As my three children all approached the age of 18, I would talk with them about the importance of registering to vote, and that their vote matters. Most exciting for them was their first presidential election, but I emphasized the importance of state and local elections, because that is where we live.
When they would ask me about judges, I would talk to them about the importance of the role of the judiciary in our society. They would go on to ask questions about the judges, and which judges or candidates I knew. They would ask what I thought of the candidates, and I would respond with the results of our judicial evaluation ratings. That by placing our trust in the attorneys that know these candidates through direct interactions.
When I was interviewing for the position of Executive Director I asked the bar leadership, what is the most controversial activity that you engage in? The answer: judicial evaluations.
Judicial evaluations, however, are more than just a controversial activity; they have a purpose. They serve to inform the voter about judicial candidates based on evaluations from those who see their work in the legal community — fellow attorneys and judges.
Though it is only March, the MCBA’s Judiciary Committee, chaired by the very dedicated Jennifer Sommers, has been hard at work on its annual judicial evaluation process. Last year the MCBA Board of Trustees approved a rules change following an extensive review of the Judicial Evaluations Rules. The primary change to the process was that the results of the judicial evaluation would serve more to simply inform the Committee in their process, instead of directing an automatic result.
Just last week the Judiciary Committee convened for interviews of four candidates, and I am pleased to report that we have the results:
Monroe County Surrogate’s Court
Hon. John M. Owens – Highly Qualified
Rochester City Court
Leticia D. Astacio – Qualified
William T. Gargan – Highly Qualified
Michael C. Lopez – Qualified
The results are being released to the media and our members. As we enter into the election season, the MCBA will continue to promote its results in an effort to inform both the media and the public about our process. But I also wish to ask you to invest in the process. If you believe in the process, then educate your friends, family, colleagues and clients as to why they should understand the process, and why they should consider the results when they go to vote.
Grab the results, save it to your phone and as the elections approach, share the results at your family dinners, evening out with friends, your colleagues. Help us get the word out.
When the Judicial Evaluation Task Force was holding a member forum on this topic one of the criticisms we heard was about the promotion of the results. We do a significant amount of social media campaigning with the results, but we cannot do it alone. There is no advertising budget to run a media campaign, and we do not wish to increase dues to make that happen. With social media and the ability to send email with lightning speed, we encourage you to join our campaign team to spread the word.
If you have other ideas on how to spread the word, please let me know. Your insight is appreciated. The good news is we have four great candidates, so all we need to do now is get the word out to the public as to why they should care about judicial elections.
Thanks for checking in,