St. Petersburg Times Online: Business

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


Which experience better? Twowith a well-established legal career think that makes them worthy of a seat on the bench.

Published October 26, 2004

In the race for Pinellas-Pasco circuit judge Group 22, both candidates say their experience as attorneys sets them apart.

Cynthia Newton and Jack Day, the leading vote-getters in the Aug. 31 primary, are battling to replace retired Judge Thomas Penick Jr. Newton gathered the most votes in the primary in a field of five candidates, edging ahead of Day by 11,498 votes.

An assistant public defender in Pinellas-Pasco, Newton currently is assigned to Drug Court. Except for a short stint at a private St. Petersburg law firm, the San Jose, Calif., native has worked most of her 10-year legal career as a public defender here and in Ocala, Bradenton and Sarasota.

Newton graduated from the University of South Carolina with a degree in philosophy before earning a law degree from Gonzaga University in 1994.

The Police Benevolent Association and the Pinellas County Council of Firefighters have endorsed Newton, who notes she has extensive trial and courtroom experience.

"I've been working in the courtroom on a daily basis for 10 years," she said. Newton said she has more than 50 jury trials to her credit and has represented thousands of clients through the years.

Newton also touted the type of work she does as a public defender, which she says is a public service that does not involve billing clients.

In contrast to his opponent, Day said he has practiced in all areas of the law in a 27-year legal career, all of it in the Pinellas-Pasco circuit.

"I have the immersion and exposure in the law that she doesn't," Day said. "She's done one thing. There's nothing that comes up in circuit court that is alien to me."

He has been endorsed by the three other candidates who lost on Aug. 31: Walter "Skip" Schafer, Bill Vinson and Michael Berry Sr.

Day also has been endorsed by State Attorney Bernie McCabe and the Fraternal Order of Police.

Day has served as a mediator and arbitrator and is a former prosecutor in Sarasota, where he worked briefly after graduating from law school. A St. Petersburg native, Day holds the highest rating given to attorneys by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory and is board certified by the Florida Bar as a civil trial specialist.

JACK DAY, 56, is a St. Petersburg attorney and a founding board member of Gulf Coast Legal Services. He earned an undergraduate degree in English from the University of Florida and a law degree from the school in 1977. He started his career as a prosecutor in Sarasota before entering private practice with several firms in Pinellas County and Tampa. The bulk of his law work has been in negligence and personal injury law. He has done work for the St. Petersburg Times . He is married and has four children. ASSETS: Home, IRA, car, promissory note. LIABILITIES: Mortgage, family loan. SOURCE OF INCOME: Law practice. WEB SITE: E-MAIL:

CYNTHIA NEWTON, 37, is an assistant public defender in Pinellas-Pasco, currently assigned to drug court. She was an outstanding high school and college tennis player who earned full athletic scholarships to the University of Florida and the University of South Carolina, where she transferred to and graduated from in 1989 with a degree in philosophy. She earned her law degree from Gonzaga University Law School. Except for a half-year stint with a private firm, she has worked her entire career as a public defender representing indigent clients. Newton is single. ASSETS: Home, cash, IRA. LIABILITIES: Mortgage, student loans. SOURCE OF INCOME: Salary.


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.

© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.