The names of 11 candidates vying for two judicial vacancies in the Pinellas-Pasco circuit were forwarded to Gov. Rick Scott last week.
The judicial nominating commission that reviewed applications and conducted interviews for the two positions selected the names from a pool of about 30 candidates. Scott has 60 days from the date of the nominations to make the appointments.
The finalists include state prosecutors, private lawyers, and a Department of Justice official who grew up in Pinellas County.
Among the candidates are:
Lathika Mary Thomas
Thomas is the director of policy for the DOJ's Office of Justice Programs, which provides grants to communities for "crime fighting strategies." The daughter of Indian parents who moved to the U.S. in 1972, she was previously an assistant general counsel for Gov. Scott's office from 2011 to 2013. She ran for Congress in District 2, but was defeated last year in the Republican primary. During her campaign, she described herself as a "constitutional conservative" and criticized the U.S. Supreme Court's decisions on the Affordable Care Act and gay marriage, calling the rulings "an abomination," according to the Tallahassee Democrat.
During the past 15 years, judge Vaccaro has presided over criminal and civil cases in Pinellas County Court. She has handled more than 1,000 misdemeanor cases per year, according to her application. She previously worked for the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office from 1991 to 2002. She lists Chief Judge Anthony Rondolino, State Attorney Bernie McCabe, and Public Defender Bob Dillinger among her references. "I believe I can bring dignity to the circuit court bench, as I have already done in my current position," she wrote in her application.
Matthew H. Perry
Perry has worked at the U.S. Attorney's Office for 18 years. He is currently assigned to the Panama Express Strike Force, an organized crime task force based in Tampa that interrupts large cocaine shipments from South America. In this role, he has "top secret" clearance and reviews documents like search warrants and criminal complaints. He has also prosecuted narcotics cases and spent four years in the agency's civil division. Perry was also a federal public defender for 12 years.
The other candidates are:
Nathaniel B. Kidder