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Damon Hagan still needs bar association’s approval

Petitions for Damon Hagan, the Republicans’ candidate for Suffolk surrogate judge, are on the street, but the East Quogue lawyer has yet to get the needed imprimatur from the Suffolk County Bar Association.

Hagan, a former Southampton GOP chairman, was a last-minute choice of the GOP after several incumbent Republican judges dropped out of the running once the Democratic, Conservative and Independence parties all agreed to cross-endorse District Court Judge Marian Tinari, wife of Suffolk Conservative Chairman Frank Tinari, for surrogate judge.

Hagan, an assistant Southold Town attorney, said he plans to seek an interview with the bar association. But he said he has not yet made arrangements because the party only sought to recruit him after the Suffolk GOP convention held late last month. The committee delegated authority to name a candidate to GOP chairman John Jay LaValle.

The bar association’s approval is significant because major parties in Nassau and Suffolk, in a long-standing pact, have agreed not to put forward any candidate who failed to go for a bar screening and or were not found “qualified” by the lawyer’s group.

Judicial candidates usually get the bar’s approval before nominations. But Family Court Judge Marlene Budd’s name went on Democratic petitions in 2015, while she appealed a ruling of the bar association’s screening committee, which found her not qualified. The bar’s board of directors later reversed the finding, but Budd later lost.

While major parties most times honor the agreement, it is not ironclad.

Former Nassau GOP chairman Joseph Mondello in 2014 ran Fourth District Court Judge Anna Anzalone for state Supreme Court even though she was found not qualified by the bar.

Mondello dismissed the bar’s stand, saying the screening committee was heavily Democratic and upset that her husband was a union leader who backed the GOP.

“If games are going to be played, you have to adjust your sails,” Mondello said.

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