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VOL. 129 | NO. 128 | Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Memphis Bar Reveals Judicial Candidate Poll

By Bill Dries

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All but three of the 24 local judicial incumbents on the Aug. 7 ballot came out on top in the Memphis Bar Association poll of judicial candidates released Monday, June 30.

The Memphis Bar Association poll on judicial races on the Aug. 7 ballot drew responses from 1,383 attorneys on who they felt was most qualified in the set of races.

(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)

Attorneys were asked by the bar to select candidates based on who they felt was best qualified to hold the office.

A total of 1,383 attorneys participated. The poll was distributed to all practicing attorneys and judges in Shelby County and not just those who are members of the bar.

Those participating rated challenger Gerald Skahan as the most qualified over Division 9 General Sessions Criminal Court Judge Joyce Broffitt. Skahan was rated as most qualified by 40 percent with Broffitt ranked as most qualified by 28 percent. Another 29 percent had no opinion.

In the Division 12 General Sessions Criminal Court judge race, 37 percent of the attorneys picked Ronald Lucchesi as most qualified compared to 17 percent for incumbent Judge Gwen Rooks.

And challenger Ellen Fite was the favorite over General Sessions Civil Court Judge Division 5 incumbent Betty Thomas Moore with 44 percent rating her as most qualified compared to 35 percent for Moore.

In the five open races for judge on the August ballot, the 60 percent who selected Rhynette Northcross Heard in the race for Circuit Court judge Division 5 was the largest percentage in what are expected to be much closer races in the election as well as the bar poll.

In the Division 5 race, 27 percent said they had no opinion on who was most qualified.

In the race for Chancery Court Part 2, attorney Jim Newsom was the choice of 35 percent with 29 percent having no opinion and state Sen. Jim Kyle with 28 percent.

Attorney Kyle Wiggins was chosen by 34 percent of the attorneys for Circuit Court judge Division 1, with 29 percent having no opinion and Leah Roen the choice of 21 percent.

Lea Ann Pafford Dobson was rated as most qualified by 42 percent in the Circuit Court judge Division 3 race compared to 38 percent for retired Judge D’Army Bailey.

In the race for Juvenile Court judge, Juvenile Court chief magistrate Dan Michael was the choice of 48 percent of those taking the poll with City Court Judge Tarik Sugarmon rated as most qualified by 31 percent with 21 percent having no opinion.

The attorneys were also polled on four clerks’ races and the race for Shelby County district attorney general.

The attorneys overwhelmingly favored District Attorney General Amy Weirich in her re-election bid over Democratic challenger Joe Brown. Weirich was the choice of 79.4 percent compared to 15 percent for Brown. The 5 percent with no opinion was the lowest percentage of no opinion choices in any of the 42 races in the poll, including the eight retention races for state appellate court judges.

Shelby County Democratic Party Chairman Bryan Carson acknowledged last week that some local Democrats are questioning the strength of Brown’s campaign, which initially drew a lot of attention and hope that it would bring in a larger voter turnout for the Democratic slate.

Carson called for Democrats to continue to support Brown’s campaign, adding that Brown “is not your average candidate.”

Other surprises in the bar poll show 46.7 percent of those polled had no opinion in the race for Probate Court clerk with 43.1 percent favoring Republican incumbent Paul Boyd and 10.2 percent favoring Democratic challenge William Chism.

Boyd pointed out that only about 400 attorneys practice regularly in Probate Court.

Chism has been seldom seen during the general election race, showing up at two events in recent weeks after winning the May Democratic primary.

The attorneys went with Republican incumbents Jimmy Moore and Joy Touliatos in the races for Circuit Court clerk and Juvenile Court clerk, respectively, as well as Republican candidate Richard DeSaussure in the open race for Criminal Court clerk.

The 6 percent who believed County Commissioner Henri Brooks was the most qualified candidate for Juvenile Court clerk was the lowest percentage for any candidate in any of five races in the poll for non-judge positions.

The judicial races on the August ballot are on the ballot once every eight years, making the total ballot in those years the longest of any election cycle in Shelby County politics.

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