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Cuyahoga County: Replacing convicted judge underway

2:29 PM, Jul 12, 2011   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- There's an opening that still needs to be filled on the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas bench after Judge Steven Terry resigned following his conviction June 13 in the Cuyahoga County corruption scandal.

Terry is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 7.

Although Terry is a Democrat, the county Republican Party will provide input on the appointment and Republican Governor John Kasich will make the appointment.

There was no need to replace former Common Pleas Judge Bridget McCafferty who was convicted on 10 counts of lying to the FBI on March 25, as she had already lost her seat in November, 2010's election to attorney Michael Astrab.

Although scheduled to be sentenced Monday -- McCafferty faces five years on each count -- she is seeking a new trial. But a new trial and a possible "not guilty" verdict wouldn't get her seat on the bench back.

Visiting judges heard both McCafferty's and Terry's cases after they were indicted in September and took leaves of absence from the bench. McCafferty's visiting judge replacement left when Astrab took office in January.

There is still a visiting judge hearing Terry's cases. So where will Terry's replacement come from?

Republican Party of Cuyahoga County chairman Rob Frost tells Channel 3 that the party has asked the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association to conduct interviews of interested applicants "and provide feedback as to whether or not the individuals are qualified for the bench in the eyes of the bar."

Frost said this ongoing process is "part of our work with the CMBA and the Cuyahoga Democrats on the Task Force on Judicial Excellence."

Frost said this process has been used by Democrats and Republicans.

He said Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor has praised this type of screening process.

It was used by Governor Ted Strickland in his last appointment to the Cleveland Municipal Court and also by Governor John Kasich in his first appointment to the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Bench earlier this year.

"Advance work for the screening for the current vacancy began about two weeks ago when the CMBA sent out a notice to their membership that they were accepting applications," Frost said.

"It is my understanding that the CMBA will conduct their interviews of new applicants Thursday ( July 14) and that candidates who applied for the prior vacancy and were already rated qualified earlier this year are not being required to sit for a second interview."

Frost said that once the CMBA finalizes their interviews and the county party is aware of the field of interested, qualified applicants, "only then will the RPCC make a recommendation to the Governor of three qualified candidates."

Frost was quick to note that the appointment itself "is fully up to the Governor's discretion," he said.

"While we have informed the Governor's office of our work with the CMBA's screening process, and while I understand that the Governor supports this concept and has no desire to appoint anyone other than a qualified individual to the bench, I am not aware of anything in rule or law that requires the Governor to wait for our recommendation or the CMBA's ratings, nor am I aware of any requirement that he follow such recommendations or ratings once received."

WKYC-TV

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