Can­di­dates ‘qual­i­fied,’ ‘highly qual­i­fied’

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - OBITUARIES - By Ariél Zangla azangla@free­manon­ ArielAtFree­man on Twit­ter

All three can­di­dates seek­ing elec­tion as Ul­ster County Sur­ro­gate’s Court judge have been rated ei­ther “qual­i­fied” or “highly qual­i­fied” by the Ul­ster County Bar As­so­ci­a­tion.

Peter Mat­era was rated as “highly qual­i­fied,” while Sharon Graff and Sara McGinty were each rated as “qual­i­fied.” The rat­ings were reached after the Ju­di­cial Can­di­date Eval­u­a­tion Com­mit­tee of the Bar As­so­ci­a­tion in­ter­viewed each of the can­di­dates Oct. 13 and re­viewed writ­ten sub­mis­sions.

Ju­di­cial can­di­dates are rated as “highly qual­i­fied,” “qual­i­fied” or “not qual­i­fied.”

Graff is run­ning on the Work­ing Fam­i­lies, Women’s Equal­ity and Green Party lines in the Nov. 8 elec­tion; Mat­era will be on the Repub­li­can, Con­ser­va­tive, In­de­pen­dence and Re­form lines; and McGinty will be on the Demo­cratic line. The can­di­dates vy­ing to suc­ceed Judge Mary Work, who is re­tir­ing.

The Sur­ro­gate’s Court judge serves a 10-year term. Sur­ro­gate’s Court han­dles mat­ters in­volv­ing es­tates, wills, trusts, guardian­ships and adop­tions.

Ear­lier this month, the In­de­pen­dent Ju­di­cial Elec­tion Qual­i­fi­ca­tion Com­mis­sions for the Third Ju­di­cial Depart­ment rated Mat­era “qual­i­fied” and McGinty “not qual­i­fied.” The com­mis­sion is pro­hib­ited from pro­vid­ing ex­pla­na­tions of its rat­ings.

Graff was not rated by the in­de­pen­dent com­mis­sion be­cause she did not sub­mit in­for­ma­tion for the vol­un­tary re­view, cit­ing time con­straints with her le­gal prac­tice.

A “highly qual­i­fied” rat­ing from the Ul­ster County Bar As­so­ci­a­tion means the com­mit­tee found Mat­era to have abil­i­ties of an ex­tra­or­di­nary na­ture to per­form the judge role in a su­pe­rior man­ner, ac­cord­ing to a press re­lease. A qual­i­fied rat­ing means the com­mit­tee found Graff and McGinty to have the abil­i­ties to per­form the role in a sat­is­fac­tory man­ner.

On Wed­nes­day, Mat­era and Graff each said they were pleased with the rat­ings.

McGinty said her rat­ing “felt great” be­cause it was from peo­ple who know her and her work. She said, as be­fore, that she can­not spec­u­late about the ba­sis of the In­de­pen­dent Ju­di­cial Elec­tion Qual­i­fi­ca­tion Com­mis­sions’ rat­ing. McGinty said she could, how­ever, speak about her dis­ci­plinary record, which she did in a let­ter to the Free­man.

In June 2008, McGinty was found guilty of pro­fes­sional mis­con­duct con­cern­ing book­keep­ing prac­tices, but her penalty of a one-year sus­pen­sion was stayed. The de­ci­sion of the state Com­mit­tee on Pro­fes­sional Stan­dards did not sug­gest McGinty did any­thing un­to­ward or crim­i­nal but had par­tic­i­pated in “bad book­keep­ing” prac­tices.

In her let­ter, McGinty said she had been given a check from a client in 2005 to use in his real es­tate clos­ing and de­posited it in her at­tor­ney es­crow ac­count. Later, she said, her bank told her the check had cleared and she used the funds for the pur­chase. McGinty said a few days later, she learned check had bounced.

Such sit­u­a­tions are au­to­mat­i­cally re­ported to the Com­mit­tee on Pro­fes­sional Stan­dards, McGinty said. She said the au­dit that fol­lowed found er­rors in her record-keep­ing.

“In the pre­ced­ing 10 years and hun­dreds of real es­tate clos­ings, I had both over­paid and un­der­paid my clients, re­sult­ing in a short­fall in my es­crow ac­count,” McGinty wrote. “I never prof­ited from th­ese er­rors.” She added that it was a painful chap­ter in her life but has made her more hum­ble, wise and com­pas­sion­ate.

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