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    Pinellas lawyer to run for judgeship

    By WILLIAM R. LEVESQUE, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published May 17, 2002

    A St. Petersburg lawyer who lost a close 1996 election for a Pinellas-Pasco judgeship announced a second run for office Thursday.

    Sarah M. Chaves, 52, who specializes in family law, is the third lawyer to announce a run for the circuit judgeship, which is opening up because of Maynard Swanson's retirement in Dade City after nearly 25 years in office.

    Voters from both Pinellas and Pasco counties will elect a winner.

    "I've wanted to be a judge for a while," Chaves said. "I think it's important that we have good family law judges. Over 50 percent of the civil cases filed involve family law."

    Yet, the specialty is not popular with attorneys and judges, she said. In fact, new judges are often assigned to family court because judges with seniority don't want to hear such cases, she said.

    "With my background, it's a natural fit," Chaves said. "Of course, I'm not averse to doing anything else."

    In 1996, Chaves lost election to the circuit bench by 1,100 votes in a race against Mark Shames.

    In this race, she faces Pinellas lawyer George Brown, who himself lost a close election to the Pinellas County bench against Amy Williams in 1998. Dade City prosecutor Linda Babb also has announced a run for the seat.

    Born in Mississippi, Chaves graduated from Stetson University College of Law in 1982, where she was an editor of the law review and graduated cum laude. She is a former law clerk for the chief judge of the 2nd District Court of Appeal.

    She also is a graduate with a bachelor of arts degree in sociology from Midwestern University.

    Chaves has four children, including two stepchildren. She lives in St. Petersburg with her husband Stephen Nohlgren, who is a reporter for the St. Petersburg Times.

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