Two more candidates threw in their names in the pool of lawyers vying to be Flagler County’s second county judge: Lynette Callender, a Palm Coast lawyer, and Monique Hawkins, a Jacksonville lawyer and St. Augustine resident.
The two candidates are part of the official, scheduled list of interviews, but they did not help themselves by treading the deadline: neither actually sent in her full interview package until after the deadline passed, which may raise objections from other candidates.
The applications are being administered and coordinated by attorney Katherine Hurst Miller, who chairs the Seventh Judicial Circuit’s Judicial Nominating Commission. The nine-member commission will be interviewing the 24 candidates on Aug. 28 at the Flagler County courthouse.
Miller’s office made the applications available to FlaglerLive and other media by way of Dropbox. “We received 22 complete paper applications before 5 pm on Friday and were able to upload them on Dropbox before leaving work,” Miller explained in an email this morning. “We received an additional application electronically minutes before the deadline, and an additional application electronically minutes after the deadline. We received the paper and thumb drive/cd application from one of these two applicants over the weekend, and the redacted version was uploaded onto Dropbox today. We are still waiting on the other one. We have decided to extend interviews to these two applicants, but the commissioners may consider the lateness of the applications.”
Hawkins’s full application package was made available this morning. Callender had not yet sent hers in. Callender is the third black candidate to apply (along with Regina Nunnally of Volusia County, though Nunnally has worked in Flagler for many years, and Alicia Washington of Bunnell). Callender unsuccessfully ran for Flagler County School Board in 2016 and was once a candidate for an appointed seat to the Palm Coast City Council, but was passed over.
Electoral races or appointments to county judgeships tend not to attract the same attention as more political races. But judgeships can be more consequential, as they are a point of contact for innumerable private individuals in the course of a given year. While county judges’ primary responsibility is the misdemeanor docket, they may and do sit for first appearance hearings, sign warrants and handle civil, traffic, juvenile delinquency and family court cases.
For decades Flagler has had just one county court judge, with Sharon Atack on the bench from 1995 to 2013 and Melissa Distler in that role since. The docket over the years became the single heaviest for any one county judge in the state. Local officials pressed the Legislature year after year for relief. Last year the Legislature approved additional money for senior judges. Earlier this year, thanks to a Supreme Court certification for another judgeship, the Legislature approved a second judge for Flagler (and Citrus), and appropriated the money.
Because of the timing, the position must be filled by appointment. The Judicial Nominating Commission, whose members are entirely appointed by the governor (Rick Scott, in this case) fields the applications, interviews the candidates, and forwards a short-list of recommendations to Gov. Ron DeSantis. If DeSantis makes his choice before November, the appointee will have to run in the 2020 election. If, as is more likely, DeSantis delays the appointment until after the November election, for obvious political reasons–partisan governors tend to like to have as much of an imprint on the judiciary as they can–then the seat won’t be up for election until 2022.
The Judicial Nominating Commission includes only one member from Flagler: Raven Sword, a long-time local attorney.
The commission will meet and interview all candidates in a single day, in rapid-fire, speed-dating-like 15-minute segments (including change-overs, which will deduct more time from each candidate’s interview), starting at 8:45 a.m. in the Jury Assembly Room on the first floor of the Flagler County Courthouse, 1769 East Moody Boulevard, Bunnell.
The interviews are open to the public. But the commission’s deliberations, starting at 4 p.m., are not. “Deliberations are closed and confidential to consider the applicants’ qualifications and results of background information learned during the screening and interview process,” Miller said.
The interviews is not really where it’s at for the commissioners. Commissioners do most of their work behind the scenes, with the pool of candidates split between the nine, each commissioner then vetting the assigned candidates, calling all references on their applications, speaking with local leaders and conducing research. The public interviews are more of a capstone.
Though the Judicial Nominating Commission is conducting the interviews and the selection of recommended candidates, it is still entertaining public input on the candidates. Anyone wishing to comment on the qualifications of any of the applicants may do so by Miller by mail at 340 North Causeway, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32169, or by email here.
Here’s the schedule as provided by Miller’s office, with each candidate’s name linked to his or her application. They are being interviewed in alphabetical order:
Flagler County Judge: The Candidates
|Alexander Alvarez||Flagler||State courts hearing officer||8:45|
|Craig Atack||Flagler||Assistant public defender||9:00|
|John Cary||St. Johns||Assistant city attorney||9:15|
|Lynette Callender||Flagler||Private practice||9:30|
|Joshua Davis||Flagler||Private practice||9:45|
|Steven DeLaroche||Volusia||Private practice||10:00|
|Christopher DelBene||St. Johns||Private practice||10:30|
|Wesley Flagler||Flagler||DCF attorney||10:45|
|Monique Hawkins||St. Johns||Private||11:00|
|William Hyland Jr||Volusia||Private||11:30|
|Mark Johnson||St. Johns||Assistant state attorney||11:45|
|Jim Manfre||Flagler||Private practice||1:00|
|G. Kipling Miller||Flagler||Private practice||1:15|
|James Nealis IV||St. Johns||Assistant state attorney||1:30|
|Mitchel Novas||Volusia||Assistant public defender||1:45|
|Regina Nunnally||Volusia||Assistant public defender||2:00|
|Milan "Bo" Samargya||St. Johns||Private practice||2:15|
|Sebrina Slack||Volusia||Private practice||2:45|
|Scott Spradley||Flagler||Private practice||3:00|
|Judy Stewart||Lake||Private practice||3:15|
|Andrea Totten||Flagler||Assistant attorney general||3:30|
|Alicia Washington||Flagler||Private practice||3:45|
|Joseph Ryan Will||Volusia||Assistant state attorney||4:00|