Voters in Volusia County have a smorgasbord of choices to make Tuesday, Aug. 18, when it comes to who will sit behind various judicial benches at the county and circuit court levels.

Three elections for circuit judges and one for a county-court judge will be on the ballots, featuring a total of nine candidates among the four seats.

Incumbent Group 6 Circuit Judge Mike Orfinger, first elected unopposed in 2014, is facing a challenge from attorney Anna Handy of Ormond Beach.

In Group 27, incumbent Circuit Judge Robert Ryan Rendzio will be competing against Alicia Washington, a Palm Coast attorney who has practiced in the 7th Judicial Circuit for more than two decades.

Circuit Judge John Alexander is not running for re-election in his Group 14 seat, creating an opening. Attorneys Joan Anthony and MaryEllen Osterndorf of Daytona Beach, along with attorney Dan Hilbert of St. Augustine, are in the running.

Judges on both the county and circuit levels serve six-year terms. County courts handle misdemeanor criminal cases, traffic offenses, and civil disputes of $30,000 or less, while circuit courts handle felony criminal cases and larger civil disputes.

All judicial races, even those with only two candidates, will appear on the Aug. 18 primary-election ballot. All of them are nonpartisan, as well, so all Volusia County voters may participate, regardless of political-party affiliation, if any.

The following are brief profiles of the candidates in the Group 27 circuit judge race, and the lone county judge race. Stay tuned to The Beacon and The Beacon EXTRA! for overviews of the other judicial contests.

SEVENTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT JUDGE, GROUP 27

Rendzio

Bryan R. Rendzio (incumbent)

Age: 45

Education: Undergraduate at Florida State University; law school at Florida Coastal School of Law

Current residence: Ponte Vedra Beach

Current occupation: Incumbent judge, appointed in 2019

What makes a good judge, and why do you fit the bill?

I’m called to rule with fairness, and to be fair to the process. The biggest thing I’ve learned is being fair and impartial to the process, and that you have to diligently undertake your duties.

I carry a calm judicial temperament. People can talk to local attorneys that have come before me to understand my dedication.

If I had to pick an aspect from my personal background, I would say it comes from having two sons who are 7 and 10 years old. Between my wife and myself, we have a lot of experience ruling on our children’s disputes.

The aspect from my professional background that helped qualify me was my prior arbitration experience. As an arbitrator, I was accustomed to overseeing a hearing and then making rulings after giving weight to the evidence presented.

What role, if any, do the courts play in criminal-justice reform?

Being an incumbent judge, I am not permitted to provide my views on societal issues. However, as a judge, I can state that my role is nonpartisan.

I believe in and follow the oath that I took when entering office, and I have faith in our system of justice. My role as a judge is to be fair and impartial. I apply and interpret the existing laws equally to all who come before me without any bias.

Editor’s note: Rendzio declined to answer this question in our interview, because of the restrictions on judicial candidates. This is the answer he provided to a similar question for our Voter’s Guide.

Alicia Washington

Alicia Washington

Age: 50

Education: Undergraduate at Louisiana State University; law school at Texas Southern University

Current residence: Palm Coast

Current occupation: Attorney in private practice, mainly handling family-law and criminal cases

What makes a good judge, and why do you fit the bill?

I feel like what makes a good judge is someone who understands what their role and function is. [Someone who] understands they’re there to provide a service; to apply the law as it should be applied, as it’s written.

Those are things I’ve tried to do throughout my career and my personal life, as well. I’m very much a cause-and-effect person; if I do this, it’ll yield that result.

I am a multitasker to a fault, where I'm constantly consumed and having to make efficient use of my time. I think all of those things are going to help me.

Prior to becoming a lawyer, I worked in retail. My aunt owned a store, so i’ve always had that experience of having to interact with a lot of different people.

What role, if any, do the courts play in criminal-justice reform?

If there were a task force that was developed to explore that, and [the Legislature] wanted judges’ input, we would participate in that. But, for the most part, that’s a legislative function, and that’s the problem.

A lot of time people think judges do what judges do in the movies: they come in and do these things that make everything right. A judge simply takes the law given to them by the Legislature and enforces it.

COUNTY JUDGE:

Chris Miller (incumbent)

Chris Miller

Age: 41

Education: Bachelor of Arts from the University of Tennessee, and a law degree from Stetson University College of Law

Current residence: Daytona Beach

Current occupation: County judge, appointed in 2018

What makes a good judge, and why do you fit the bill?

I think a good judge needs a couple of different characteristics or qualities, and I think I possess those qualities. Humility, humbleness, intelligence and the ability to listen to people carefully are important qualities.

You have to be confident in yourself, obviously, but you need to not get that “black-robe syndrome.” You don't know about the parties and their cases before they come into the court. You have to have that hunger to keep improving, and know that everybody that comes in front of you needs to be treated fairly and needs to be treated with respect.

As a judge you’re called on to interpret statute and rules, and sometimes you have to do it on the spot with parties in front of you … you’ve got to be fairly intelligent to be able to do that on a consistently high level.

I think my reputation is that I am a pretty humble guy. I try to value [the parties’] time and get their cases resolved as efficiently as I can. I was a prosecutor for 12 years, and had a lot of different jury trials. I just became really impassioned about being in the courtroom.

What role, if any, do the courts play in criminal justice reform?

It’s kind of twofold. My philosophy is that I’m not a legislator, I’m a judge — I come from a different branch of the government, and a judge’s role is how to interpret the law.

Also, another part of it is to do [interpret the law] fairly to people from all races, genders and backgrounds. We have to ensure that.

Without obviously commenting on specific measures, those are the two things I come back to: My role as a judge is just to interpret and apply the law as it’s passed by the Legislature.

Nora

Nora Hall

Age: 64

Education: Undergraduate at University of Central Florida; went to Florida A&M School of Law

Current residence: Daytona Beach

Current occupation: Assistant attorney general

What makes a good judge, and why do you fit the bill?

I think a good judge is someone who serves with integrity and brings common sense to the bench, and someone who will uphold the law. I know that I’m a really well-rounded candidate, because I have a wealth of experience in dealing with the public and with helping resolve other people's problems.

I worked for [former] Congressman John Mica, worked for former Gov. George Bush, and interned at the State Attorney’s Office in Orlando.  I also interned in statewide prosecution with the Attorney General's Office.

But above that, I’m a mother and I’m a grandmother. I know how to be unbiased, because  I raised two boys. I know how to deal with issues and not show favoritism.

I think that life experience is just as important as legal experience when it comes to being a judge.

What role, if any, do the courts play in criminal justice reform?

The Legislature makes the laws, and the judiciary is there to uphold the law and uphold fairness. At some point, maybe the Legislature may ask for input from judges, but that’s the only role I can see where they might have some influence in the law.

The judge is there to uphold the law, and to be fair.