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County Bar Assn. Releases Its Ratings of Judicial Candidates in June Primary

Times Staff Writer

The San Diego County Bar Assn. on Thursday unveiled its ratings of the candidates for two contested judicial seats in the June 7 primary election.

Each candidate was given one of three ratings--"well-qualified,” “qualified” or “not recommended"--by the Bar’s Judicial Evaluations Committee, which first began screening contenders for the bench in 1976.

Bar President Edward B. Huntington said that of the eight candidates running for a seat on the San Diego Municipal Court, four were listed as “not recommended” by the committee. They are Michael Schaefer, a former San Diego city councilman with a history of legal problems; Eugene J. Gorrow, a former city councilman in Ohio; Ronald F. Bird, a lawyer specializing in business and real estate law, and Donna Woodley, a local attorney.

Three of the remaining San Diego candidates--Deputy Dist. Atty. Frank A. Brown; Mary A. Franklin, a former city attorney in Los Angeles; and civil attorney Robert C. Baxley--were rated “well-qualified.”

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The eighth candidate, San Diego lawyer Frank V. Puglia, was rated “qualified.”

Both candidates competing for one seat on the South Bay Municipal Court--incumbent Judge James M. Edmunds and Chula Vista attorney William H. Calhoun--were determined to be “qualified” for the job.

The local evaluation process closely resembles the judicial screening system used by the California State Bar. Two-member teams of attorneys are assigned to examine each candidate, in part through the use of confidential questionnaires distributed to lawyers with personal knowledge of the would-be judge.

The questionnaires seek input in areas such as judicial temperament, fairness and objectivity, and knowledge of the law. Also, all judges currently serving on the federal, municipal and superior courts in San Diego, as well as those on the 4th District Court of Appeal, are asked to provide their opinions on the candidates.

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Once the questionnaires are returned, committee members conduct follow-up interviews to clarify answers if necessary. They also interview each candidate and study information on his or her personal data form.

Finally, the entire Judicial Evaluations Committee meets and votes on its recommendations to the Bar’s full board of directors.

Under the Bar’s bylaws, to earn a “qualified” rating, the candidate must “possess professional ability, knowledge, experience, competence, integrity and temperament indicative of fitness to perform the judicial function adequately and satisfactorily.”

To garner the Bar’s “well-qualified” seal of approval, one must meet the “qualified” test but also have a temperament indicative of “superior fitness to perform the judicial function with a high degree of skill and effectiveness.”

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Those labeled “not recommended” by the Bar’s leaders possess “less than the minimum qualities of professional ability, knowledge, experience, competence, integrity and temperament considered necessary to perform the judicial function adequately and satisfactorily.”


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