WESTVILLE - Political candidates for Circuit Judge 14th Judicial Circuit Jim Fenson, Shalene Grover and Gerard M. Virga, Jr. were the last to speak in a three part series of political forums at West Pittman Baptist Church in Westville on Aug. 16.
Opening the forum, all of the candidates were asked to introduce themselves and provide a little background.
Fenson began the introductions, saying that he was born and raised in Port St. Joe, attended the Auburn University where he met his wife and then went to law school. During the second year of law school he married and after graduating he became a legislative assistant. He then became a prosecutor then worked for a law firm.
"I've had a broad variety of experience as I've had over 100 jury trials," said Fenson. "I've taken that knowledge in practicing law and the knowledge from growing up in a small town from your teachers, your preachers, your coaches. I've taken all that I've learned practicing law and as a judge to help me administer the court system."
Grover followed by introducing herself as a resident of Blountstown, married with two sons, with a practice in Marianna focusing on family law, been the county attorney for Leon County for 13 years and has experience in a large variety of law.
"Experience is important but what I think is the most important criteria in selecting a judge is the person's temperament and what sort of temperament they have," said Grover. "I believe someone must have the ability to process cases effectively, efficiently and professionally and give people the courtesy and dignity that they deserve."
Virga was next, informing everyone he grew up in Panama City Beach, he still lives there with his wife and two children and explained that he had a unique reason for becoming a lawyer. He said he started off as a school teacher for delinquent children and one of the children was there because the child didn't want his father to go to jail for being a "drug mule."
"It was at that point that I realized teaching our history and about our constitution was good but it wasn't enough for me," said Virga. "I think it all starts with our family and our constitution. We need to try to get these families out of divorce courts as soon as possible, take care of these children in our court system and focus our attention on the constitution."
Due to the nature of their job, the judges were not able to answer any questions on personal beliefs and opinions.
Each candidate explained why they were unable to answer any questions pertaining to beliefs or opinions, all of which explained that as upholders of the law they could not let their personal opinion or feelings determine how they judge a person in order to be fair and impartial.
All candidates admitted to being Christians and avid church-goers.
When asked what they thought what ruling had the most impact on society, Virga said he believed it was Marbury vs Madison which the court formed judicial review.
Grover said for her it was Brown vs Board of Education, which ended segregation in schools.
For Fenson it was all rulings pertaining to search and seizure, giving an example that phone privacies were increased as soon as the court ruled them to be small computers and would require a search warrant to obtain.
Every candidate agreed that the highest form of law is the constitution for the physical and the Bible for spiritual.