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Group 3 Hillsborough County Judge

An incumbent points to the wide variety of cases she has handled, while her challenger seeks a chance to "make a difference.''

By SUE CARLTON

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 1, 2000


In September, County Judge Joelle Ann Ober emerged as the frontrunner in the race to keep her seat on the Hillsborough bench. Now she faces former prosecutor Nick Nazaretian in the Tuesday runoff.

Ober, a former prosecutor and assistant public defender, was first elected in 1996. For more than a year, she handled only domestic violence cases in a special court division designed to handle those notoriously difficult matters.

She hopes voters will consider the thousands of cases she has handled as a judge, including dozens of jury trials ranging from battery to DUI. Her latest cases have explored the legal issues of lap dancing and rave clubs.

"We're public servants," Ober said of county judges. "And I feel I've been effective at service to my community."

Her challenger is a longtime prosecutor who quit to run for judge. Nazaretian also was an assistant public defender for three years. As a prosecutor, he handled felony cases including first-degree murders and supervised other lawyers as a division chief. Nazaretian has made news playing Santa Claus for charity events and hosting a public access show called Crimestoppers. He also is a board-certified criminal lawyer.

Why does he want to be a judge? "As corny as it sounds, to make a difference," he said. "I've done it as a prosecutor, I've done it as a public defender, and now it's time to do it as a judge."

THE JOB

County judges are elected in non-partisan races to six-year terms. They hear some traffic offenses, misdemeanor criminal cases and civil suits involving less than $15,000. They earn $117,000 a year.

CANDIDATES

NICK NAZARETIAN, 39, was a Hillsborough prosecutor before he resigned to run for judge. Born in Alabama, he attended the University of Alabama and Nova University Law School and holds marketing and criminal justice degrees from the University of South Florida. He was an assistant state attorney for 10 years and was felony division chief. He is the host of a public access TV show, Crimestoppers. He is married. ASSETS: CD, savings. LIABILITIES: student loans, bank loan. SOURCE OF INCOME: savings, salary and law practice.

JOELLE ANN OBER, 43, has been a Hillsborough County judge since 1996. Born in Staten Island, N.Y., she attended the University of South Florida and South Texas College of Law. She worked as a prosecutor and an assistant public defender before going into private practice in 1993. Ober serves on the Council of Florida Domestic Violence Judges and is active in the Hillsborough Association of Women Lawyers and Leadership Hillsborough. She is single. ASSETS: real estate, condominium, savings. LIABILITIES: mortgages. SOURCE OF INCOME: judicial salary.

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