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Judge4Yourself Releases Ratings For 2020 Judicial Candidates

A legal organization that rates Cuyahoga County judicial candidates has released its evalutations for the 2020 General Election.

The Judicial Candidates Rating Coalition has evaluated judicial candidates since 2002, releasing findings for the public at . The organization has faced criticism in the past for giving higher ratings to white judicial candidates.

Members now undergo implicit bias training prior to interviewing judicial candidates, said Christine Santoni co-chair of the Ohio Women’s Bar Association coalition.

The coalition includes members from several lawyer’s associations: the Asian American Bar Association of Ohio, Cuyahoga Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Association, Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, Norman S. Minor Bar Association and Ohio Women’s Bar Association.

“It’s with that diverse group of lawyers, we think we can bring a perspective to our evaluation process,” Santoni said.

The first set of ratings under new policies meant to address complaints about fairness and transparency were released ahead of the March primary.

Instead of the previous numerical ratings, judicial candidates are now rated on a scale from ‘Excellent’ to ‘Not Recommended.’ Those ratings come out of candidate interviews and research on their prior experience, and are based on diligence, integrity, temperament, demeanor and competence for the position they’re running for. Candidates can request more information from the coalition on how a rating was determined.

The ratings are intended to motivate residents to make informed choices when they vote on judicial offices, said Darrell Clay, co-chair of Judge4Yourself and a member of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association.

“Cuyahoga County has a serious problem. In large numbers, our citizens just don’t vote in those races,” Clay said.

The rating coalition continued its interview process during the pandemic, said David Rowthorn, co-chair of the Cuyahoga Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Association coalition, shifting to virtual meetings.

“We had to make the same adjustments that basically every other organization has had to make,” Rowthorn said. “The criteria are the same, the dynamics are the same, the intentions, purposes and plans are all the same.”

Just one of the 16 candidates listed on Judge4Yourself.com reportedly refused to participate in the interview process. That candidate withdrew from their judicial race earlier this month.

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