Bar to study court candidates' TV ads Association lawyers wary of misrepresentation of organization's position

February 23, 1996|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,SUN STAFF

Howard County Bar Association officials said yesterday they will review cable television commercials for all candidates in the county Circuit Court race today to determine if the group's views are being misrepresented in the ads.

Fred Howard Silverstein, president of the 420-member association, made the statement in response to a letter from the campaign of Judges Donna Hill Staton and Diane O. Leasure.

In the letter, Lin Eagan, the sitting judges' campaign president, requested that the bar demand that certain TV commercials for challengers District Court Judge Lenora R. Gelfman and attorney Jonathan Scott Smith be pulled from the air.

The commercials state that the two are "overwhelmingly recommended for judge" by the local bar association. Yet, in a bar association poll released yesterday, none of the five candidates garnered the necessary 70 percent to be endorsed. It was the first time in the group's history that no candidate in a judicial race earned an endorsement.

The Gelfman-Smith campaign says that the commercials, which began running before this week, are based on two other bar association surveys taken last year seeking opinions from local attorneys on applicants for two vacant circuit judgeships.

As a result, Herb Smith, the challengers' campaign strategist, said the commercials aren't misleading and will continue to run.

But Mr. Silverstein, head of the bar association, said if he determines the ads are misleading, he will ask that they be changed.

"My only concern is that my organization, not having endorsed a candidate, not be seen as favoring any candidate over another," he said.

Judge Gelfman had the highest number of bar members rate her qualified, 136 of 262 polled, or about 52 percent.

Judge Leasure had the next highest number of bar members rate her qualified, 127 of 262 polled, or about 48 percent.

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