New Suffolk Bar Association President Justin Block plans to call a special meeting of the group’s judicial screening committee this week to interview Damon Hagan, the Republican candidate for county Surrogate's judge before the deadline for nominating petitions on Thursday.
Block said the association has sent Hagan its questionnaire and will interview him to determine whether he is "qualified” to run for judge in November. Under an agreement dating to the early 1960s, the major political parties have agreed not to run candidates who lack a qualified rating from the bar association.
Hagan, of East Quogue, is former Southampton Republican chairman. He has served as Southold’s deputy town attorney for the past two years. Hagan said that while in private legal practice, he had “several estate matters” in the Surrogate court, but added that he served largely as a general practice attorney.
The timing of the special meeting is significant. Should the screening committee find that Hagan not qualified, he can appeal the decision to the screening committee itself, and later to the bar association's board of directors.
But once nominating petitions are filed, a candidate has only three days to decline the nomination. After that period ends, Hagan would be on the ballot no matter what the bar association determines.