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6 finalists named for circuit judge

The governor will select one to fill the seat of Craig C. Villanti, who was appointed last month to a state appeals court.

By CARY DAVIS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 11, 2003

Six finalists were nominated Thursday to fill a vacancy on the Pasco-Pinellas circuit bench created when Judge Craig C. Villanti was appointed last month to a state appeals court.

The finalists are: Pinellas County Judge Michael Andrews; Joe Lovelace, a special master who hears family law matters in Pinellas; Paul Firmani, the chief public defender in Pasco; Donald Horrox, a federal public defender in Tampa; Declan Mansfield, a New Port Richey criminal defense and personal injury lawyer; and Joan Vecchioli, a Clearwater labor attorney.

The finalists were selected by the 6th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission from among 30 applicants.

The commission interviewed all 30 applicants on Wednesday before narrowing the list to six finalists, the maximum allowed by law.

"They're all very highly qualified," said Susan Bedinghaus, chairwoman of the nominating commission.

The commission was required to submit between three and six names to Gov. Jeb Bush. He has 60 days to make an appointment from among the finalists.

The job pays $133,250 annually.

The governor's selection could be assigned to any courthouse in the 6th Circuit, which encompasses both Pasco and Pinellas counties. However, the new judge almost certainly would serve in the New Port Richey courthouse, filling the open seat created when Bush elevated Villanti in March to the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Lakeland.

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