Efficiency, fairness of manuals and comprehension.
It is Edward Spaight’s goal to bring more of these qualities to a local courtroom as a Citrus County judge.
“Someone who has been a public defender for 13 years really knows what it means to serve the community,” he told the Chronicle editorial board on Wednesday, June 8. “Judges make decisions that really affect people and they act in their best interests. ”
Spaight is fighting alongside Assistant District Attorney Lisa Yeager through the 2022 election season for the county’s first judge seat, which will become vacant with the December retirement of Mark Yerman, who has been on the bench since 1993.
“He’s got some great shoes to fill,” Spaight said. “I just want to follow his example.”
After graduating from law school in 2001, Spaight, an upstate New York native, began working in Maine for three Superior Court judges, who resemble Florida circuit judges.
Spaight was admitted to practice law in Maine in 2002 and worked for seven years as an attorney at Vafiades, Brountas & Kominsky, a private law firm in Bangor, handling corporate, civil and family matters.
In order to keep his family together and escape the freezing weather, Spaight, his 26-year-old wife, Veronica, and their two young daughters moved to Citrus County in 2009.
In May, the state’s Fifth Judicial Circuit Public Defender’s Office hired Spaight, who wanted to work at the bureau’s office in Inverness.
Local judges Fritton, Carney remain on the bench; Spaight and Yeager vying for county judgeship
Spaight was appointed in 2015 to oversee the local Public Defender’s Office as Deputy Chief Public Defender. He is also one of two county defense attorneys qualified to preside over death penalty cases.
“For 20, 21 years now, I’ve been working as a lawyer,” Spaight said of his varied legal career. “I’ve literally pleaded for life and death on behalf of clients, I’ve argued for one parent over another to get custody of their children, I’ve argued for and against domestic violence injunctions , and I pleaded in court for people who were just fighting for the money.
Yeager eyes county judge: ‘It was the right time’
Spaight said his most rewarding experience was serving in Maine as a guardian ad litem for the children, acting as their legal representative, which he continued to do as an attorney in the Sunshine State. for adults with mental and physical disabilities.
Since 2019, he noted, Spaight has been a board member of Covenant Children’s Home in Dunnellon, which helps fill gaps in Citrus County’s foster home network.
Spaight said her family’s involvement also extends to Seven Rivers Church in Lecanto, her daughters’ schools and the county theater troupe.
“I developed many relationships within the community,” he said, adding that he was also grateful for the endorsements from Citrus County Sheriff Mike Prendergast and retired Circuit Judge. Citrus County Patricia Thomas.
Thomas, who is a member of the Chronicle editorial board, was not present at the committee’s meeting with Spaight.
Spaight said his role as a father and his background as a defense attorney were instrumental in becoming compassionate towards his clients and their victims — a trait he hopes to retain and utilize when on the bench.
When it comes to following a particular legal philosophy as a judge, Spaight would like to pursue the “textualist approach” advocated by the late Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Antonin Scalia – in other words, Spaight said: “What does the law say? Do this.
“We have to follow the laws as they are written,” he said. “I don’t believe we should be legislating from the bench.”
If elected county judge, Spaight said he would like to build on the dispatch of cases he, the judges and other lawyers have improved on when COVID-19 crippled the court process.
That could include holding more distant hearings, Spaight said, and using the county jail’s courtroom as an alternate location for case resolution.
“It’s the old saying, ‘justice delayed is justice denied’,” he said. “I want the wheels of justice to keep working efficiently, and I think we can do better.”
Spaight also wants to stay involved in the county’s alternative court system, which has offered eligible defendants other avenues to resolve their criminal cases with treatment, frequent drug testing and other scrutiny instead of incarceration and of convictions.
He would also like to improve access to the Veterans Court program to heal more veterans caught in the justice system by helping them better cope with the trauma of service.
When asked how long he could consider himself a county judge, Spaight said Yerman and other county judges told him they never felt the need to pursue a senior judgeship. .
“I’m not going to sit here and say, ‘I would never take a circuit job,'” he said, “but county judges love being county judges…and I don’t know if I would never feel the need not to serve as a county judge.