St. Petersburg Times Online: Business

Weather | Sports | Forums | Comics | Classifieds | Calendar | Movies


Two well-regarded lawyers: Both finalists have varied experiences and a personal message they bring to the table.

Published October 26, 2004

The race for Group 11 county judge pits two well-regarded lawyers against one another.

Liz Rice and Henry Gill have a range of experiences both professionally and in their volunteer work.

Rice won 48.5 percent of the vote in the August primary. Henry Gill received 25.95 percent, placing just ahead of Tampa lawyer Brad Souders, who garnered 25.6 percent.

Since none of the candidates received more than 50 percent of the votes, the top two run off in the Nov. 2 general election. The winner will replace Judge Elvin Martinez, who is retiring.

Rice has practiced mostly in the area of commercial litigation, insolvency and bankruptcy. She also isactive with the Florida Bar and is intent on improving the public image of lawyers and encouraging others in her profession to do the same.

This is Rice's first run for public office. The rules against judicial candidates expressing opinions on how they would rule on certain issues provides a challenge when speaking with voters, she said.

"I try to make a personal connection, show them who I am and where I came from," she said.

In the past 40 years, Gill has worn many hats, including captain in the Naval Reserve, assistant U.S. attorney and the Department of Energy's deputy general counsel for litigation.

He has handled litigation involving sex discrimination, fraud, environmental law and civil rights. For his handling of a federal torts case out of Utah in the 1980s, he won the U.S. Justice Department's John Marshall Award for Outstanding Legal Achievement.

In 2002 he stepped in to become interim head of the Hillsborough County Democratic Party after the death of longtime party leader Mike Scionti. In 2000, he ran for state House District 56, but was defeated by Republican Sandra Murman.

Gill has volunteered for the county's elder justice center and the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Sacred Heart Church. He has received endorsements from the local branch of the AFL-CIO, Citizens for Better Courts and the Consumer Action Network, among others.

Gill acknowledged that the gap between himself and Rice in the primary election was significant. But he felt that the extra weeks of campaigning have helped him make the race much closer.

"Everywhere I go, I get a very positive response to my message," he said. "We have different constituencies. It will come down to who gets the most of their constituency out to the polls."


HENRY GILL, 65, served for 10 years in the Navy and another 20 in the Reserve, retiring as a captain. Gill has a bachelor's degree from Boston College and law degree from Georgetown University. He worked as an administrative assistant for the chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. He then worked as an assistant U.S. attorney there and as an attorney for the Department of Energy. He came to Tampa in 1990 to head the legal division of the Resolution Trust Corp. For three years he was an assistant attorney general in Central Florida in charge of civil litigation, and came out of retirement in 1999 to join the Chubb Group of Insurance Cos. He ran unsuccessfully for the state House in 2000. He was chairman of the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee from September 2002 to April 2003. He is married with three grown children. ASSETS: home, condominium, 401k. LIABILITIES: mortgage. SOURCE OF INCOME: salary, federal retirement pension. WEB SITE: E-MAIL:

LIZ RICE, 40, worked for the Tampa firm of Hill Ward & Henderson before joining Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson, where she is a shareholder. She received her bachelor's and law degrees from the University of Florida. Rice has been active with the Florida Bar for many years, including a term as president of the Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division. She was given the Most Outstanding Young Lawyer Award for 1997-1998 by the Hillsborough County Bar Association's Young Lawyers Division. Rice is married and has two children. ASSETS: home, money market account, stocks, 401k/profit sharing. LIABILITIES: mortgage. SOURCE OF INCOME: salary. WEB SITE: E-MAIL:


County judges are elected on a nonpartisan basis to six-year terms. They hear some traffic offenses, misdemeanor criminal cases and civil suits involving less than $15,000. The job pays $121,325 a year.
© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.