Pinellas voters face two races for county court judge in the Aug. 30 primary election. County judges hear minor criminal and civil cases. The races are nonpartisan and open to all voters.
Dora Komninos is clearly the best choice in this race for an open seat. She has been the lead trial attorney for Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe's domestic violence unit since 2007. She supervises about a half-dozen younger lawyers in the unit and is known as a good mentor. She has extensive trial experience involving both misdemeanor and felony cases, and beyond domestic violence cases she has prosecuted other types of cases ranging from driving under the influence to murder.
Komninos, 40, received her bachelor's degree from the University of South Florida and her law degree from St. Thomas University. She has spent her legal career in the state attorney's office, where she has worked since 2002. She works well with domestic violence victims and is known as a good listener with an even temperament, which would serve her well as a judge.
Curtis Korsko, 43, received his bachelor's degree from the University of Florida and his law degree from Nova Southeastern University. He opened his own law practice in 2004 and works on contract for larger firms that represent creditors. From 2005 until March, he also served as a traffic hearing officer, spending a couple of nights a week presiding over cases ranging from red light violations to parking tickets. While that experience suggests Korsko may be comfortable managing heavy caseloads, concerns have been raised about his comments to women during traffic hearings. His recent work in private practice also is not as varied or as extensive as Komninos' work in the state attorney's office.
Korsko is largely self-financing his campaign, while Komninos' campaign has raised almost as much from a broad group of small contributors. For Pinellas County Court Group 8, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Dora Komninos.
Myriam Irizarry was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to the county bench last year. Like most new judges, she faced a learning curve in managing a busy courtroom and her lack of experience has raised concerns among both prosecutors and defense lawyers. But she is growing into the job after presiding over thousands of hearings, and there is no reason she should be replaced.
Irizarry, 61, was born in Puerto Rico and grew up in New York and New Jersey. She received her bachelor's and law degrees from Rutgers University and spent more than 25 years working for the Pinellas County clerk's office. As the clerk's counsel, she dealt with issues ranging from probate to criminal to civil issues.
In the last year, Irizarry has improved her management of a heavy caseload and has presided over more than 30 trials. She raised some eyebrows by breaking from common practice in Pinellas and personally visiting pools of potential jurors, which is permissible and often done in some other counties. Irizarry stopped this summer after hearing about the concerns.
Dwight Dudley, 62, is a credible candidate. He has had his own law practice for 20 years, primarily handling criminal cases and civil injunctions involving domestic violence. He received his bachelor's and law degrees from Florida State University.
Dudley has served for four years in the Florida House, and he has been a forceful advocate for issues ranging from repeal of the nuclear cost recovery fee to Medicaid expansion. He said his animated arguments in the Legislature, while suitable for the political arena, do not reflect the calmer demeanor he would have as a judge.
Irizarry, who adds diversity to local courthouses dominated by white judges, has only been on the bench for a year and deserves an opportunity to continue to improve. For Pinellas County Court Group 9, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Myriam Irizarry.