After a long and successful career as 16th circuit court judge, Sandra Taylor is not a candidate for re-election. She has done a commendable job and we extend our thanks to her for her public service. With her retirement, five citizens will be on the Aug. 26 ballot, hoping to succeed her.
In 1994, counties were ordered to create separate family courts. That is the role that Taylor has been filling. Judge Luis Garcia, who is the chief judge-elect, will decide which judge in District 16 will be designated to serve the family court. However, each of the candidates assumes that he or she will appoint the winner of this election.
If one candidate gets 50 percent plus one vote of the votes cast, that person will be elected. If not, the two with the most votes will advance to a runoff in the Nov 4th election.
Our choice for this position is Mary Vanden Brook, who has ample experience as an attorney for the prosecution as well as the defense. Even more important is her experience in the family court system.
She has served children as the first attorney in the Guardian Ad Litem program helping children-victims prepare for the deposition process and setting up the protocol. Later, Vanden Brook became director of Guardian Ad Litem, running that volunteer-based program for three years.
In 1995, she began building the family court system in Monroe County. Through 2005, she was the family court manager, general master and mediator for the 16th Judicial Circuit. For the last three years, she has been the 16th circuit's trial court administrator.
Vanden Brook also created and operated the circuit's Self-Help Program to aid people who wished to represent themselves.
Vanden Brook, who has lived in the Florida Keys for 20 years, received her bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin and her Juris Doctor degree from Marquette University.
Manny Madruga, who has served as assistant prosecutor for the past 18 years, has prepared himself well for this position with his involvement in children's activities in the Keys. He has been president of the Key West Boys & Girls Clubs, as well as working on the Children ID program with the Masonic Lodge F&AM and Christina's Courage. Madruga has spent most of his time as a prosecutor and told the Editorial Board that prosecutors never would send a case to court unless they believed the accused were guilty. That's fine if you're a prosecutor, but that same thinking as a judge would go against innocent until proven guilty.
Tegan Slaton has been an attorney since 1991. He believes he is an expert in child support laws and is a strong advocate in enforcing child support. He has served in the Public Defender's Office and in 1999 became the Keys' first traffic magistrate. He's a certified mediator and has served as family law magistrate at the Key West and Plantation Key courts. For 15 years, he has heard divorce cases and sent his recommendations on to Taylor to make the final decision. Slaton is married to Public Defender Rosemary Enright and, while he would have to recuse himself from cases defended by that entity, he says his marriage is a "non-issue" in this election.
Jiulio Margelli, who has owned his own law office in Key West since 2000, is a special magistrate for the family and civil divisions and has extensive experience in complex family, civil and criminal law matters. He was a candidate for County Commission in 2000 and served three years on the county Planning Commission before resigning.
Richard Behr, who has lived in Key Largo for 11 years, is an associate attorney at Vernis and Bowling. He claims 21 years of experience in both criminal and civil law and has extensive experience in domestic relations, probate and juvenile matters.
— The Citizen