Judge4Yourself releases rankings for Cuyahoga County judicial candidates in March 2019 primary election

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Judge4Yourself.com, the organization that rates judicial candidates in contested local races in Cuyahoga County, on Monday released its ratings in four contested races for judge in the March 2019 primary election.

The group, made up of representatives from the Asian American Bar Association of Ohio, Cuyahoga Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Association, Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, Norman S. Minor Bar Association and the Ohio Women’s Bar Association, released its rankings in two races for seats on the 8th District Court of Appeals, and one seat each on the Common Pleas and Domestic Relations benches.

Of 16 candidates in the four races, only one candidate — John F. Russo — refused to participate in one of the interviews. Russo is also the only candidate to receive more than one “not recommended” rating from any of the bar associations.

Denise Rini and Emanuella Groves, who are both running for the same seat on the 8th District Court of Appeals, each received excellent ratings from all five bar associations. The highest rated candidates int he other races are Lisa Forbes for the other 8th District Court of Appeals seat, Rick Bell for Common Pleas Court judge and Colleen Ann Reali for Domestic Relations court.

You can see the full rankings here.

The ratings are the first since the group revamped its process to answer criticism from a clergy group in 2018 that accused it of routinely ranking black candidates lower than white candidates.

Daryl Clay, co-chair of Judge4Yourself.com, said in a news conference broadcast on FacebookLive Monday that the organization reached its rankings after a confidential review of each candidate’s disciplinary history and an interview before 60 to 70 lawyers who are members of the bar associations that make up the group.

Those lawyers participating in the interviews also went through a multi-hour training session on implicit bias, Clay said.

“We heard from members of the community and from past candidates who appeared in front of us about concerns with respect to objectivity transparency, fairness and respect in their appearances before Judge4Yourself,” he said. “That is why we entirely revised the process that we follow.”

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