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The Sound of Ideas

Judging Judicial Candidates

Posted Monday, April 19, 2010

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Judging Judicial Candidates When it comes time to vote, as many as 50 percent of people casting ballots will actually skip the judicial races. It's understandable for the simple reason that most voters know very little about the candidates for the bench. So, how should voters judge would-be judges? And how did Cuyahoga County become a leader in voter education on this part of the ballot? Monday morning at 9, join host Dan Moulthrop and guests for a conversation that should help take the mystery out of the judicial ballot.


Government/Politics, Other, Courts/Crime - Fire/Law Enforcement


Subodh Chandra Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association
Catherine Turcer Ohio Citizen Action
Rob Frost Chairman, Cuyahoga County GOP
Bert Brandenburg Executive Director, Justice at Stake
The Honorable Michael Donnelly Court of Common Pleas, Cuyahoga County (uncontested incumbent candidate)
Eben O. ("Sandy") McNair, IV, Precinct Committee, Cuyahoga County Democratic Party

Additional Information

How does judicial selection work in other states? Find out in a comprehensive report from the American Judicature Society.
And in other countries? Read this still relevant piece by Adam Liptak of The New York Times.

Leave a Comment

Please follow our community discussion rules when composing your comments.

James Felder 8:21 AM 4/19/10

Contested judicial elections have a fundamental conflict with candidates making statements of views on current issues in order to appeal to voters and impartiality of the elected judge on cases where they have publically taken a stand on the issue before them. The only solution is Thomas Moyer’s concept of appointed judges with a vote of retention after an initial term.

Rob McClelland 8:27 AM 4/19/10

I am a current candidate but have not yet received my rating from Judge4Yourself because I am unopposed in the primary.  Even not knowing the results of my interview, I am a proponent of the Judge4Yourself program.  Who better than your peers to evaluate your abilities? Unlike other peer review programs, such as in medicine, the results of the review are public, as they should be.  As Mr. Chandra explained, the background information is extensive and the interview is wide open.  It is an excellent opportunity to present yourself and for the voters to get the best information.

Thank You, Rob McClelland

Henry Summers 12:27 PM 4/19/10

The judge4yourself website left a lot to be desired. I’d prefer it they posted the judicial candidates actual responses to their questionnaires and transcript of their interviews, rather than have those responses be filtered through their organization. Judge4yourself appears to be misnamed. Their group should be called voteforthejudgeswetellyouto

Patrick Mackin 12:35 PM 4/19/10

While the name game is a problem for big counties like Cuyahoga, it is much less of a problem where I live in Lorain county, where there are few enough judges that anyone can learn about them with a little time and effort. For bigger counties, a better reform would be to break-up the judicial election by cities, rather than having a candidate run countywide. Having a common pleas judge serve Rocky River, Westlake and Bay Village, for instance, rather than the entire county.

I am against appointing judges, which just moves the politics behind closed doors.

James W. Satola 7:06 PM 4/19/10

Thank you to “Sound of Ideas” for this morning’s program on Judge4Yourself.  As a current judicial candidate for the Court of Common Pleas—in fact the one whose Judge4Yourself composite rating (3.50) is seven times higher than that of the sitting incumbent (0.50)—I can attest to the careful consideration given by the members of the independent bar associations comprising Judge4Yourself.  The questionnaire form used this year was actually (and rather closely) modeled from the one used by Senator Sherrod Brown sent to those under consideration for the position of United States District Judge (referred to as similar to the questionnaire sent to Magistrate Judge interviewees in the program), which I can attest to, having interviewed before the selection panel convened by Senator Brown approximately a year ago for a district judge seat.

As mentioned in the program, in addition to the detailed questionnaire, each candidate considered by the Judge4Yourself participating bar associations is required to submit one or more writing samples, and is then interviewed extensively by a panel of approximately 75 members, who are required by the process to ask only “hard” questions presented by each individual candidate’s background and experience.

As a candidate who has appeared before the Judge4Yourself group on three occasions—including for the 2006 Democratic primary where I (then rated a cumulative 3.0 by the then 5 participating bar associations) and sitting Judge Ann Mannen (then rated at a cumulative 3.2) lost to Christine Russo, who was rated a cumulative 0.0—I can say it was a thorough and welcome process each time.

So, again, thanks to “Sound of Ideas” for the informative program this morning, and thanks to Judge4Yourself for the valuable service it provides.

One minor correction.  Not every Democratic candidate was interviewed by the party City and Ward leaders, or later by the Central Committee.  While I attended both of those meetings, I never got farther than the hallway, as the “endorsement” essentially always goes to the sitting incumbent.  The following quote (from an April 4, 2002 “Scene Magazine” article titled “Bench Warmer") might shed some light:

“If you’re an incumbent, you’re pretty much rubber-stamped in Cuyahoga County, says Dimora.”

James W. Satola


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