Opinion

Prosecutor handled omission poorly | Editorial

The issue was minor, but how it was handled was telling.

The two candidates for Superior Court judge, Randy Gaylord and John Linde, each failed to include on a judicial candidate questionnaire a case in which they were disciplined. A spokesman for the governor’s office said the candidates should have listed those actions.

Linde received an admonishment from the state Commission on Judicial Conduct in 1995 for misplacing a file and taking too long to make a decision in a small claims case. At the time, Linde agreed to the admonishment and during this campaign he apologized for leaving it off the questionnaire.

“When completing the questionnaire, I had been off the District Court bench for eight years. My focus in answering the questions was my 35 years of private practice. I simply overlooked the admonition. That was the only incident in my 21 years on the bench,” Linde wrote in a counterpoint in The Journal.

“While the failure to disclose the matter was unintentional and not intended to mislead the governor or her staff, I owe them all an apology. I am sorry.”

Gaylord was sanctioned by Superior Court Judge Alan Hancock in 1996 for filing what the court felt was a frivolous motion. Gaylord had attempted to back out of an agreement he had made in a land-use case. As a result, the county paid more than $8,000 in related attorney’s fees.

Rather than acknowledging his oversight and moving on, Gaylord has tried to explain his way around it. Instead, he’s dug himself into a hole. As late as Aug. 12, he wrote that the sanction wasn’t really a sanction because it was an oral, not written, decision by the judge.

“A judge's oral decision is no more than a verbal expression of his informal opinion at that time … It has no final or binding effect, unless formally incorporated into the findings, conclusions and judgment,” Gaylord writes.

But without the judge’s oral decision, would the county have ended up paying $8,000 in related attorney’s fees?

Then, in the same e-mail, Gaylord refers to the sanction as a sanction. “Consider that an informal ruling of sanctions against a county pursuant to a civil rule is not a finding of ‘professional misconduct’ on the part of the attorney. A mistake under a court rule is a legal error.”

In our words, consider the question on the governor’s questionnaire from which this incident was omitted: The questionnaire asked if either candidate had been “the subject of a complaint to any bar association, disciplinary committee, court, administrative agency or other professional group.”

Even if he got a scolding, but not a sanction, even if he committed a legal error, but not misconduct (which has never been alleged), he should have listed this incident on his questionnaire – just as he took care to list complaints that had been dismissed, complaints that didn’t get as far along in the system as this omitted scolding, settlement, or whatever you want to call it.

Candidates, like all people, will make mistakes. But how they handle those mistakes … well, that often tells us more about the individual than the mistake.

We learned a lot about Gaylord and Linde in this campaign. And we stick by our endorsement of Linde.

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