Three private practice attorneys are vying to unseat incumbent Circuit Court Judge Sandy Kautz.
Mary Hatcher, Denise Lyn, Bo Samargya and Kautz are running in the non-partisan 5th Judicial Circuit, Group 3 race.
The Fifth Judicial Circuit covers a geographical area about the size of Connecticut and encompasses Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion, and Sumter counties.
The judge on this circuit typically handles family law cases and all four of those running are touting their experience in that area.
The seat involved in the primary is in Citrus County but voters who live in the entire circuit can vote because the judge hears cases in all five counties.
To win the primary, a candidate must receive 51 percent of the vote. If not, the top two vote getters will face each other in a run-off in the Nov. 4 general election.
Judges serve six-year terms and are paid $146,080 per year.
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Bo Samargya, 47, said his top priority is to “bring integrity back to the bench by following the rules that govern judges.”
“The citizens of this circuit deserve a judge that respects this position and treats those that appear before him with respect and fairness,” he said.
Samargya, currently with the law firm of Robitaille & Samargya in Ocala, has managed two law firms and, during his career in the private sector, handled cases in the arena of criminal, civil, divorce, real estate, wills and trusts and small claims.
“I bring more to the table than any of my opponents,” he said. “I’ve been a prosecutor on both sides of the aisle.”
Samargya, who lives in Ocala, is an active volunteer judge for the Marion County Teen Court and was a volunteer judge for the Hernando County Teen Court from 2008-2012.
He is a member of the Knights of Columbus in Marion County and the F&AM. He also participates as a volunteer at the annual Blessed Trinity Catholic School Carnival.
Samargya has an associate’s degree from the University of South Florida; bachelor’s degree in Business Administration Human Resource Management from the University of Central Florida; and a law degree from Oklahoma City University.
He served in the Army and was awarded the Army Achievement Medal and Good Conduct Medal.
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Mary Hatcher, 53, said she is the most qualified candidate because of her more than 25 years experience dealing with family law cases, working in the civil and criminal arena and the public-private sector.
“My strength is in the area of the law where most people come in contact with the judicial system,” she said.
Hatcher, who lives in Wildwood, is the owner of Mary Hatcher, P.A., in Bushnell. She got her bachelor’s degree from the University of Tampa and her law degree from Stetson University College of Law.
Prior to starting her own practice in 1999, Hatcher spent six years as a senior attorney for the Florida Department of Children and Families and worked as a staff attorney for the Sixth Circuit Court Judges in Dade City.
“Although 70 percent of my case load now is family law, since I began my practice in 1999, I have handled civil cases, probate and guardianship cases, personal injury, bankruptcy, collections, real estate, appeals, criminal including felonies and misdemeanors and traffic,” Hatcher said.
“My diverse background (would) allow me to serve justice in a compassionate and competent manner, with decisions based on substantive legal knowledge,” she said.
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Denise Lyn, 47, not only brings 16 years of legal experience to the table but also a five-year stint as staff sergeant in the Air Force.
Those years in the military “exposed me to many different people from many different walks of life” which she said helps her relate to those who may appear before her in court.
Lyn, in a candidate profile submitted to the Florida Bar, described herself as “hardworking, enthusiastic and dedicated.”
“I understand the role of a circuit court judge within the local community, within our state government and within the legal community,” Lynn wrote. “I believe I can faithfully interpret the law as provided by the state and federal constitutions, state statutes and existing case law.”
Lyn ran unsuccessfully for 5th Circuit Court judge in 2008 and 2010. In her private practice in Inverness, she handles cases involving civil and governmental law. She is a certified family law mediator and special magistrate for Lake, Hernando and Sumter counties’ value adjustment boards.
She received her bachelor’s degree in business administration from Troy University.
“I will perform my duties by working hard, by being impartial and by always acting with civility and integrity,” Lynn said.
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Sandy Kautz, 59, was elected in November 2008 to the Fifth Judicial Circuit and her term expires Jan. 5, 2015.
Kautz was unavailable for comments and a recorded message said her Inverness office was closed until Aug. 25.
The Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission in December 2013 filed a notice of formal charges against Kautz saying the incumbent judge made rulings “that made it appear that you either did not know the law of chose not to apply the law.”
The commission also criticized Kautz for advocating in court on behalf of her sister in 2012 and interjecting herself into the proceedings. The commission also cited her for expressing anger and frustration against people seeking assistance through the courts who were involved in dependency, injunction or juvenile cases.
The commission suggested a public reprimand, explaining that “while the judge’s conduct was misguided, it was not ill-intentioned.”
Kautz received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and her law degree from Stetson University College of Law. She worked as an assistant state attorney for 11 years before her election to the circuit court in 2008.