Judicial candidates ranked by bar

By Mike Sever Record-Courier staff writer Published:

The first-ever poll by the bar association resulted in "not recommended" ratings for attorneys Eugene Muldowney and Sharon Sabarese. Both are Democrats.

A total of 42.25 percent of the 168-member member association voted in the poll which asked: "Based upon the integrity, temperament, industry, and professional competence of this candidate, would you rate the candidate 'highly recommended,' recommended,' or 'not recommended?'"

The results of the poll were made public this morning.

The two incumbents, Judge Donald Martell, a Republican who was appointed to his seat earlier this year, and Judge Barbara Watson, a Democrat, were the only two candidates to receive "highly recommended" ratings. Watson is unopposed for re-election.

Four other candidates all received "recommended" ratings: Republicans Louis Bertrand and Ronald Kane, and Democrats Laurie Pittman and Francis Ricciardi.

Muldowney, Pittman, Ricciardi, Bertrand and Kane are running for the municipal court seat being vacated by Judge Perry Dickinson, who is retiring. Sabarese is running against Martell.

Muldowney, an assistant Portage County prosecutor, said the poll results did not surprise him.

"I have never, as a prosecutor, really catered to the defense bar and as a judge I won't do it either. I'll be fair and impartial," he said. "It's not surprising to me that a bunch of defense attorneys would vote the way they did."

Muldowney is one of five candidates seeking the seat now held by Dickinson. The field also includes Bertrand, Kane, Pittman and Ricciardi. Ricciardi and Muldowney are both assistant county prosecutors in the criminal division.

Sabarese said she had not received official notice of the poll results as of this morning.

"The bar association was never unanimous that we even do this, there was no statistical analysis, no rating system. It was strictly personality and very political. The members who voted did not have the opportunity to find out what kind of cases we handle," she said.

"So when the members voted, they did not ask us how many jury trials we had handled, how many criminal cases, how many other types of cases., There was no rating system. The committee had us (the judicial candidates) fill out a four-page questionnaire, but that was not passed on to any of the membership," she said.

Benito C. R. Antognoli, chairman of the judicial review committee, said candidates were notified Friday of the poll results.

The Judicial Rating Committee consisted of retired Judge Robert Kent, attorneys Timothy Hart, James Hogle, Jr., Roxana Lyle and Antognoli.

The committee interviewed all of the candidates.

"We found it very useful to speak with the candidates. The interviews were done in case any questions came up or if it was an extremely close call," he said this morning. "The ratings reflect the poll."

Muldowney said he doesn't think the polls will have much impact on the election. "It certainly is not based on my experiences when one particular candidate that's never tried a jury trial gets a better recommendation than me" he said. "I don't think the members of the bar association gave an objective opinion."

The bar association voted in August to rate the judicial candidates.

"We feel it's a real service to the community to give the voters some insight into how attorneys who work with these candidates on a regular basis feel how they might do as judges," Antognoli said.

He anticipates the rating process will be carried out in future

elections for judicial candidates. "I was hopeful we would have a little

better turn out than that. But the turnout was percentage-wise

significantly better than a neighboring, much larger bar association,"

he said.

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