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HomeNewsArchivesV.I. BAR POLL FINDS STRONG OPPOSITION TO KENDALL

V.I. BAR POLL FINDS STRONG OPPOSITION TO KENDALL

Aug. 6, 2003 – Fifty-five percent of the V.I. lawyers polled about the nomination of Leon A. Kendall to replace Territorial Court Judge Ishmael Meyers, who retired in November, said Kendall should not be placed on the bench. Another 20 percent said they had no opinion.
The Rules Committee is slated to consider Kendall's nomination Thursday night on St. Thomas.
Kendall is a protégé of retired Territorial Court Presiding Judge Verne A. Hodge.
Respondents saw that as both a plus and a minus.
One said: "Mr. Kendall has been closely associated with the former judge, and I believe that this association will be beneficial in his appointment to the bar."
But another wrote: "It would be a great disservice to this bar if Leon Kendall were to become a Territorial Court judge, as well as to the community. Surely there are more qualified persons that this. Being a friend of Verne Hodge is not a qualification."
The V.I. Bar Association customarily conducts such polls of its membership concerning nominees to the bench. Of 143 members responding to this one, conducted by Joel H. Holt, who chairs the group's Judiciary Committee, 79 said Kendall should not be appointed to the bench. Another 34 said he should be, and 30 indicated that they had no opinion.
Kendall was tapped by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull in July to fill the vacant position. In announcing the nomination, Turnbull said in a release: "Selecting a judge is one of the most significant and, in a way, difficult appointments a governor has to make. It is a task I take very seriously. My selection of attorney Kendall comes after deliberation, consultation and interviews with a prospective list of candidates. I am very much impressed with his knowledge, experience and insights in the law."
Many local attorneys are vehement in their disagreement with the governor's assessment.
"St. Thomas needs a full-time family court judge," one respondent wrote. "There is no way that attorney Kendall is going to take that position." This lawyer also said that "Attorney Kendall is responsible for a lot of the strife between the V.I. Bar Association and the court."
Another wrote: "There are a number of very qualified attorneys in the territory who would much better serve the community."
Yet another said: "The man would be an abomination to the bench."
One respondent called Kendall an "angry, biased ideologue," while another wrote that "based on experience, I do not believe he will be able to be fair and impartial."
Some of the more positive responses were:
– "I feel that Attorney Kendall is highly qualified to be a judge of the Territorial Court.. He has been general counsel to the court for many years."
– "He is a very good choice."
– "Yes, with reservations."
Under the heading of "Judicial Demeanor" in the survey questionnaire, 70 respondents said Kendall is "not qualified," 32 said they didn't know, 17 answered "qualified," and 20 said he is "highly qualified."
The questionnaire responses are reported anonymously, but each member was assigned a number for Bar Association identification purposes.
Holt sent the poll's statistical results along with the anonymous comments to the Rules Committee chair, Sen. Roosevelt David, on Tuesday.
In his cover letter, Holt wrote: "I hope this information is helpful to your committee in reaching its decision."
If Rules approves the nomination, it then goes to the full Senate for a vote. If approved, Kendall, who is 57, would serve a six-year term.
Along with David, the Rules Committee members are Sens. Lorraine Berry, Douglas Canton Jr., Carlton Dowe, Louis Hill, David Jones and Ronald Russell.

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