In an effort to inform the readers, the Daily Union has asked each candidate for major local races to answer questions.
The following are questions for Judge of the Circuit Court, Fourth Judicial Circuit - Shelby County. Candidates are Allen Bennett and Stephen Friedel.
Q: State your experience that would qualify you for the position as resident circuit judge.
Bennett: I have been a practicing lawyer for 44 years with concentration in business law, elder law, litigation, real estate, contract law, criminal and traffic law, estate planning and administration, family law, juvenile law, labor and employment law, personal injury law, and workers' compensation. As a general practitioner for most of my career, I have handled about every kind of case imaginable.
I have been an elected state's attorney, an appointed public defender, an appointed assistant attorney general, an elected state representative and am a certified mediator.
As state's attorney, I prosecuted multiple and various kinds of criminal and traffic cases. I also was counsel to the county board and the county's elected and appointed office holders.
As public defender, I defended every conceivable kind of criminal and traffic case.
As a state representative, I worked on and/or voted for or against varied and diverse laws. Governor Jim Thompson designated me as the chief sponsor of his “death penalty” and “Class X” legislation, both of which passed and became law by huge margins.
My legal experience has been well rounded and will serve me well as the next Shelby County Resident Circuit Judge.
Friedel: Shelby County Assistant State’s Attorney (1996-2000) Fayette County State’s Attorney (2000-2012).
Criminal prosecutors get more courtroom experience than any other type of legal practice. Every case I have goes before the Court. I have prosecuted thousands of cases including; murder, criminal sexual assault and methamphetamine manufacture. I have tried over 50 jury trials and countless contested motions before the Court.
I have been accountable to those who have elected me throughout my career and my record is available for all in the public to see.
Q: How would you define the job as circuit judge?
Bennett: To run his or her courtroom with integrity, impartiality, sensitivity and proper judicial temperament. In an ISBA poll of fellow attorneys in the 4th Judicial Circuit, I rated 98.21% on integrity, 94.51% on impartiality, 96.37% on sensitivity and 96.43% on judicial temperament.
Friedel: The law is not a game to be played by lawyers. The judge’s role is to make sure that all parties are heard and the law is followed. It is the merit of a case, not who you are or your lawyer that should determine the rulings. We all want to be liked by our colleagues; lawyers and judges included, but judges need to remain independent and be willing to make rulings that don’t benefit the lawyers appearing before the Court. The law is to serve and protect the people and judges need to be committed to that purpose.
Q: Why are you running for Shelby County Circuit Judge?
Bennett: I believe my vast experience and legal abilities are right for the time. It will be a challenge replacing retiring Judge Michael P. Kiley; my promise to the people of Shelby County and the 4th Judicial Circuit is to do my best.
Friedel: I have gone to great lengths to get my name on the ballot to give the voters a meaningful choice for judge. I believe I have something valuable to offer Shelby County, my career. In 1992, the Shelby County voters elected a State’s Attorney judge and got in return a half of Judge Kiley’s career with 20 years of stability and service on the bench to the people of Shelby County. I have had a successful and fulfilling first half of my career as a prosecutor and I aspire to giving Shelby County the second half of my career on the bench.
Q: Is there something specific you want to change or accomplish as a judge?
Bennett: Nothing specifically but I would refer you to my answer to question #3.
Friedel: My record as a State’s Attorney is clear in my commitment to personal responsibility and protecting children in the courts. Children should never be viewed as property or treated as bargaining pawns in marriage dissolutions and property settlements. Drug manufacture and addiction is destroying the fabric of society. The Court needs to balance treating addiction when it can reduce repeat offenses and create a strong deterrence to discourage the manufacture and sale of methamphetamine and controlled substances. My knowledge of the criminal law is current and sharp from practice and I commit to staying current on the bench.
Note: Questions and answers for State’s Attorney candidates will be printed in the October 30 Daily Union.