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Voters have three City Court judgeships to fill this election, and only four candidates have major-party endorsements. Two of those candidates are incumbents seeking second 10-year terms.

City Court Judge Robert T. Russell Jr. is far and away the best candidate in this race. A personable, able jurist with an "outstanding" rating by the Erie County Bar Association and similar top recommendations from the Women's Bar Association and Minority Bar Association, he pioneered the drug court concept here -- first as an "added duty" and now as a valuable court resource that serves as a national model.

Russell has shown an ability to draw together a wide range or programs and services to intervene in drug-related cycles of crime. And his enthusiasm for a task that imposes a heavy workload of continuing case supervision reflects his belief that City Court is indeed a "people's court," and that judges there have a chance to change people's lives with carefully targeted and monitored help for first offenders. Buffalo can ill afford to lose that enthusiasm and experience.

City Court Judge David M. Manz also merits re-election, both for his improvement during his initial term and his experience in both elected office and private law practice. He is regarded by court system veterans as bright and capable, and he is rated "well qualified" by the county bar association.

Attorney Joseph A. Fiorella has 22 years' experience in the legal system, including service as a supervisory hearing examiner for the city's parking violation bureau and 16 years as an administrative law judge for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. That experience gives him a decided edge over younger attorney Bill Nowakowski, who could be a good future candidate with more legal seasoning but whose current concerns with policy issues seem more suited to a Common Council race than a judicial one.

The Buffalo News endorses Russell, Manz and Fiorella.

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