Chancellor candidate Jeff Atherton on Wednesday said he did nothing wrong in radio ads saying he has the highest Martindale-Hubbell attorney rating among the three candidates.
Art Grisham, Independent candidate for chancellor, earlier Wednesday said newest radio spots "are knowingly misinforming Hamilton County voters and violating protocol established by the Martindale-Hubbell Rating Organization."
He said, "The radio ads by the Campaign to Elect Jeff Atherton falsely claim their candidate has the 'highest rating, according to the only national attorney’s rating guide' of the candidates running for Chancellor-Division 2."
The Atherton campaign said, "It is unfortunate that Mr. Grisham would issue an unfounded and inaccurate attack on Jeff Atherton, candidate for Chancery Court judge. Mr. Atherton categorically denies the allegations of Mr. Grisham and feels it is most unfortunate that this type of personal attack would be issued by Mr. Grisham on the eve of the election.
"The facts are simple and are easily independently verified. Copies of confirming documents have been forwarded to the Chattanoogan.com along with this response.
"There is no rating in the 2010 print edition of Martindale Hubbell for Mr. Grisham or Ms. Epstein.
"As of 6:30 p.m. on August 4, 2010, the website for Martindale-Hubbell, Martindale.com, has a listing for Mr. Atherton (BV, 4.4), Ms. Epstein (BV 3.5) and, although Mr. Grisham is listed, there is no rating assigned.
"That Mr. Grisham had a posted rating in the past is admirable, but does not equate to a current rating. Getting and “A” in math in 7th grade does not guarantee an “A” in high school algebra. Why Mr. Grisham has no listed rating is between him and the publisher. The “truth” is that the advertisement was accurate when made and aired. Mr. Grisham has advised that he is attempting to get a new rating and we wish him the best of luck.
"Mr. Atherton would not and has not misinformed the Hamilton County voters as alleged. He has been and remains Hamilton County’s most qualified and best choice for Chancellor."
The Grisham campaign said, "The ad is referring to the Martindale-Hubbell peer review rating score. This score rates attorneys across the country based on their experience and respect by their peers. Art Grisham has the highest rating of the candidates running, with an AV rating (5.0 score), while Jeff Atherton has a BV (4.4) and Valerie Epstein also has a BV rating (3.5).
"Mr. Atherton’s campaign is running an advertisement that is false. Furthermore, the Martindale-Hubbell elections protocol states explicitly: 'use or mention of the ratings is not allowed in political pieces or advertisements/campaign elements.'
"Is the truth only worth being shared when it’s convenient for Mr. Atherton? What other rules will Mr. Atherton bend to suit himself if he is elected Chancery Court judge?
"Jeff Atherton and his campaign were contacted by the Committee to Elect Art Grisham and asked to remove this false advertisement on Tuesday. No attempt to remove the misinformation has been made on Jeff’s Facebook page (which is running the ad) or on his campaign website.
"The committee to Elect Art Grisham again asked on Wednesday morning that Mr. Atherton stop running the ad. Mr. Atherton has failed to take any action.
"The Committee requests that Jeff make a public statement correcting this erroneous information immediately."
Attorney Grisham said, “With the election for Chancery Court Judge taking place tomorrow, it is disappointing that, at this final hour, an issue like this would arise. Because I have invested so much in my community and in my career as a lawyer, I feel compelled to speak out against the ads created by the Campaign to Elect Jeff Atherton. I also feel, very strongly, that a person running for this office should be quick to correct any false information.
"We have the right to demand and expect more of someone who wants to be a judge over the affairs of the residents of Hamilton County.”
The Grisham campaign later said, "The Committee to Elect Art Grisham regrets that Mr. Atherton has chosen to consider our earlier release as a personal attack. We were merely wanting to correct the mis-impression his radio ads have created. Mr. Grisham personally called Mr. Atherton on four occasions, asking that Mr. Atherton's ads be pulled and that he issue a statement correctly informing the public of the candidates ratings. Four times Mr. Atherton refused.
"Our earlier release was not an attack, nor unfounded, nor inaccurate.
"These are the facts:
"1. Mr. Atherton's radio ads say he has the highest rating of any candidate.
"2. Mr. Atherton defends his ads' reference to having the highest rating "according to the only national attorney's rating guide" by saying his ads never mention Martindale Hubbell by name.
Martindale Hubbell is "the only national attorney's rating guide." Whether he used the Martindale Hubbell name or not, he still violated the terms of its use, which says:
Use or mention of the Martindale-Hubbell Ratings is not allowed in:
Political pieces or advertisements/campaign promotions"
"3. Just because a rating is not posted does not mean a person does not have a rating. A simple phone call by Mr. Atherton's campaign would have confirmed that Art Grisham does in fact have a rating with Martindale Hubbell, and that Art Grisham's rating is higher than Mr. Atherton's. That call would have confirmed that Martindale Hubbell has a relatively new policy of not publishing its ratings if a law firm or attorney does not subscribe to Martindale Hubbell. However, it will publish a rating if an administrative posting fee is paid. Mr. Grisham was not aware of that policy until today. He has paid the listing fee today and has been advised that his rating would be available on-line on August 5. The fact that Mr. Grisham's rating was not posted by Martindale did not mean he had no rating. It merely meant his rating was not posted.
"We need truth. We need experience. We need the person who has been voted as the most qualifed candidate by the attorneys who regularly appear in court. We need Art Grisham."