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Judicial candidates disagree on validity of W.Va. Bar poll

May 02, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - David A. Camilletti said he was "elated" when an annual state bar poll ranked him higher than his two opponents for a new Circuit Court seat.

But Patrick Henry and Gray Silver III, Camilletti's foes in the Democratic primary, said voters should put the poll results in context.

For its 2000 Judicial Evaluation Poll, the West Virginia State Bar asked 4,000 attorneys across the state to anonymously rank candidates for judgeships in six categories, plus overall qualifications. About one-third responded.

Candidates for Circuit Court judgeships were rated only by attorneys in that circuit.

The lowest score in each category was 1 ("poor") and the highest score was 4 ("outstanding").

Seventy-nine responses were received for the three-way Circuit Court primary race.

Camilletti's overall qualifications for office were rated at 2.8. Silver and Henry each scored 2.4.

Camilletti was first by himself in five other categories, including integrity/moral courage/impartiality, in which he scored 3.1 Henry had 2.4 and Silver had 2.3.

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Silver and Camilletti tied at 2.7 for legal ability, and Henry scored 2.6.

Silver said that plaintiffs' attorneys, of which Camilletti is one, are known for their political activism and probably got out the vote in the poll, while defense attorneys such as Silver are not active.

"Attorneys have particular interests," said Henry. Plaintiffs' lawyers want a liberal judge, while defense lawyers want a conservative judge, he said.

"Most times, I'm in the middle - too liberal for the conservatives and too conservative for the liberals," Henry said.

Henry and Silver took part in the poll, but Camilletti said he abstained because he thought it would be a conflict as a candidate.

The three other sitting judges in the 23rd Circuit, each of whom is running unopposed, were also included in the poll.

David A. Sanders (first division) scored 2.7 in overall qualifications for office. Thomas W. Steptoe Jr. (second division) scored 3.2 and Christopher C. Wilkes (third division) scored 3.0.

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