Candidates ‘qualified,’ ‘highly qualified’
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.