Nine candidates are running to fill three judicial vacancies on the York County Court of Common Pleas, but county attorneys say only three of them are qualified for the positions.
With the May 16 primary election approaching, the York County Bar Association polled the nearly 500 attorneys in its ranks about the professional qualifications of nine people vying for judicial seats, asking them to rank the candidates on their professional competence, judicial temperament and integrity.
Judge Kathleen Prendergast leads the bar association’s list of qualified candidates, followed by attorney Clyde Vedder and Tim Barker, a chief deputy prosecutor in the York County District Attorney’s Office, according to the 280 attorneys who responded to the poll.
The other six York County judicial candidates — Amber Anstine Kraft, Peter Vaughn, Sandra Thompson, Chuck Hobbs, Matthew Menges and Jim Mann — received negative qualification ratings in the bar association poll.
Judicial candidates cross-filed their nominating petitions, meaning their names will appear on both Democratic and Republican primary ballots.
Qualified: Almost 90 percent of the attorneys polled said Prendergast is ready to become a York County judge after she has served as one for nine months.
Prendergast was appointed by Gov. Tom Wolf in July to fill a judicial vacancy in the Family Law Division of the York County Court of Common Pleas.
According to the poll, 168 attorneys said Prendergast is “highly qualified,” while 83 said she is “qualified.” Only 29 attorneys said she is “not presently qualified” or had “no opinion.”
Attorneys were asked to respond “no opinion” if they did not have sufficient knowledge to provide insight on a candidate’s judicial qualifications, according to a news release announcing the poll results.
Vedder also received very positive qualification marks in the poll, with more than 84 percent, or 236 attorneys, saying he is “highly qualified” or “qualified,” while 61 percent, or 171 attorneys, said the same of Barker, the poll shows.
Not ready: None of the other six candidates fared nearly as well as Prendergast, Vedder and Barker.
Local attorney Amber Anstine Kraft led the trailing pack of candidates, with 118 attorneys polled saying she is “highly qualified” or “qualified.” However, more than 57 percent said she is “not presently qualified” or had “no opinion” on her qualifications.
Vaughn Law Firm owner Peter Vaughn ranked fifth in the qualifications poll. Seventy attorneys responded that Vaughn is ready for a judicial seat, but three-quarters of the 280 attorneys polled disagree.
Local attorney and York NAACP Chapter president Thompson came in sixth in the poll after 55 attorneys said she is “qualified” to become judge while 218 attorneys said she is “not presently qualified” or had “no opinion.”
With 52 attorneys on his side, Chuck Hobbs took seventh in the poll, but nearly 48 percent of attorneys polled said he is “not presently qualified.”
In eighth is attorney Matt Menges, after 11 percent of attorneys polled said he is “highly qualified” or “qualified.”
Jim Mann, chief deputy counsel for Republicans in the state House of Representatives, rounded out the qualifications rankings after just 20 of the 280 attorneys polled said he was ready for a judicial position.
Mann seems to be fighting an uphill name-recognition battle, as 180 attorneys did not have sufficient knowledge of him to register an opinion on his judicial qualifications, the poll shows.
The York County Bar Association conducts its judicial evaluation poll “as a public service and not for the purpose of endorsing any specific candidate or any political party,” according to the release.
“For those persons who become involved in the legal system, whether in a civil, domestic or criminal matter, nothing matters more than the opportunity for a full hearing before a fair, impartial and thoughtful judge,” the release states. “The reputation our court system and its judges enjoy for the fair administration of justice and law contributes to the personal safety and well-being of the public and provides certainty, stability and clarity to our commercial relationships.”