St. Petersburg Times
Print storySubscribe to the Times


Group 13 Pinellas County Judge

One vs. one: Two lawyers, both of whom guessed there would be no incumbent, hope to reach the county bench.

Published August 24, 2004

In the race for Pinellas County judge Group 13, both candidates took a guess that the incumbent wouldn't be around for the Aug. 31 primary.

Lawyers Kathleen Hessinger and Robert "Bo" Michael figured Pinellas County Judge Amy Williams was about to be appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush to the circuit bench to replace Judge Charles Cope, who resigned.

Williams said Hessinger and Michael both told her they would step out of the race if that didn't happen. Well, it did.

The result is a race for an open seat with just two candidates. That compares with the five vying for the seat opened with Circuit Judge Tom Penick's retirement.

Michael, a St. Petersburg attorney, is making his third run for a judgeship since 2000. His father, Robert F. Michael, was a retired Pinellas-Pasco Circuit judge.

Michael worked for six months ending in June as an assistant state attorney general working on child support enforcement actions. Previously, he has worked for several law firms doing personal injury work and has worked on class-action lawsuits.

Michael said his experience working with people is superior to his opponent, who he said has worked representing insurance companies and nursing homes. He said dealing with people is an important part of County Court.

"I consider myself a people person," Michael said. "And so many people in County Court represent themselves. They don't have a clue about what's going on."

Hessinger, also a St. Petersburg attorney, is making her first run for public office. Her husband, Tim Hessinger, works as a felony prosecutor for State Attorney Bernie McCabe.

Last year, Hessinger was one of five finalists recommended to Gov. Jeb Bush by the local Judicial Nominating Commission to fill a County Court seat.

Hessinger worked three years as a Pinellas prosecutor before entering private practice. She also has held the position of adjunct professor at the Stetson University College of Law. She currently specializes in medical malpractice litigation.

She also said she has the right skills for county court. "People in county court need to know they have had their day in court and the judge will listen to them," she said. "The judicial system does work in the end."


County judges preside over criminal traffic and misdemeanor cases and civil traffic infractions. They also handle civil suits that involve claims for less than $15,000. They are elected on a nonpartisan basis to four-year terms and earn $121,325 per year.


KATHLEEN HESSINGER, 39, is a Florida native who says her practice is devoted entirely to litigation. She graduated from Florida Southern College, majoring in political science. She earned her law degree from the Stetson University College of Law in 1990. She has helped train Stetson students in mock trial competitions. She was a Pinellas prosecutor from 1990 to 1993 before entering private practice. She now works for the law firm of Deacon and Moulds. She is married and has a child. ASSETS: home, car, shares in law firm, investments. LIABILITIES: mortgage, car loan, law firm liability. SOURCE OF INCOME: salary.

ROBERT "BO" MICHAEL, 44, is a St. Petersburg attorney and a lifelong resident of the city. Michael graduated from Stetson University and earned a law degree from the University of South Carolina College of Law. He has worked in both civil and criminal law. He left a position as an assistant state attorney general to run for office. He is the son of retired Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Robert Michael. He and his wife, Linda, live in St. Petersburg with their four children. ASSETS: home, investments. LIABILITIES: mortgage, bank loan. SOURCE OF INCOME: salary, trust. E-MAIL:

[Last modified August 23, 2004, 16:56:41]

Know your candidates

  • Citrus: November races
  • District 1 Citrus County Commission
  • District 5 Citrus County Commission
  • District 5 County School Board Citrus
  • Judge Citrus County
  • District 4 Citrus County School Board

  • Citrus-Hernando
  • U.S. Representative, 5th Congressional District

  • Hernando
  • District 1 Hernando County Commisssion
  • District 2 Hernando School Board
  • District 3 Hernando County Commission
  • District 4 Hernando County School Board
  • District 5 Hernando County Commission
  • Hernando precinct locations
  • Hernando: November races
  • Judge Hernando County

  • Hillsborough
  • District 1 Hillsborough County School Board
  • Supervisor of Elections Hillsborough County
  • 3th Judicial Circuit Group 17
  • County Clerk of Court Hillsborough
  • District 2 County Commission Hillsborough
  • District 4 Hillsborough County Commissioner
  • District 47 State House
  • District 5 Hillsborough County School Board
  • District 56 State House
  • District 6 Hillsborough County Commission
  • District 7 County School Board Hillsborough
  • District 7 Hillsborough County Commission
  • Group 10 Hillsborough County Judge
  • Group 11 Hillsborough County Judge
  • Group 13 Hillsborough County Judge
  • Group 15 Hillsborough County Judge
  • Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections
  • Property Appraiser Hillsborough
  • Sheriff Hillsborough County
  • State Attorney Hillsborough
  • State House District 60
  • Temple Terrace Charter Amendment
  • Without opposition
  • District 62 State House

  • North Suncoast
  • Group 10, Fifth Judicial Circuit
  • Group 24, Fifth Judicial Circuit

  • Pasco
  • District 2 School Board Pasco
  • District 3 Pasco County Commission
  • District 4 County School Board Pasco
  • District 4 Pasco County Judge
  • District 46 State House
  • Pasco precinct locations
  • Pasco Superintendent of Schools
  • Pasco: November races

  • Pinellas
  • District 1 County Commission at-Large Pinellas
  • District 1 Pinellas School Board
  • District 5 Pinellas County School Board
  • Group 1 Pinellas County Judge
  • Group 13 Pinellas County Judge
  • Pinellas Clerk of Circuit Court
  • Pinellas November races
  • Sheriff Pinellas County

  • State
  • Democrats: U.S. Senate
  • Republicans: U.S. Senate

  • Tampa Bay
  • Congressional District 9
  • Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court Group 18
  • U.S. House District 12
  • Circuit Court Judge Group 22 Pinellas-Pasco
  • Back to Top

    © 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
    490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111