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Judging the judges

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The results from the latest Central Florida judicial poll are in and things don't look good for Osceola County Judge Carol E. Draper. She scored the lowest rating of the 54 federal and state judges in the poll, in which 130 prosecutors and criminal-defense attorneys participated.

Draper's 2.48 rating (out of five points) was between "poor" and "satisfactory." She scored lowest on courtroom demeanor, which one anonymous attorney deemed "very nasty."

Demeanor was also a problem for Seminole County Judge John R. Sloop, who was said to be "too smart" to stoop to mean, sarcastic antics.

Orange County's Anthony Johnson scored 2.68, faring poorly in the impartiality category. One attorney wrote, "He lacks the wisdom, knowledge and organizational skills in order to competently perform his duties."

The judge who received the highest marks was Reginald Whitehead, whose 4.65 rating was .07 points better than runner-up Orange County Circuit Judge Stan Strickland. "Wisdom, intelligence, kindness and fairness all in one," one attorney wrote of Whitehead. Strickland, meanwhile, "epitomized excellence in judicial demeanor and temperament."

The annual poll is the work of the Central Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. It isn't popular with the bench because judges don't get to face their accusers and are afraid their opposition will use comments against them at election time.

Draper says she actually came out on top: only rookie attorneys vote in the poll, she says, and most of them are disgruntled. "They think the poll is something really important," she says. "So 20 attorneys hate my guts. Big deal."


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