The Monroe County Bar Association has done away with judicial candidate ratings, a process widely regarded as flawed and ineffective.
“The rankings caused more damage than they were worth,” said Christopher Thomas, an attorney at Nixon Peabody LLP and a member of a Bar Association task force that studied the issue.
“The rankings have not proven to be a strong predictor of which lawyers would become good judges and which would not,” said Thomas, counsel to the Monroe County Democratic Party.
The task force that started working roughly a year ago recommended doing away with the old system and the bar’s board of trustees officially made the change this month.
In March of last year Monroe County Republican Chairman Bill Reilich sent a letter to the bar saying Republican candidates would not participate in the process.
In the letter, Reilich called the evaluation process “so flawed and unjust that it borders on the line of fraudulence and calls into question the legitimacy of your entire organization.”
Reilich pointed out that there is no correlation between the ratings and election results.
“It clearly was alienating some people either rightly or wrongly,” said Bar Association president Mark Moretti, a partner at Phillips Lytle LLP.
“We don’t need to figure out whether it was right or wrong, but clearly people had a perception that it was flawed,” he said.
Moretti said the association now will focus on educational efforts related to judicial elections.
“That’s certainly what it’s going to be this year, is a candidate forum,” Moretti said.
“If the forum works well, I suspect we’re going to continue with the forum, but we haven’t precluded some other form of educational activity,” he said.
He said the association has made preliminary arrangements with WROC-TV 8 to serve as host for the forum in September or October. The moderators will be: Thomas VanStrydonck, former chief administrative judge for the 7th Judicial District; retired Fourth Department Justice Joseph Valentino; and Connie Walker, retired law clerk in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York.
“We’re hopeful this could be something that really does give the public more insight into the judges than perhaps our one- or two-word rating,” Moretti said.
“We’re hoping that this is going to be kind of an opportunity to showcase the candidates more directly, other than a campaign ad, or shaking hands with someone,” Moretti said.
Moretti said the report prepared by the task force and the voting by members of the task force and the board of trustees are not being made public.
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