, replacing Judge Stanley Mills

Amanda Lea Colon, 38, got her law degree from the University of Florida and has worked as a prosecutor and an assistant attorney general. She is versed in trial and appellate law, she said, and is a Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Law Mediator. She's married and has three daughters. She has had her own practice for a number of years.

Phil Matthey, 37, was a deputy in the Orange County Sheriff's Office before he was a prosecutor. He patrolled streets and worked traffic stops. But, he said, he wanted to have a bigger impact, so he went to Stetson University College of Law. He is an assistant state attorney and said his experience makes him the most qualified. He recently married and is active in various public service organizations.

Group 37, replacing Judge Timothy Peters

Jim Stearns, so far running unopposed, has been practicing law for 32 years and has a private practice in Dunedin. He has two college-age sons. The 57-year-old feels it's time to take his career to its next logical step. He has experience, he said, with many types of law, and he said he has always been drawn to public service.