CASE AFFECTS RACE: After an incumbent judge rules that Terri Schiavo's feeding tube should be removed, he faces his first opposition in twelve years on the bench.
By WILLIAM R. LEVESQUE
Published August 24, 2004
The divisive Terri Schiavo case hangs over the race for the Group 18 Pinellas-Pasco judicial seat.
Incumbent Circuit Judge George W. Greer, who ruled that Schiavo's feeding tube should be removed, faces his first contested judicial race after 12 years on the bench. The challenger is political newcomer Jan Govan.
The candidates are prohibited from talking about continuing cases by rules governing judicial races. But Schiavo is certainly the unspoken issue in the race, and some who oppose the removal of her feeding tube are rallying around Govan.
Greer said, "It has been difficult not be to able to defend myself. As a judge, it just goes with the territory."
Greer, who served eight years as a county commissioner before becoming a judge, has served stints in every area of the Circuit Court since he first took office, including criminal, civil and family courts. He also has been the probate administrative judge.
"I believe I have been fair, hard-working and professional in my dealings with lawyers, litigants and witnesses," Greer said in a platform statement.
Greer, 62, first ran for a County Commission seat on a platform of opposition to construction of a stadium in downtown St. Petersburg.
In 2001 and 2004, the Clearwater Bar Association awarded Greer its John U. Bird Distinguished Jurist Award.
Govan, 48, a Clearwater sole practitioner, decided to run a month after Greer denied Govan permission to collect more than $50,000 in legal fees for his work defending the estate against a lawsuit.
Govan said he isn't running because of that.
Govan said he is running because he thinks voters deserve a choice rather than allow an incumbent to run unopposed. And he said, "This particular court has caused what I thought was a wound in the confidence of the public." During the campaign, Greer accused Govan of trying to hide the fact that he is male in advertisements and on his Web page, which contains no pictures of the candidate or reference to his gender. Govan denied doing so.
Many people believe female candidates in judicial campaigns get a slight edge at the polls.
Pinellas-Pasco Circuit judges are elected on a nonpartisan basis for a six-year term. They preside over criminal and civil cases in Pinellas and Pasco counties. They might handle felonies, family law, juvenile cases and lawsuits alleging damages in excess of $15,000. The job pays $134,649 a year.
GEORGE W. GREER, 62, is a circuit judge who sits in probate court. Born in New York City, he and his family moved to Pinellas County when he was 4. Greer graduated from St. Petersburg Junior College and then earned a business degree from Florida State University. He earned a law degree from the University of Florida and was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1966. He was a Pinellas County commissioner from 1984 to 1992. Greer is married and has two children. ASSETS: home, stock, mutual fund, savings. LIABILITIES: mortgage. SOURCE OF INCOME: salary.
JAN T. GOVAN, 48, is a sole practitioner who has never held political office. A Florida resident since 1967, Govan is a graduate of Clearwater High School. Govan graduated from the University of Florida with a political science degree. He also earned a master's from the University of South Florida in public administration and in 1983 earned his law degree from the Stetson University College of Law. He is married and has two children. ASSETS: home, money market account, stock, practice, cash. LIABILITIES: mortgage, car loan, building loan. SOURCE OF INCOME: practice. WEB SITE: www.jangovan.com E-MAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org