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Candidate replies

By SANDY HAWKINS and JEFF KIRK
Published October 28, 2006


Sandy Hawkins, Circuit Court Judge, Group 29

When I filed for the position, I believed that the judicial race would be one that consisted of the professionalism expected of any member of the Florida Bar. I have concentrated my literature, ads, and speeches on my life and legal experiences that I feel would make me the best candidate for judge. I've always treated all judicial candidates with courtesy and respect, and have never attacked Edward Scott's credentials. I have now been placed in a defensive position because of his recent ads and statements.

Mr. Scott published an ad that is misleading or untrue. It states that he qualifies as a candidate because he has litigated before the Supreme Court. Although Mr. Scott was present at the Supreme Court hearing, that case was argued by John Crabtree, as evidenced by the transcript of the hearing. Mr. Scott was among three attorneys who filed the appellate brief.

To qualify for candidacy, an attorney must be a member of the Florida Bar for five years, a resident and elector of the circuit upon taking office, file necessary forms and oaths, and pay the qualifying fee. There is no additional criteria that enables candidates to state that they are "more qualified" or "the most qualified" person for the bench, as Mr. Scott has stated on occasion.

Licensed attorneys have undergone extensive training in civil and criminal law at both the state and federal levels. They develop research and writing skills that will be used in filing court documents, motions to the court, and writing appellate briefs. They have passed a bar exam that tests their knowledge of all areas of the law and the procedures necessary to navigate cases through the court system. An attorney has the option of choosing to "specialize" in one area of law, or to be a "general practitioner." Electing to do one or the other does not negate one's ability to be proficient in matters concerning all areas of the law and legal system.

Many judges who sit or have sat on the bench chose to practice solely in either criminal or civil law. Because of attorney's legal background and training, this choice did not limit or deter the ability to be a good judge when making decisions, no matter what docket assigned. A judge is charged with following the law in a fair and impartial manner.

Mr. Scott's ad also seeks to undermine my abilities by stating that I have no civil trial experience, appellate experience, experience in divorce and child custody matters, or experience in complex litigation. He did not search far enough before publishing these untrue statements.

The six children that I have spoken of during my campaign are my own children whom I raised as a single parent for the past 17 years, and do not include three stepchildren from a second marriage whom I helped raise.

I have endured for many years the problems of raging testosterone levels that accompany boys. Mr. Scott did not have to work two jobs while attending both college and law school with no spouse or partner at home to help when both mentally and physically exhausted. I worked, studied or went to school seven days a week, sleeping two to four hours a night, and still had my responsibilities to my home and children.

I had to struggle with my finances, time and schedule to accommodate all our needs. I have stood in food stamp lines so that my boys would have food to eat, and was grateful that they had free breakfast and lunch at school. I was in the Shands burn unit for a month after an accident, having to watch as they cut the skin from my the right side of body, and enduring the daily scrubbings of my ravaged body. My face was charcoaled, with no hair on my eyelids or eyebrow, and most of the hair on my head gone. I underwent intensive therapy afterwards to learn to walk and reuse my arm and hand. I was still in the healing process when I went back to work wearing garments designed to protect my injuries. This is a short version of my some of my life experiences. I've been there and done that!

A judge deals with real people who have real problems. As an Assistant State Attorney of nine years, I've been involved with domestic violence relationships, in both civil and criminal court. I've worked with DCF and have attended shelter hearings. I have processed thousands of cases, have been in the courtroom thousands of hours.

Like everything else in my life, I strive to accomplish my goal with hard work and on my own merits. I believe that my life experiences as a mother, a homemaker and an attorney will be an asset to the bench when making decisions that affect the lives of others.

Jeff Kirk, Circuit Court Judge, Group 31

Our society has placed immense responsibility on our general trial judges. They must decide issues of life, death and deprivation of liberty in criminal cases. On the civil side, circuit judges must also decide issues of child custody and may be responsible for dividing up the pieces of a broken marriage. They must decide civil disputes that can result in judgments in the millions of dollars and which can effectively put a company out of business or leave people and families destitute.

They must decide disputes regarding all of the "quality of life" issues, including planning decisions of federal, state and local governments. They are the "check and balance" in our governmental system when the legislative or executive branches exceed or breach their respective authorities.

It is with this understanding and with an appreciation of the enormity of these responsibilities that I entered the race for Circuit Judge, Group 31.

I ask the voters to please rate the candidates in the Group 31 race in the three most important categories: education, legal experience and public service.

Education - top 5 percent of my class at the University of Miami School of Law.

Legal experience - 15 years as a practicing attorney including having been involved in complicated multimillion-dollar litigation while working in prominent Miami law firms and with high profile cases while at the state land planning agency and Hernando County Attorney's Office, combined with the high success rate I have enjoyed while practicing under public and media scrutiny.

Public service - 14 years as an elected councilman for the city of Homestead, which has made me able to listen compassionately, yet make difficult decisions, some of which were unpopular.

In each category, I am by far the most qualified candidate in Group 31. I humbly ask for your vote.