Confused about who is running for judge? So are many lawyers - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Confused about who is running for judge? So are many lawyers

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LOUISVILLE, Ky., (WDRB) – Judicial races in Jefferson County can often be a crap shoot, with voters choosing among little-known candidates -- except for perhaps a familiar last name.

Historically, voters have a small slate of people to choose from for a seat on the bench once the November election rolls around.

This year, voters can’t just flip a coin, though.

There are 21 candidates running for one seat, that of District Judge Michelle Stengel, who retired in May when it was too late to schedule a primary election to narrow the field to two.

But there are a few helpful guides to narrowing your choices, including a judicial poll by the Louisville Bar Association.

In the poll, more than half of the 768 attorneys who responded said they didn’t know 14 of the candidates.

Former Judge Judith Bartholomew received the highest ratings in the poll, with 51 percent of the participating attorneys finding her qualified or highly qualified.  Bartholomew was a district court judge for 10 years in Jefferson County and then a senior judge across the state for another five.

Daniel Alvarez, an immigration and criminal defense lawyer, ranked second, with 46 percent finding him qualified or highly qualified.  

And Assistant County Attorney Sandy Berman finished third, with a 41 percent qualified or highly qualified ranking, just one percent higher than long-time attorney Bob Heleringer. Berman, an attorney for four decades, was the most recognized of the candidates, with only 38 percent of the attorneys in the poll saying they didn’t know him.

Ron Schwoeppe and R.A. Florio were found to be the most unqualified, at 22 percent and 23 percent respectively.

Perhaps the most coveted endorsement for a judicial candidate is that of the Citizens for Better Judges, a group made up of attorneys and members of the community.

Last month, the group endorsed Alvarez, saying he met the “high standards and demanding criteria established for endorsement by Citizens for Better Judges and he is recommended to the electorate as the most qualified in the district court judicial race.”

State Treasurer L.J. "Todd" Hollenbach has raised the most money for a judicial seat, at $114,685. As of Oct. 19, Hollenbach had spent about $10,000.

In the bar poll, Hollenbach was found to be qualified or highly qualified by 33 percent of the respondents. About 46 percent didn’t know him and 17 percent found him unqualified.

Assistant County Attorney Andre Bergeron has raised the second-most money, at $31, 295. He has spent almost all of that, according to records from the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance.

And Chuck Rogers has spent almost all of the $23,375 he has raised, trying to overcome his lack of name recognition. Rogers was the least known of the candidates in the bar poll, with about 83 percent of the attorneys saying they didn’t know him.

In a race with so many candidates, position on the ballot is likely to play a factor; the higher a candidate’s name the better goes the theory.

In this race, Dawn Elliott, Danny Karem, Florio, J.P. Ward and Ron Schwoeppe are the first five names listed.

Alvarez and long-time prosecutor Erin White are at the bottom of the ballot.

District judges serve four-year terms and are paid $112,668 a year.  The winner will serve through 2018.

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