SEBRING, FL— Attorney Steve Pincket is tenacious, indefatigable and determined to become a judge.
Steve Pincket knows the law and he is challenging the court system’s own knowledge of judicial election law. He is taking his fight all the way up to the Florida Supreme Court for a second time.
Pincket’s main argument is that judges should be elected by voters. They should not be appointed by the powers that be. He believes in giving the local voters the right to choose who will make the local decisions that will affect them. He is fighting the Governor’s selection of the successor to the seat left vacant by the retirement of Judge Olin W. Shinholser. After all, how can the Governor know who the local people want? He’s not part of their community. Mr. Pincket is fighting to keep the judicial selection process honest by letting the candidates for a judgeship prove their merit to the electorate. How much more democratic can it be than that? RobeProbe supports fighters like Mr. Pincket who believe there is not enough transparency in a judicial selection process that allows a small clique of lawyers connected to State government to select, rather than elect, their judges. Read more below from Highlands News-Sun and The Ledger:
Although Gov. Rick Scott has appointed a new circuit judge in Highlands County, that may not be the end of it.
Steve Pincket, an attorney in Polk County, is contesting Scott’s appointment of David Ward, an assistant state attorney in Hardee County, to replace Circuit Judge Olin W. Shinholser, who decided to retire later this month.
Pincket said he believes the appointment of Ward, who could not be reached for comment, violated the Florida Constitution’s guarantee that people can select a new circuit judge through an election. Appellate judges are appointed by the governor and then voters decide later whether to retain the judges.
In seeking to be selected as the judge, Pincket said his main motivation is to preserve the right of the voters to decide.
“It is not my goal to disrupt the system,” he said.
Pincket, who had filed to run for that seat, said he doesn’t believe that Shinholser had the right to cancel an election.
But Shinholser said that he didn’t cancel the election. He said he only notified the governor of his decision to retire rather than seek re-election.
He also said that Pincket filed after he decided not to seek re-election.
In his letter to the governor, Shinholser wrote to Scott that “It is my desire and request that my successor be appointed by you. While there are certainly debatable points as to the pros and cons of succession by appointment verses election, it is my belief based upon years of observation that the appointment process is superior to the election process in the judicial context.”
Pincket said that he contested the appointment with the Florida Supreme Court. However, the court refused to rule the appointment invalid because of the method Pincket used in the case to seek the decision.
But a majority of the court agreed that the judge should be elected.
Pincket then filed legal action with Polk County Circuit Court.
Circuit Judge Charles W. Dodson agreed the voters should have selected the judge. But he said that the Florida Supreme Court had already decided otherwise.
Now Pincket is asking the Florida Supreme Court to order Dodson to appoint him as a circuit judge.
And more from The Ledger, when Pincket ran for Judge in 2006:
LAKELAND — Lawyer Steve Pincket of Lakeland has opened a campaign account to run for Polk County judge, Group 3.
He is in a three-way nonpartisan race with Robert E. Griffin of Bartow and John E. Kirkland of Lakeland.
The post will be open for the Sept. 5 election because County Judge Steven Selph is not running for it again. He is seeking the seat being left by Circuit Court Judge Judith Flanders, who is retiring after this year.
Pincket received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Florida Atlantic University in 1986. He graduated from Florida State University Law School in 1989.
He was a legal intern for the Florida House Finance and Taxation Committee.
Pincket moved to Polk County in 1992.
He served as an assistant state attorney for the 10th Judicial Circuit, which includes Polk County, for a year before entering private practice.
He ran for the Florida House District 64 seat in 1996, losing to Republican Paula Dockery.
Dockery’s husband, C.C. “Doc” Dockery, later sued Pincket over negative ads run against her on Pincket’s behalf by the Democratic Party of Florida. A court later dropped Pincket from the suit.
Pincket said he continues to support the election of judges rather than appointments.
“I have always trusted the judgment of the voters, whether it is in the jury box or the ballot box,” he said.
He is a past president of Paint Your Heart Out Lakeland and has helped stage the Bar Association’s education programs for school students during Law Day, including the mock trial: “Goldilocks Vs. Three Bears.”
Pincket, 43, and his wife, Michelle Pincket, practice law together in their own firm. The couple live in Lakeland and have two children. They are members of All Saints Episcopal Church in Lakeland.
A county judge serves for six years and receives an annual salary of $130,693.