Gary Dolgin – Candidate for Circuit Judge in Hillsborough County
On August 18th, Hillsborough County residents will elect a new 13th Circuit Judge, and attorney Gary Dolgin says he has what it takes to sit on the bench.
I’ve been practicing law for thirty years. I’ve served the state of Florida as both a prosecutor and a public defender. I’m the only candidate who certified by the Supreme Court as a family law mediator. I’ve been designated as a super lawyer only 5% of lawyers in the state of Florida receive that designation.
You know, a lot of people out in the public have no idea who the judicial candidates are and sometimes they just skip voting in their race. They’ll come and they’ll vote for president or maybe Senator or governor. By the way, there’s no Senate or gubernatorial race on the ballot this year. But I always say to people out there in my humble opinion, whether I’m running for judge or not, judges are probably the most important race on the ballot because they affect your life potentially more than other people on the ballot. Because if you think about it, what other person are you giving entrusting the authority to literally sentence someone to death or someone who chooses which parent gets custody of the children? Or someone who can enter an order to take away your money, to take away your house, to force you out of a house if there’s a domestic violence injunction. Those, to take your kids away, if the state charges you with negligently taking care of them, that is an awesome responsibility that you’re giving to a judge. And you want to make sure that the person that you’re voting for has the experience, the integrity, and the compassion to handle that responsibility.
Attorney Dolgin says his compassion for people, especially victims of crime is just as important as his experience practicing law. Dolgin recalls a particularly tragic story that allowed his client to raise her two daughters without living in fear.
Well, one of the things that I like to say to people is that judges and lawyers have the opportunity to sometimes literally save lives. Tara is a wife and mother that I represented in 1998. We’re going back for a long time. Her husband at the time, they were separated, and he abducted her three and five-year old daughter and took the girls out of state. Prior to him doing that, he had tried to kill himself. He had been Baker Acted. So this is a very dangerous situation and he refused to give those girls back. We were able to make her case the top priority because I knew those kids were in danger and we did an immediate emergency injunction for the judge to sign. But then we had to go to Louisiana and get a judge out there to enter an order.
The good news is, is we got Tara her kids back three weeks later by Christmas. And then he eventually did kill himself on her birthday, his last act of domestic violence against her. And I had to break the news to her. But she successfully raised her girls. I kept in touch with them over the years. They are college graduates. One of them is remarried, not remarried, married, and both honors graduates from the University of Florida. Tara is a vice president for a Fortune 500 company and very proud that she is campaigning for me and sharing her story.
Gary Dolgin has dedicated the majority of his 30 years in practice to family law cases, a division of the court that he says it takes a judge who is devoted to family law.
It’s not usually most judges’ favorite places to go. Think about it. It’s very emotional. It’s not pleasant. Most, if not all, of the judges that we’ve had in the family division, did not practice family law when they were in private practice or in government service. But even if I rotated somewhere else, I’d want to come back. Most judges who leave family law, they don’t want to come back. “They’ve done their time,” is the often a joke. I’ve had some judges say to me I would be their best friend because I would be taking a slot that other judges don’t want.
On Sunday night I’m going to be thinking to myself I can’t wait until Monday morning, because just as being a lawyer has been a passion of mine for 30 years, being a judge, I’ll have that same passion. And if you don’t have that passion as a judge you have no business sitting on the bench.
That’s my fifth-grade teacher. I asked her if I could do a play on John F. Kennedy’s life. So I wrote the play on my mother’s 55 typewriter for several weeks. I played JFK in the play and we had all these kids playing. The kid who played Martin Luther King is still my friend today.