Radio ad heats up Court race

Published 8:12 pm Saturday, October 25, 2008

MONTGOMERY – A radio ad criticizing Alabama Supreme Court candidate Deborah Bell Paseur’s performance as a district judge is misleading, an official with the agency that gave her an “F’’ two decades ago said Friday.

Paseur received an “F’’ for how rapidly she disposed of cases in 1998, though the grade was misleading because the district court had an above average number of cases that year, said Griffin Sikes, legal director for the state Administrative Office of Court. Case disposal is one of many measures of a judge’s performance and the office no longer does such reports because case disposition records were flawed in many instances, Sikes said.

Paseur’s campaign manager called the ad a lie Friday, but the group running the ad, a pro-business outfit that works to limit lawsuits, said it stands by the claim. The possible grades ranged from a high of “A’’ to a low of “G.”

“It’s obvious on its face she received an F,” said Skip Tucker, executive director of Alabama Voters Against Lawsuit Abuse.

Paseur served as a district judge in Lauderdale County from 1981 until retiring earlier this year. She is running against criminal appeals court Judge Greg Shaw, a Republican, in the election Nov. 4.

Shaw’s campaign spokesman, Josh Cooper, said the candidate had nothing to do with the ad and “doesn’t believe that this rating has any relevance in the race for Supreme Court.”

Tucker said Sikes came to Paseur’s defense because the legal director was appointed by a Democrat, Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb.

“I’m sorry to see AOC take part in this duplicity,” Tucker said.

The Administrative Office of Courts is the administrative agency for the state’s court system and serves all 67 counties.

It issued a report in 1989 on how district courts disposed of cases the previous year.

“To the extent that this 1989 report is attempted to be portrayed as a judgment of any kind regarding the quality of the judicial work performed by Judge Paseur in 1989, that portrayal would also be misleading and inaccurate,” Sikes said.

The radio ad comes a few weeks after an unidentified group made phone calls to Alabama voters saying Paseur had received an “F’’ rating from the Alabama State Bar, a claim debunked by State Bar President Mark White, who said the association does not grade judges.

Tucker said his group had nothing to do with the phone calls, but its ad sets the record straight about where the “F’’ originated.