Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Editorial Endorsement: 19th Judicial Circuit Judge, the general election

RACE: 19th Judicial Circuit Judge

SEAT: Group 4

PARTY: Non-partisan


Dwight Geiger, 65, Stuart

Fran Ross, 54, Fort Pierce

PRIMARY RESULTS: Geiger, 47.2 percent of 76,578 votes cast Treasure Coast-wide; Ross, 27.5 percent; Faith Litvack, 25.3 percent

KEY ISSUES: Knowledge of the law, efficiency, fairness, temperament, leadership

WHY WE ENDORSED: Geiger's (judicial) and Ross' (personal and legal) experiences stand out. Likewise, Ross' common-sense, regular-Jane, real-world approach to the court is refreshing.

Geiger was a solid circuit judge on the Treasure Coast for 28 years, handling all sorts of cases - from imposing the death penalty to rendering complex civil judgments. He also has given to his country, having retired as a colonel from the U.S. Army reserves and serving in Vietnam and Operation Desert Storm. He is known as a methodical judge, whose court pace occasionally slows in his efforts to be fair to all.

Ross started her education in Gifford schools, before desegregation in Indian River County. The route to her own law practice has been unorthodox and inspiring, having worked at a Woolworth's, a prison and school system to pay her way through Indian River Community College, Florida Atlantic and Southern universities.

A single mother and criminal defense attorney, Ross knows the pulse of the Fort Pierce teen community, gangs and all. Her ascension to the bench would provide a role model with a tough-love demeanor. Ross pledged to collaborate with officials in the justice system to make the courts work more efficiently and limit crowding in county jails.

WHY WE DIDN'T ENDORSE: While Ross lacks the experience and legal knowledge of Geiger, she has more upside in the long run. Geiger will be prohibited from seeking office again in 2014, unless the state constitution is changed to allow judges to run after age 70. Geiger said he has looked into changing the constitution, noting he would hope to work into his 80s assuming his health holds out. While a noble goal, Geiger's explanation seemed more aimed at personal job satisfaction than serving the community.


Ross says: "The appropriate temperament is to be respectful to all parties, litigants and others appearing before the court. With juveniles, I will take the same approach, however, I will probably take a sterner tone of cautioning them of the dangers of breaking the law and at the same time encourage them to get an education or trade in order to better themselves in life."

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