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SDCBA releases judicial candidate ratings

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Four candidates vying for spots on the San Diego Superior Court bench during next month's primary election have been given "well qualified" ratings by the San Diego County Bar Association.

The ratings were decided by the organization's 21-member Judicial Election Evaluation Committee (JEEC), using a process similar to the one used by the state's Judicial Nominees Evaluation Commission.

"We're looking to inform the public," said Marvin Mizell, president of the San Diego County Bar Association (SDCBA). "There's a dearth of information on judicial races, unlike when you have non-partisan races, like the mayor's race, you still get to hear about the candidates.

“Attorneys have particular knowledge of our justice system, and through our very thorough evaluation process, we aim to provide meaningful information on each candidate, as a service to assist voters in San Diego.”

Mizell said each candidate is judged based on his or her individual qualities and not in comparison to any candidate he or she is running against.

The JEEC evaluates candidates on their qualifications to serve as judicial officers based on several factors, including judicial temperament, intellect and ability, knowledge of the law, trial experience and professional reputation.

If a candidate had been evaluated by the JEEC in a prior election, the committee was able to consider the earlier rating in conjunction with its current evaluation.

San Diego County deputy district attorneys Robert Amador and Garland Peed, Superior Court commissioner Terrie Eileen Roberts and San Diego deputy city attorney George Schaefer all received "well qualified" ratings.

San Diego County deputy district attorney David Berry was given a "qualified" rating.

As part of the SDCBA's evaluation process, each candidate fills out a personal data questionnaire. A subcommittee of the JEEC then performs an investigation, which includes sending out confidential questions to certain segments of the legal community to get comments on the candidates.

The subcommittees interview their assigned candidate and then vote on a rating. That vote is either accepted or denied by the SDCBA board.

Each candidate has a right to appeal a negative rating before it becomes public.

"We think we have the ability to judge the candidates, given the expertise of the members on this committee," Mizell said. "The people on the JEEC are attorneys who have been practicing a long time. They're the best qualified attorneys and retired judges."

Constitutional law attorney Gary Kreep and litigation attorney and arbitrator Jim Miller Jr. received a "lacking qualifications" rating.

Berry faces Roberts for Superior Court Office No. 24, while Peed squares off against Kreep for Superior Court Office No. 34.

In the only three-member race, Amador, Miller and Schaefer are vying for Superior Court Office No. 25. Miller also ran for judge in 2010, narrowly losing a runoff election to deputy district attorney Richard Monroy.

Kreep received a rating of 9 (out of 10) and Miller got an 8 from the independent research group, Judge Voter Guide, which warns against voting for "judicial activists." Berry also received a 9.

Peed (7), Amador (6), Schaefer (5) and Roberts (3) were rated by Judge Voter Guide as well.

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Jodi Cleesattle 5:14pm May 25, 2012

This story might wish to make more clear that Judge Voter Guide is not some sort of non-partisan "independent research group," nor does it appear to be a "group" at all. Judge Voter Guide, created by conservative activist Craig Huey, promotes the election of judges it deems "strict constructionists," while favoring candidates who support Bible-based positions on legal issues. Clicking around on the website, you will see that he vigorously supports “Christian” positions. For example, Mr. Huey provided a 5-page "Christian Alert" flier advocating for passage of Proposition 8 in 2008. Mr. Huey’s current candidate endorsement questionnaire asks judicial candidates "how would you go about determining how to rule" in the same-sex marriage cases and "do you agree or disagree” with an appellate court ruling deemed to be against homeschooling. Regardless of one's views on these types of issues, voters should be aware of what the Judge Voter Guide ratings really mean.

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