An interview with Ken Lark, who recently filed to run the Group 2 seat on the Pinellas Pasco Circuit Court.
Tell us about yourself — I understand that you are launching your election in the judge’s race for the 6th Judicial Court, Pinellas Pasco, Group 2.
Ken Lark: In addition to being a lawyer, I have a lot of life experiences that I believe help me understand and relate to diverse people. Prior to my career in law, I was a paramedic, EMT and a registered nurse, working in emergency rooms and even home health care. I also worked in my family’s county store in Vermont. I understand people and have spent a lifetime advocating for their rights—first in the healthcare industry and later in legal practice. Today, I have a law practice and I am a mediator—circuit civil, family law and appellate law. I can tell you that mediating disputes, and doing it well, teaches you to sanitize from your mind the emotions and subjective points within disputes. You learn to work cooperatively with both people who are coming from points of disagreement and work solely from a perspective of objectivism and a point of view that is as neutral as possible.
Why did you decide to run? What is motivating you be elected as judge?
KL: Looking around the legal landscape locally, I’ve noticed changes taking place. Older judges are retiring, and many younger attorneys are setting up practices, building careers, and this is leaving a gap. This gap is the role of who will now administer the law. Since my career has been spent in advocacy in its many forms along with having a solid legal background and career, I believe that my contributions in the judicial system will help to maintain the integrity, civility and respect of the courts. My goal is to be seen as “everybody’s judge” who understands diverse groups of people.
Also, often we hear from the community that they want judges who are tough on crime. Truthfully, three-quarters of elected judges don’t sit on a criminal bench. I think that it’s best to have judges with diverse backgrounds, who understand the law with broad legal and life experiences. I have this.
What does “justice” mean to you?
KL: Everybody has an idea of what they think justice should mean. From a legal perspective, I think it depends a little on the legal issue at hand. In criminal law, justice is about due process, that the law is respected and rules observed, and that the rights of all parties are respected. In Family law, children’s rights can be a primary point of justice, to ensure that their interests and safety are at the forefront of decisions, and that parents and other adults are treated fairly and with respect. In civil litigation, justice is about being fair and impartial—ensuring integrity and to consider strengths and ties to the community.
Can we expect to see any specific changes with you on the bench?
KL: Increasingly, we are seeing a court system with many unrepresented individuals, and we need to find more ways for the unrepresented to have their cases heard. I also believe that for the judicial system to have its judgments and orders respected, they must extend respect within the court room. People need to feel that the judges respect them—that they have been heard and were allowed to present their side. The judge, bailiff, attorneys and all representatives of the court have a responsibility to behave respectfully towards everyone to ensure that the court and its decisions are respected.
Tell me something that people might be surprised to know about you…
KL: My past often surprises people. I was a national ski patroller, and that lead to my career in healthcare—as an EMT, paramedic and registered nurse. As a male emergency room nurse, people also might be surprised to learn that a male in a female dominated profession gets a small taste of what it’s like to be a minority. I’m not saying that I understand what it’s like to be a minority or a woman in business, but I have experienced on a small scale what it is like to be the outsider because of your gender.
I also have a passion for giving back to my community. I have organized mortgage foreclosure forums in St. Petersburg, and I have volunteered as a hearing officer for the St. Pete Housing Authority to protect rights of individuals who were facing termination of their housing. I also have served on the Bayfront Medical Center Institutional Review Board (IRB), providing oversight to clinical pharmacological studies. Most recently, I just returned from a medical mission in Belize. Volunteering and giving back to society is one of the most rewarding things there is—it really defines me. That kind of sounds corny, but it’s true. I use that same perspective in law, advocating for fairness, due process, justice, and I care deeply about how our society governs itself.