Look who wants to be judge: 30 apply
By CARY DAVIS, Times Staff Writer
A high-profile career prosecutor and three county judges are among more than two dozen applicants seeking to replace Craig C. Villanti on the Pasco-Pinellas circuit bench.
The list of 30 applicants also includes the chief public defender in Pasco and six area lawyers who ran unsuccessfully for circuit judgeships last year.
The opening was created this month when Villanti, a circuit judge based in New Port Richey for the past 10 years, was appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush to the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Lakeland.
To the public, Mike Halkitis is perhaps the most recognizable of the applicants. The longtime chief of the west Pasco division of the State Attorney's Office, Halkitis has earned a reputation as a tenacious and highly successful prosecutor. He has prosecuted dozens of high profile murder cases over the past two decades, securing convictions and death sentences against some of the county's most notorious killers, including Oscar Ray Bolin.
Pasco County Judge Debra Roberts, who was appointed to the bench by Bush in 2001, also has applied for Villanti's seat. Roberts is Pasco's first black judge and has been assigned temporarily to hear circuit felony cases until Villanti's replacement is named.
Two Pinellas County judges, Michael Andrews and Shawn Crane, also have applied for the opening.
Other notable applicants include Paul Firmani, the chief public defender in Pasco, and six lawyers who waged unsuccessful bids for circuit judgeships last year: Declan Mansfield, Robert "Bo" Michael, George H. Brown, Malinda Ottinger, William L. Vinson and Christopher E. Yeazell.
The list includes 19 applicants from Pinellas and 11 from Pasco. To qualify for consideration, applicants must live in Pasco or Pinellas counties, be a registered voter and be a member in good standing of the Florida Bar for at least five years.
The 6th Circuit Judicial Nominating Committee will interview all applicants April 9. The committee will then send a list of finalists to Bush. The governor will have 60 days to choose from among the finalists.
The job pays $133,250 annually.
From Pasco County, the applicants are: Paul E. Firmani, Philip M. Cohen, Allyson Hughes, Anne M. Villanueva, Declan Mansfield, Anne Wansboro, Michael Eric Rosario, Beverly Plummer, Paul A. Kaleel, County Judge Debra Roberts and Michael Halkitis.
From Pinellas County, the applicants are: County Judge Michael Andrews, George H. Brown, John E. Tuthill, Pamela D. Cichon, County Judge Shawn Crane, William L. Vinson, Elizabeth Hittos, Joseph A. Flannery, Malinda Ottinger, Robert "Bo" Michael, Christopher E. Yeazell, Robert A. Flowers, Nathaniel B. Kidder, Joe D. Lovelace, Donald E. Horrox, Andy B. Steingold, Audrey B. Rauchway, Rita L. Young and Joan M. Vecchioli.
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