Meet the Candidates: 20th Circuit Court (Part 2)

Earlier this week I wrote about the candidates for Circuit Judge from Group 3. In this post, I’ll look at the candidates from Group 16: Amy Hawthorne and Steven S. Leskovich.
Group 16: Amy Hawthorne
Amy Hawthorne

Amy Hawthorne is currently serving as a Circuit Court Judge for Charlotte, Collier, Hendry, Glades and Lee Counties. She was appointed to the bench by Governor Rick Scott in 2012. Her campaign slogan is “Keep Judge Amy Hawthorne for Circuit Judge.”
Her campaign website, Facebook and Twitter presence make appropriate use of social media. I was unable to find a presence on LinkedIn.
  • JD – University of Florida College of Law (1993 cum laude)
  • BS – Speech Communications / Columbus State University (date unspecified)                                                                                   

Professional Experience

  • 20th Circuit Court / Judge (2012-present)
  • Sole Practitioner / Partner (1998-2012) – criminal and family law
  • Twentieth Circuit Court / General Civil Magistrate (2010-2011)
  • City of Cape Coral / Alternate Special Master (2003-2005)
  • Office of the Public Defender / Assistant Public Defender (1993-1997)
  • Bill Powell P.A. / Associate Attorney (1993)
  • Florida Supreme Court Certified mediator for family, circuit civil and county court cases  (years unspecified)

  • Florida Southwestern State College / Adjunct Professor – Torts and Family Law (prior to 2012)

  • Florida Bar (member)
  • Charlotte County Bar Association (member)
  • Lee County Bar Association (member)
  • Florida Bar Grievance Committee (former member)
  • Florida Bar Family Law Section (former member)
  • Florida Rural Legal Service (former Board member)
  • Florida Equal Justice Center (former Board member)
  • United Way Allocations Committee (former member)
  • Fort Myers Rotary Club (member)

Hawthorne raised $29,225 through 176 monetary contributions, $100,441 through personal loans and $2,379 through 12 in-kind contributions, and spent $60,765 through 7/18/14.  The largest single contribution was for $1,000; six attorneys and one homemaker contributed $1,000 each.
Other of note: The majority of contributors are attorneys. There are also judges, local business people, a few retirees, a university professor, Director of the SWFLA Police Academy, and the Lee County Tax Collector.
Hawthorne’s website lists the members of Amy’s Campaign Committee, “comprised of local attorneys and community leaders that work together towards the goal of keeping Amy on the bench of the 20th Judicial Circuit Court. Of note are Gary Aubuchon, Former State Representative; 
Joseph P. D’Alessandro, Esq. Former State Attorney, 20th Judicial Circuit; Larry Hart, Lee County Tax Collector; Randall P. Henderson, Jr., Mayor, City of Fort Myers; Marni Sawicki, Mayor, City of Cape Coral; Mike Scott, Sheriff, Lee County; 
Steve Whidden, Sheriff, Hendry County; 
Stuart Whiddon, Sheriff, Glades County.
Her campaign post card, mailed to my home, says, “The role of judges in the court system is not to impose their own personal views and agendas – it is to fairly interpret the law the way that it was written. As your Circuit Judge, I hold myself to that standard every day.”
A Google search turned up an article in the Fort Myers News-Press about he judicial races. From the article:

While circuit judge races in other parts of Florida have become spirited contests, they’ve also been traditionally lower-profile in Southwest Florida, with few attorneys willing to challenge a sitting judge whose performance has stayed unscathed. Still, one attorney, Steven Leskovich, filed to run against incumbent Judge Amy Hawthorne. Hawthorne was chosen by Gov. Rick Scott from a pool of applicants to fill a vacancy a couple of years ago, and faces her first election.

Group 16: Steven S. Leskovich
Steven S. Leskovich
Steven S. Leskovich is Managing Partner of Galasso & Leskovich, LLC, trial lawyers specializing in criminal defense and family law, in Punta Gorda. His campaign slogan is “The Clear Choice for Judge.”
His campaign websiteand Facebook Page make appropriate use of social media. His LinkedInpresence is near-nonexistent. I was unable to find a Twitter feed.
Educational Background (dates not disclosed unless noted)
  • JD / Thomas M. Cooley Law School (MI)
  • BBA – Economics / Kent State University (OH)

  • Galasso & Leskovich, LLC/ Managing Partner (2002-present)
  • 20th Judicial Circuit Public Defender’s Office, Lee County / Assistant Public Defender (undisclosed – 2002)

  • Florida State Bar (member)
  • Charlotte County Bar Association (member)
  • Collier County Bar Association (member)    
  • Lee County Bar Association (member)        
  • Southwest Florida Safety Council (Board member)        
  • Charlotte County Chamber of Commerce (member)       
  • Punta Gorda Chamber of Commerce (member)    
  • American Cancer Society (volunteer)
  • Boys/Girls Club (volunteer)

Leskovich raised $31,190 through 59 monetary contributions, $30,000 in one personal loan and $1,368 through 10 in-kind contributions, and spent $26,935 through 7/18/14. The largest single contribution was for $1,000, contributed by 22 donors, including 14 attorneys and law firms.
Other of note: The majority of contributors are attorneys. There are also bail bondsmen, local business people, a few homemakers and retirees, a student nurse and a textbook salesman.
A campaign postcard delivered to my home listed “Steven’s Guiding Judicial Principles: Always be Fair and Impartial; Treat all Litigants with Courtesy and Respect; Bring Integrity and Strong Ethics to the Bench; Uphold the Laws of the Land Fairly and Honestly.”
A Google search turned up the previously-mentioned News-Press article, with the following information about Leskovich:

Leskovich said there was “no particular reason” that led him to file to run against her, but he also mentioned that she was first chosen through the appointment process…. 

Leskovich’s filing papers list a couple of home addresses in and outside the circuit, but he said he now lives in Punta Gorda and also owns a home in Sarasota County. He also filed for personal bankruptcy in 2009 and business bankruptcy about a year ago, but said those issues have been resolved. 

The bankruptcies were the effect of a former partner who stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the business, and caused additional problems through identity theft, Leskovich said. Filing for bankruptcy seemed the best way to keep the practice going and pay employees, he said, and now he has first-hand experience in dealing with those kinds of problems.

I am struck by the similarity in backgrounds between the two candidates. Both received undergraduate degrees in a liberal arts field. Both served early in their careers as assistant public defenders, then went on to private practice specializing in criminal and family law. Neither have had significant community involvement. For both, most campaign contributions came from attorneys and law firms.
While both raised about $30,000, Hawthorne had 156 donations while Leskovich had 59. Also, Hawthorne received seven $1,000-contributions; Leskovich had 22. Hawthorne loaned her campaign significantly more than Leskovich ($100,441 vs $30,000). All that said, I’m not sure what it tells us about which would be a better judge.
The fact that Hawthorne has been a sitting judge for two years, having been appointed to fill a vacancy by Governor Scott, is one significant difference between the candidates. Another is Leskovich’s past bankruptcies.
Based on this information, I will vote for Amy Hawthorne for Circuit Judge for Group 16.  If you have additional information about either candidate, I’d be most interested in hearing it.

In my next post, I’ll review the candidates for County Judge.
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