published Sunday, July 8th, 2012

Poole leads judges' ratings

Results of the Chattanooga Bar Association's polls rating the performance of trial court judges here do not appear to represent a large percentage of the bar, but that's a deceiving perception. Trial lawyers are a smaller proportion of the overall association, and a significant number of the lawyers who do participate in the polls do not necessarily practice before all courts, and hence do not rate all of the judges. Thus the results of the poll are especially revealing, and particularly useful in helping voters determine which elected judges are considered worthy of reelection.

The polls, reported by Todd South in the July 5 Times Free Press and available on our website include: Two appointed U.S. District Court judges, two U.S. Bankruptcy Court judges; nine local state judges --two in Chancery Court, three in Criminal Court and four in Circuit Court; four county General Sessions (the fifth seat formerly held by the deceased Bob Moon has not been permanently filled), and the county's lone Juvenile Court judge.

Participating lawyers in the latest biennial poll accorded Criminal Court Judge Don Poole the highest rating. Among the 60 respondents rating him, 83-to-92 percent gave him superior ratings in the five specified categories of judicial competence and conduct, and none gave him unsatisfactory ratings, making him the only judge to receive no unsatisfactory grades.

By contrast, Sessions Court Judge David Bales, a relatively controversial figure who assumed his post after intensive lobbying of the County Commission by Moon for his appointment to the bench, got the lowest ratings. Just 11-to-20 percent of the 65 or more respondents gave Bales superior marks, the lowest number in that category, while 22-to-52 percent rated him unsatisfactory in one or more of the categories, the highest number for unsatisfactory ratings.

Bales responded with the common refrain that "the ultimate decision makers of (his) performance are the voters of Hamilton County." The problem is, most voters never go to court; they simply vote on name recognition. The lawyers' poll is a far more insightful and instructive guide. It merits voters' attention.

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aae1049 said...

Mr. Austin, Are you seriously suggesting that you trust the Bar Association over the voters? The people that actually go to the polls and vote do pay attention and believe in the process.

I trust the voters over the Bar Association every day of the week. The public does not need the Bar Association to tell us about Don Poole, he was a well respected attorney, then an appointed Judge, and the people will elect him.

In the same way, most paying attention voters are well aware of David Bales, and I feel that in 2014, he will not be reelected. On the surface, he is viewed as incompetent, and the ethics violations only sealed that deal.

I hope that one of Hamilton County's fine attorneys steps up to challenge to David Bales in 2014. If so, the challenger will have a team people ready to assist and work the campaign.

The voters will have the final say, not the Bar Association.

BTW, You omitted that the Judicial terms are 8 years, which is odd to most voters.

July 8, 2012 at 1:51 a.m.

Come on, Harry. You cannot have it both ways. Just months ago you blasted the appointment of David Norton to Sessions Court by the county commission, stating that the voters needed to decide. Now you're saying that the voters need a poll to make their decision. The fact is that the CBA poll represents a very small percentage of that organization's membership, and not all lawyers are even members of the CBA. Not all voters may be in court, but they do read news coverage of what goes on in the courts (when your paper actually gets around to covering the courts). Give the voters some credit. They are competent to decide without your or the CBA's influence.

July 8, 2012 at 10:05 a.m.
FBE46 said...

I just read this article and blown away by the ratings. How could Judge Poole have such high ratings? Not from the voters. I think the judicial system in Chattanooga Tennessee is crooked and some of the Judges and Asst DA's should be disbarred.

August 6, 2012 at 5:03 p.m.
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