A Times Editorial
© St. Petersburg Times, published October 16, 2000
Leland Anne Baldwin for circuit judge, Group 25
Both candidates, Leland Anne Baldwin and Robert A. Foster Jr., are experienced trial attorneys who balance their professional life with community service. Either could serve competently on the bench. Yet Baldwin is the better choice. She displays a more thoughtful legal mind, seems more independent and likely would grow more versatile as a jurist.
Baldwin, 37, served nearly 10 years as a prosecutor in Hillsborough County. She is best known for winning convictions against three young people accused of knocking down a stop sign and causing three traffic deaths. Born in Gainesville and educated at Tulane University in New Orleans and the University of Florida College of Law, Baldwin brings strong academic credentials. She spent four years practicing civil law in the private sector, has worked with youth sports, safety and literacy groups and served as an officer of several social organizations.
Foster, 53, has deep roots in Tampa and is a longtime family law attorney. He graduated from the University of South Florida and the South Texas College of Law. Foster is active in environmental causes and volunteers as a Little League baseball coach. Yet he offers an uninspiring rationale for seeking a judgeship. His practice of representing law enforcement personnel at "significantly" reduced rates raises concern about the biases Foster would bring to office.
Baldwin's strength is not necessarily her criminal experience, for ex-prosecutors abound on the bench. Rather, she is smart, energetic and intuitive, qualities any rookie judge needs to mature. The nonpartisan race is open to all Hillsborough voters. The Times recommends Leland Anne Baldwin.
Since becoming a county judge four years ago, Ann Ober has served with distinction both inside and outside the courtroom. She deserves another term.
Ober, 43, worked as both a prosecutor and public defender before moving to the bench, giving her a balanced view of the criminal court system. She knows how to move the crushing caseload of County Court. She is credited by local attorneys for being diligent, decisive and evenhanded. In a courthouse mired in petty politics and scandal, Ober stays outside the corrupting fray. She also is a goodwill ambassador for the court, speaking to many school and civic groups and working statewide to reduce domestic violence.
Challenger Nick Nazaretian, 39, also worked as a prosecutor and public defender. Nazaretian has the experience to do a capable job, and his maturity and personable nature would be reassuring to the thousands of citizens whose only taste of the law comes through the relatively mundane proceedings of County Court.
But voters have no reason to replace a good and experienced jurist. Ober's temperament, ethics and community service reflect well on a judiciary in which public confidence has slipped. The Times recommends Ann Ober.