With two days to go before the application window closes, eight candidates have applied to be appointed Flagler County judge, the second county judge seat the Legislature approved in its last session to share the docket of County Judge Melissa Distler.
The Seventh Judicial Circuit’s Judicial Nominating Commission, a nine-member panel appointed by the governor, will conduct interviews of the candidates likely on Aug. 28 and 29, then forward its recommendations to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is expected to make the appointment sometime in fall.
Several names are familiar to the nominating commission, some because this won’t be their first (or second or third) attempt at a judgeship, and some because of past notoriety, as is the case of Jim Manfre, the former Flagler County sheriff who served two terms in that position. Manfre, an attorney in private practice, had also applied to be city manager of Flagler Beach and Palm Coast in recent years.
The applicants so far:
Steven DeLaroche, 55, a Daytona Beach attorney in private practice who lives in Ormond Beach. (Whoever is appointed will have to be living in his or her permanent home in Flagler at the time of the investiture.)
Alan Holt, 47, a Daytona Beach attorney in private practice who lives in Ormond Beach.
William Hyland Jr., 62, a DeLand attorney in private practice who lives in DeLand.
Jim Manfre, 61, the Palm Coast private practice attorney who served two terms as Flagler County sheriff (2001-2004 and 2013-16).
Mitchel Novas, 56, an assistant public defender in the felony division in Volusia, who lists his home only as “Volusia.” He is one of two non-white applicants, listing himself as Hispanic. (He was born in Havana.)
Andrea Totten, 39, an assistant attorney general in the Daytona Beach office and a Palm Coast resident. Totten was a former assistant state attorney.
Alicia Washington, 49, a Bunnell attorney in private practice and a Palm Coast resident. She was a past assistant state attorney and an assistant public defender. She has applied for the bench before and been passed over. (prosecutor under tanner, and public defender)
Joseph Ryan Will, 39, an assistant state attorney in Volusia County and a Daytona Beach resident who ran for circuit judge in the Seventh Circuit in 2018, losing to Linda Gaustad, 59-41 circuit-wide, but by the more lopsided margin of 63-37 in Flagler.
More names are expected to join the list by Friday.
Washington is the only black applicant in a circuit with an overwhelmingly white bench: only one of its 15 current county judges (Judge Dawn Fields) is black. The circuit’s population of just under 1 million is 10 percent black. In Flagler, it’s just under 11 percent.
DeLaroche, Washington and Novas all applied last year to replace Scott DuPont, the former civil court judge booted off the bench by the Supreme Court after revelations of improprieties in and out of court. They were among 15 applicants. The appointment went to Bryan Rendzio, assigned to St. Augustine’s family court division. DeLaroche and Novas also were among applicants in 2017 for the seat County Judge Shirley Green vacated. DeLaroche also ran unsuccessfully for a judgeship in 2014 and for clerk of court two years before that.
Some of the candidates have baggage.
DeLaroche was formerly a county judge, winning election in 2000 in what, at the time, was the most expensive judicial race in Volusia’s history: he put down $144,000 of his own. In 2006 faced charges from the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission, on allegations that he fixed traffic tickets. DeLaroche resigned in 2007 before the investigation was completed, but the commission has said previously that if DeLaroche were to be seated again, it could reopen the investigation.
Manfre’s tenures as sheriff were not quiet ones, and his second tenure was overshadowed by an ethics investigation that culminated in findings of ethics violations and fines totaling $6,200, and a public reprimand by the governor, effected by executive order.
Will was disciplined by the Florida Bar and publicly reprimanded by the Florida Supreme Court in 2015 after he made “an improper argument and statements,” including “demeaning and ridiculing personal attacks”–according to a Supreme Court finding–leveled at a defendant in the closing arguments of a case that an appeals court reversed and remanded to the trial court in part on that account. Will tendered a conditional guilty plea. (Will repeatedly called the defendant a “crackhead.”)
Applicants have until the end of business Friday to send in their application package. If DeSantis makes the appointment before November, the new judge will serve only until the end of 2020, and would have to run in that year’s election if he or she hopes to retain the seat. If, as is more likely, DeSantis makes the appointment after November, then the appointee will get to serve until the 2022 election. The process is highly politicized at every level, and DeSantis, like governors before him, will want his handpicked choices for the bench to have as much time as possible to build incumbency capital before they face the electorate.
Applicants must send their application to:
Katherine Hurst Miller, Chair
Seventh Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission
Wright & Casey, P.A.
340 North Causeway
New Smyrna Beach, FL 32169
See more details about the application process here.
Concerned Citizen says
And this is why we won’t see change in Flagler County.
This County has a bad habit of the good ol boy/girl system strangling it. We can’t seem to get rid of the has beens and those riding on daddy’s coat tails. Coupled with family monopolies of higher county positions it’s the same shenannigans over and over.
The voters in this county need to step up and demand change. Let’s stop rehashing candidates who didn’t do their job to begin with. And get some fresh faces in here.
February 26, 2016 Flaglerlive article quotes former sheriff Manfre
“There needs to be an acceptance factor that we have undocumented aliens in our state, and it would make sense that if they’re here, we should provide them with the right to feel that they’re here.”
This man, in favor of conferring rights on undocumented aliens is applying to be a judge? No, he does not make the laws — not his job. And questionable ethics yet?
Not my choice to judge anything.
He was a terrible sheriff and his liberal approach as a judge is not needed or wanted.
Haw Creek Girl says
In my opinion, based on my contact with Ms Washington, she lacks the integrity and wisdom to be in a Judge’s position. She was untruthful and unethical in her documentation of proceedings and took full advantage of an unfortunate situation. I would hate to see her chosen. I do, very much, believe that Ryan Will has the forethought, wisdom and knowledge necessary for the position. He also has shown great compassion towards victims and their families in his role as prosecutor. I don’t think anyone will consider Jim Manfre a serious contender for the job. He has no judiciary or trial experience in any role other than as Sheriff which is certainly not sufficient. I am curious who are the nine panelists? We all know that the appointment won’t come until after such time that the apointee can serve until 2020. That has been the precedent in the past with retiring Judges, at least. Either way, It will be nice to see someone come and stay here in Flagler and that should be considered…whether they plan on bolting at first chance to greener pastures or not. We haven’t had acceptable continuity in the Judgeship since Sharon Attack tagged teamed with Kim Hammond. We need a team like those two in place again at this critical time in Flagler’s growth.
This would be a disaster. As Sheriff he proved himself unethical (was charged as such and fined) and he was vindictive. We don’t need such a man to sit in yet another position of authority in this county. Just say NO.
Flagler county deserves the presence of a darker skinned judge. Preferably a black judge but any judge of color would be nice to better match the demographic of the county.
Manfre like other constitutional officials endured a lot of witch hunt while in office. Even now we can see how the current constitutional clerk of court Bixley is being pressured in order to minimize the awful intentional financial real estate errors of the county commission and the former administrator just to benefit the well connected few. That is what the local good old boy net is really all about.
Manfre like Staly was a good sheriff and both endured negative pressures of the FCBOCC. I rather have Judge Manfre than a Dupont Judge and when it comes to the others in that list we don’t know jack about any of them. At least we know Manfre…a good lawyer, and excellent family man that raised his kids in our community in an exemplary and loving discipline to become outstanding students and professionals that enrich the fabric of our country. Unfortunately would be a miracle that a GOP governor will appoint him…Good for you Jim to run, shows strong determination. Good luck.
Friend of Delarosby says
Based on Manfre’s treatment of his employees I can’t imagine calling him Honorable.
Nope not again Jim says
Jim Manfre is a true example of a man who cannot make it on his own. He needs this job to make him feel powerful.
Derrick Redder says
2 decent Names there from Flager and it ain’t Manfree
OMG ! Our Governor really needs to think about this and remember who put him in office. Not Manfi. God Bless Flagler county if that happens!
Heading North says
Manfre for Judge????????
This must be a joke, and it isn’t even April 1st!!!!!
I hope the people of Flagler County wake up and find this was just another nightmare!!!!!
Cue that banjo Music, The good ole boys are at it again…………
Not NO, but Hell No ! He has his turn as a sheriff it didn’t work.
LMAO!!! Not in million years would I want a former Sheriff as a sitting Judge…NEVER.
Michael Cocchiola says
Jim Manfre was a very good sheriff. His infractions were minor and unintended. He has been a vocal and forceful spokesperson for criminal justice reform in Florida. He, among others, can be credited for convincing our state legislature to ease some egregious restrictions on former inmates so they can reenter society with a chance to succeed. Jim Manfre would make a very experienced, knowlegeable, and reform-minded jurist who will help fix what is known to be among the worst judicial systems in this country.
NoNoNo…… how could anyone think Manfre for judge is a good idea ? He was not a good sheriff and had to pay restitution in fines for ethical matters……. if he is a judge the town deserves what it gets……
Let’s not forget the Issues he caused when he was town attorney for Babylon New York. All that this guy has touched has been left worse off.
@Palmcoaster, while Sheriff, Manfre was the the vindictive witch hunter.
@ Michael Cocchiola, no he wasn’t a good Sheriff and in fact set out to destroy a few lives once he was elected. A very arrogant individual who was asked/told by family not to attend the service of a former deputy and he showed up anyway. And when something was said toward him by a family member, he just sat there in ignorance. There’s a reason he didn’t make it past the primary in his bid for re election. He set out to do harm to others (deputies) on the mere basis that they exercised their right to support a candidate of their choosing. Someone that insecure and vindictive has no place on a bench in a court room.
Michael Van Buren says
Let me think for a minute…..
Both of Jim’s terms as Sheriff were filled with controversy, and ended with the public voting him out. Hell during his first term he wanted the County Administrator arrested for questioning his authority!
Probably the only reason why he even won the 2nd term was because of a mud slinging campaign against Sheriff Fleming.
During his 2nd term he was sanctioned for ethic violations that I personally truly believe he intentionally committed and then tried to have others take the fall for misdeeds. (his CFO Linda Bolante). Read the transcripts from the ethics case, I have. Linda lost her job shortly after that, and later was awarded a settlement (rightly so) because of Jim’s actions.
Even during his first term as Sheriff he tried to put a bar bill (ESPN Zone) on his department credit card that was over $600 dollars. (I know because I personally paid the bill to keep him from making an ethical mistake back then)
We lost more good employees under Manfre’s reign than anytime I can remember with my 28 years with FCSO.
And the citizens of Flagler County deserve him as a Judge? I think not!
Jim if you are so good as you believe yourself to be, stick to private practice. We don’t need you on the public payroll.
C’mon man says
Check his application for mold.
Seriously Michael C? He accidentally took his county issued car out of state to take his kids to visit colleges? I think he said his was in the shop. I have two words that would come to the mind of any person with half a brain in that situation: Avis and Hertz. He also tried to cover up an accident that caused damage to the same police car. He’s about as unethical as they come, in my opinion. As the respected Michael Van Buren said, he can’t help himself.
Mold that’s a good one… people in this city have very very short memories… OMG a Judge…he’ll throw his hat into anything… do they still have dog catcher postions… just asking…
Haw Creek Girl says
As far as a Judge of color is concerned, we had Raul Zambrano and he was ran off because he was too much of a ‘hang ’em high’ Judge for this demographic.
We had a “judge of color”. Judge Zambrano was a Hispanic male, he did no better or worse than any other judge we’ve had.
as for the demographic, its not a predominantly black community, so why would we need a “judge of color” to match anything?
and I am not racist by any means, I will accept any judge of any color as long as they do their job correctly, but your comment just seems a little ridiculous.
LawAbidingCitizen, My comment seems ridiculous!? Wow and I suppose you would understand what it’s like as a person of color being in front of a white southern judge in a place like Flagler!? And I believe you are completely wrong stating the demographic in this county is not people of color. You are in a dream world. Flagler County is mostly comprised of African American and Latino Americans. Although this may not be the facts you wish to believe , it is true.
@ Dave, Although the race of a judge doesn’t matter to me, I read some of your comments and it seems you just throw stuff out there. Palm Coast is not “mostly comprised of African Americans and Latino Americans” as you state as fact. Latinos make up 10%, Blacks make up 10%, and Whites make up almost 75% of the population here.