New County Court Judge to be lacks Bar Association rating

The 2015 election cycle has been not much of anything so far. And it may continue to be such.

Ray Walter is reportedly still a candidate for Erie County Executive. If anyone has seen any positions papers, press releases, etc. please share them with the rest of us.

There are still a couple county legislative seats that are being hotly contested and there are several town primaries, particularly in Cheektowaga where everyone seems to be running for everything, with old loyalties not necessarily being honored. The only significant campaign activity so far this year is with the judicial races.

There will be two new Supreme Court judges elected in the 8th Judicial District plus a new Family Court Judge and two Erie County Court Judges. The news at the moment on these races concerns the ratings of the Erie County Bar Association.

There are only two candidates for the two Erie County Court seats, which means that the two candidates have been in effect already elected. Incumbent Sheila DiTullio and assistant district attorney James Bargnesi are the two. So here is the story: while Judge DiTullio has the Bar Association’s “Outstanding” rating, Mr. Bargnesi does not have a rating from the Association. Here, in the category of “what we’ve heard,” is the back story.

Mr. Bargnesi applied for a rating, as all judicial candidates do. Here is some relevant information from a press release issued by the Bar Association:

Ratings include Outstanding, Well Qualified, Qualified, and Not Recommended.

 The Judicial candidates are asked to complete a written questionnaire and are rated on criteria including integrity, experience, professional ability, education, reputation, industry, temperament, fairness, statutory standards, attitude, punctuality, and knowledge of the law; all of which are determined through a process which includes a personal interview with each candidate and interviews with lawyers and judges who have had interaction with the candidates. The ratings are defined in the Bar Association of Erie County’s Judicial Rating Application:

 The great public responsibility and power of the bench necessitates that the measure of qualification for judicial office must be greater than that required for the private practice of law. To be rated “Qualified” the applicant must meet each of the listed criteria to a reasonable degree. A rating of “Well Qualified” requires qualifications to a high degree, and a rating of “Outstanding” requires qualifications even beyond that high standard. In assessing an applicant’s qualifications it must be remembered that meeting the ‘standards of professional conduct expected of lawyers in their relationships with the public, with the legal system, and with the legal profession,’ is at least as important as the requirement of knowledge and proficiency in technical aspects of the practice of law.

I have been told that Mr. Bargnesi was rated “not recommended” by the Association following his application and interview. He appealed the rating and the decision again came back “not recommended.” He then withdrew his application for a rating.

If there was a primary for the office of County Judge next month, or if there was another candidate on the ballot in November then the voters of Erie County could potentially elect another person. It’s a free country, another candidate could have run for the office, but there are no other candidates. Mr. Bargnesi has been selected as Erie County Court Judge.

For Supreme Court the Bar Association determined that there two candidates who are “qualified” for the court. Neither one of them has the last name of Sedita. The two who were rated were Emilio Colaiacovo and Buffalo City Judge Debra Givens.

In an interview with Scott Brown on Channel 2 a couple nights ago, District Attorney Frank Sedita said that he has “not publicly announced a candidacy for any other office. I have not formed any campaign committees and not raised any money for a judicial race.” All of which is technically true. We have heard, however, that Sedita did apply for a Bar Association rating for Supreme Court. And while he does not have a Supreme Court committee formed, the $174,293 that is sitting in the Friends of Frank Sedita account can easily be transferred into a court campaign account.

Finally, concerning the Bar Association ratings for the Family Court seat, Brenda Freedman is rated as “outstanding” while both Kelly Brinkworth and Michele Brown are rated “well qualified.”

The early line for DA

With Sedita’s impending selection as a Supreme Court Justice, maneuvering will escalate concerning who will be the appointee for the last year of Sedita’s term (Governor Cuomo can make an appointment), and who the candidates for DA will be in November 2016. On the Democratic side the names circling so far are County Court Judge Tim Franczyk, City Court Judge Gail Eagan, and Assistant District Attorney Michael Flaherty. Franczyk and Eagan would need to resign their current position if they ran for DA without first being appointed by the governor. Flaherty may simply continue working for Sedita as his Supreme Court clerk.

Update on campaign financial disclosures

On August 10th updates to financial disclosure reports were required for candidates who are involved in a primary election on September 10th. Candidates not involved in a primary election will file their next financial report by October 2nd. Here is a quick update on what the Family Court candidates had in their campaign treasuries as on August 6:

Kelly Brinkworth — $42,951; raised $9,287 since July 11th, spent $4,384

Brenda Freedman — $57,946; raised $5,060; spent $11,904

Michele Brown – $132,143; raised $15,049; spent $8,111

Joseph Jarzembek — $140; raised $800; spend $660

Ms. Freedman started her TV advertising this week.

County Court candidate James Bargnesi filed a 32-day pre-primary report to note that his campaign has repaid the $50,000 loan he made earlier this year to his own committee.

Biden-Gillibrand 2016

In the “who knew” department, after I put up my last post about Hillary Clinton I received a Twitter notification that I now have a new follower, UNY4Biden-Gillibrand. (Thank you to everyone reading this blog on Twitter). There is speculation about Joe Biden running for president, of course, but these folks take it two steps further. They are promoting Biden and Gillibrand for a one term administration starting in 2017, and two terms with President Gillibrand starting in 2021. For those who may have been thinking that New York State has only one Senator, Chuck Schumer, I can inform you that Senator Kirsten Gillibrand also represents the state in the Senate.