Bar Association gives ‘not recommended’ rating to two GOP-backed Supreme Court nominees

Republicans in Western New York have nominated not just one — but two — state Supreme Court nominees this year who received the lowest possible judicial rating by the Erie County Bar Association.

Gerald J. Greenan III.

One of those getting the “not recommended” tag – Republican Gerald J. Greenan III – approaches Election Day with the low mark for his third straight election, but he still earned a cross-approval in August of the Democrats and Republicans ensuring his election on November 8. Joseph C. Lorigo, a first-time GOP-backed Conservative candidate and minority leader of the Erie County Legislative Assembly, was also rated “not recommended.”

Bar Association President Jill K. Bond said Tuesday that the group was not disclosing any details behind a rating, but noted that its goal was “to educate the public about the choices and not to involved in the political process”.

“We make our process as apolitical as possible,” she said, adding that candidates are judged on a multitude of criteria, including integrity, experience, professional ability, education, temperament and others.

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Despite continued low ratings, Democratic and Republican leaders agreed in August to give Greenan a cross-endorsement, which grants bipartisan support on both broad lines. He did not return a call seeking comment. But in similar circumstances in 2020, he said he didn’t even apply for a bar rating that year and called the Judicial Review Panel “a small committee of lawyers with political biases”.

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“I will present my 31-year-old resume as an effective legal advocate, commissioner of the parole board, general counsel and administrative law judge before the voters who will make the decision on Election Day,” he said then. declared. “It’s a choice of the people, not the establishment.”

Greenan is fighting his third Supreme Court campaign since 2019, failing in 2019 and 2020.

On Tuesday, Lorigo would not comment on the memo, but did refer to a statement released by his campaign.

“The only people whose voice counts in the election of judges are the voters – not the insiders who meet in secret and ignore the will of those voters. The Lorigo campaign believes in Joe’s qualifications,” according to the campaign statement. “As the only practicing attorney in the race, his years of experience combined with his strong record as an Erie County legislator make him well suited for the bench. Joe has proven himself to be a strong advocate for the law and order, and he looks forward to continuing that commitment as a Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of New York.”

Bond, the Bar President, said on Tuesday she was “disappointed” by any suggestion of a flawed process. The judicial evaluation committee is made up of 29 lawyers including a maximum of 14 from each major party, she said, as well as two investigators from each party assigned to a candidate.

“We revise our procedures from time to time as issues arise,” she said, “but we still think it’s a good process.”

Democrats in eight counties making up the Eighth Judicial District earned mostly top marks from the Bar Association. They included judges Tracey A. Bannister and Craig D. Hanna, both vetted, who were deemed “outstanding.” Buffalo City Judge Shannon M. Heneghan, another Democrat who failed to win bipartisan support and will face Lorigo in a one-on-one, was called “well-qualified.”

Boston City Judge Kelly A. Vacco, a Republican who enjoys cross-support, was also called “well-qualified.”

Michael A. Kracker, the new chairman of the Erie County Republican Party, did not return a call for comment. State Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy, former Erie County party leader, also did not say.

In August, The Buffalo News reported that the families of mostly Republican Supreme Court nominees participated in the familiar pattern of donating to the party or party leaders tasked with granting the coveted cross-endorsements and guaranteed election to a position that brings in $210,900 a year. . Included were contributions to Langworthy’s congressional campaign, which influenced the judicial nominating conventions granting the nominations and cross endorsements.

News reported that Vacco, Greenan and Lorigo were all nominated in the Aug. 10 nomination after they or their families contributed to the Langworthy campaign.

Greenan’s wife, Thalia Ladas Greenan, donated $5,000 to Langworthy’s chairman’s account earlier this year and then the maximum $2,900 to his congressional effort. The News reported in 2019, while Greenan was pursuing her first nomination, that she donated $20,150 to Republican causes other than her husband’s candidacy.

In 2017, the West Seneca resident paid Erin K. Baker, a political consultant and wife of Langworthy, $4,000 when she ran unsuccessfully for Amherst City Council that year. His largest contribution was $20,000 to Langworthy’s Republican State Committee in 2019.

Ladas Greenan also paid Zellner $1,500 this year for chairing the Erie County Democratic Committee, just as her Republican husband was being considered for bipartisan support.

In August, when asked how he could favor someone not recommended by the Bar Association, Langworthy said he didn’t respect the organization’s decision.

“I don’t think our candidates should precede them,” he said at the time. “It’s personal politics in the organization; a clubhouse.”

Lorigo also contributed for several years before making a legal bid. Campaign finance records show that the Lorigo family — which includes the candidate’s father, conservative Erie County Chairman Ralph C. Lorigo, and his mother, Deborah Lorigo — donated $30,714 to the Republican committee of the Erie County, to Friends of Nick Langworthy and Langworthy for Congress 2019-2022. .

Family Court Judge Deanne M. Tripi, a Republican, was called “qualified.” Another Republican, Family Court Judge Kevin M. Carter, was rated “outstanding.”

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