Toledo Bar survey ranks candidatesWritten by Zach Davis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Stuart J. Goldberg, president of the Toledo Bar Association, announced the results of the Toledo Bar’s judicial candidates survey Sept. 27.
Members of the Toledo Bar were surveyed on whether they would recommend upcoming judicial candidates, with the options “highly recommended,” “recommended” or “not recommended.”
Members were asked to base the candidate’s rankings on their integrity, legal ability, legal experience, fair-mindedness, promptness, professionalism and judicial temperament, public and community service and other qualifications bearing upon their fitness for the office. They were also instructed that they should only vote if they had sufficient information concerning the candidates to form an opinion of their qualifications.
Maumee’s Gary L. Byers (62.6 percent “highly recommended,” 34.1 percent “recommended,” 3.3 percent “not recommended”) Oregon’s Jeff Keller (39.9, 48.7, 11.4), Sylvania’s M. Scott Ramey (44.3, 46.2, 9.5) and Toledo’s Timothy C. Kuhlman (66.7, 31.5, 1.8) were the only candidates listed for their respective spots. Kulhman’s 66.7 percent “highly recommended” rating was the highest of any candidate surveyed.
For the remaining three Toledo Municipal Court spots, the race between Mark Davis, David L. Toska and Michelle Wagner for one spot produced the most eye-grabbing numbers. Davis received members’ votes totaling just 1.8 percent “highly recommended,” 7.9 percent of “recommended” and 90.3 percent “not recommended.” The closest “not recommended” score to Davis’ was Robert Christiansen with 45.8 percent.
Davis, a Toledo Bar member who declined to participate in the survey, attributed his poor showing to favoritism.
“It’s always been like that, it’s nothing new,” Davis said. “You can read between the lines and see who voted in that poll. There are about 2,000 lawyers in Toledo and only 300 to 400 responded. If you are a prosecutor and you treat the defense bar well and with plea bargains then you are going to get a high rating. If you are going to be tough and you become a judge then you are going to get a lower rating.”
Michelle Wagner led the voting in Davis’ category with 62.5 percent “highly recommended,” the second-highest total of any judge. She also had 32. 2 percent “recommended” and 5.2 percent “not recommended.” David Toska totaled 19.1 percent “highly recommended,” 55.1 percent “recommended” and 25.7 percent “not recommended.”
“David Toska, his numbers were lower because he’s a tough guy — he’s not a softie,” Davis said. “The defense bar, which I’m a member of so I know how it works, makes their money by telling their client ‘I can get a deal with this judge.’ They think they are going to be able to get the best deals with Michelle Wagner as the judge so they gave her a higher rating. It’s not based on credentials.”
In an email to Toledo Free Press, Wagner responded, “Under Ohio’s Code of Professional Responsibility, lawyers have an ethical duty to assist the voting public in making informed decisions in judicial elections. They are asked to consider the judicial candidate’s qualifications based upon integrity, legal ability, legal experience, fairmindedness, promptness, professionalism, judicial temperment public and community services and other qualifications bearing upon the candidate’s fitness for office.
“Mark Davis’ numbers speak for themselves. Over 90 percent of responding attorneys do not recommend him for judge based on the qualifications mentioned above. Ninety percent.
“Mr. Davis is incorrect in his portrayal of the Toledo Bar Association members as only criminal defense attorneys. Participants in this poll include civil attorneys, criminal defense attorneys, prosecuting attorneys and current sitting judges.
“It is only natural that when over 90 percent of those polled do not recommend you for office that you would attempt to attack the poll and other candidates which is what Mr. Davis is doing.
“The bottom line is 94.7 percent of responding attorneys recommend Michelle Wagner for judge.”
Christiansen (22.6, 31.6, 45.8) and Lourdes Santiago (18.1, 46.2, 35.7) finished with close results in the second Toledo Municipal Court spot and C. Allen McConnell (42.9, 42.9, 14.3) was rated higher than Joshua M. Lanzinger (17.8, 47, 35.2) in the final spot. Santiago has since withdrawn as a candidate. John Coble is facing Christiansen, he was not polled with the original group since his ballot status was in question. Polling for him was done once his status as a candidate was resolved, 60.1 percent highly recommended, 32.5 percent recommended and 7.5 percent not recommended.