Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, March 7, 2002


Page 1


Weis Defeats Three Rivals, Winning Superior Court Judgeship

Los Angeles Times-Endorsed Candidates Come in First in All Seven Contests


See chart with election returns and factors concerning candidacies


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Deputy District Attorney Lauren Weis outpaced three opponents to become the only non-incumbent to claim an outright victory in Tuesday’s elections for the Los Angeles Superior Court.

“I’m not surprised,” Weis, the only woman in any of the seven races, said of her victory. “I knew it was possible. I didn’t know that it was going to happen, but I did know that it was possible.”

The two incumbent judges being challenged in Tuesday’s election, Los Angeles Superior Court Judges C. Robert Simpson Jr. and Floyd Baxter, handily beat their opponents to retain their seats.

Weis, a 23-year veteran of the District Attorney’s Office, grabbed 51.1 percent of the vote to defeat attorneys Richard Espinoza, Robert Harrison and H. Don Christian and earn a spot on the county bench. She will take office in January, succeeding Judge Michael Kanner, who did not run for another term.

Espinoza, a former temporary commissioner, came in second with 24.12 percent, and Harrison and Christian followed with 14.94 and 9.82 percent, respectively.

In the wake of her election, Weis, a steadfast supporter of former District Attorney Gil Garcetti, took the opportunity to take a jab at her boss, District Attorney Steve Cooley, for his refusal to endorse her, despite the fact that she was the only deputy district attorney in the race and that he had endorsed in every other race where a single  deputy district attorney was running.

“I guess his endorsement doesn’t mean that much,” Weis said.

Weis credited her outright win, the only one by a non-incumbent in Tuesday’s election, to having the endorsement of the Los Angeles Times—and every other newspaper in the county that made judicial endorsements—and being rated “well-qualified” by the Los Angeles County Bar Association.

Other candidates endorsed by the Times also did well. The county’s major newspaper backed Simpson and Baxter, along with four candidates who made it into runoffs—Deputy District Attorneys Hank Goldberg, Richard Naranjo, and Richard Walmark and State Bar Court Judge Paul Bacigalupo.

Weis had initially been rated qualified by the County Bar, but she won her appeal and received a “well qualified” rating.

She also gave kudos to the support of her friends and family.

“In the end I think I have a lot of really incredible friends and supportive family members who got the vote out,” Weis said.

Harrison, the mid-Wilshire attorney who finished third in the race, said he was “very happy getting 100,000 votes” and may run again “or try to get an appointment.” He saluted Weis on her victory.

“I think she’ll be a great judge,” he told the MetNews.

Espinoza and Christian could not be reached for comment.

As for the incumbents, Simpson defeated Glendale attorney Kenneth E. Wright, to retain his seat, raking in 66.82 percent of the vote compared to Wright’s 33.18 percent.

Simpson, who was not available for comment, cruised to victory with the help of political consultant heavyweight Joe Cerrell of Cerrell Associates Inc.

Baxter—who was not available for comment—sailed past his opponent, Ross A. Stucker, a Newhall attorney and former temporary judicial officer of the Newhall Municipal Court. Stucker, who was held to 24 percent of the vote, attributed his defeat to lack of funds but said he may try again in the future.

Walmark, a prosecutor for 16 years, faces Workers’ Compensation Judge John Gutierrez in the Nov. 5 contest for the seat that Judge Reginald Dunn is leaving. Walmark ran as “Criminal Trial Prosecutor” and Gutierrez as “Administrative Law Judge.”

Walmark said he expected that, based on the ballot designations, he would probably be up against Gutierrez in a runoff, if there was one.

But a spokesman for Gutierrez said experience, not necessarily a ballot designation, will determine who comes out on top in November.

“I don’t know that you run against a ballot designation,” attorney Raymond Magana said. “When someone is running for judge, the most important thing to voters is judicial temperament and the experience to serve in that capacity.”

Warden, who received less than 14 percent of the vote, attributed the outcome of the vote to his opponents’ ballot designations.

“It’s very difficult for somebody designated as a trial lawyer to beat an administrative law judge or a prosecutor,” he said. “But I might try it again.”

Bacigalupo, who ran as “Judge, State Bar” and Deputy District Attorney David Gelfound will also square off after emerging as the top contenders out of a field of four seeking the seat of retired Judge David Finkel.

Bacigalupo, only one of two candidates to take out a campaign statement, defended the expense, saying it was a good way to reach voters. Eldercare attorney Joseph Deering also made the $27,000 expense for the statement.

“I think it’s an important and effective campaign tool to educate voters and build their trust and confidence,” Bacigalupo said.

Bacigalupo also attributed his high numbers at the polls to his belief that voters look for someone who had judicial experience, a fact that was reflected in both Bacigalupo’s campaign statement and his ballot designation..

Bacigalupo said he again use retain the consulting firm Garcia-McCoy-Lee for the general election, but has not yet set out his campaign strategy.

Gelfound did not return calls for comment.

Third-place finisher Steven Lubell expressed disappointment, saying he expected to be in a runoff with Bacigalupo but had underestimated the relative value of the “Commissioner” designation versus that of “Criminal Prosecutor.”

Crawford could not be reached.

Goldberg surfaced as the leading contender for the seat of retired Judge Michael Pirosh, passing by Deering and Administrative Law Judge Donald Renetzky.

Deering had an early lead as results from the absentee ballots came rolling in, but Goldberg gained valuable ground as the precincts began reporting, leaving Goldberg in the lead with 37 percent of the vote and Deering in second with 32.35 percent.

Renetzky, a workers’ compensation judge in Van Nuys, finished third, with 30.65 percent.

The County Bar withdrew its “qualified” rating of Renetzky last Friday, two days after the MetNews reported he had been rated 100 percent permanently disabled by the workers’ compensation system. Renetzky yesterday declined to comment on the impact of that action on his narrowly missing the runoff.

Deering and Goldberg were both rated “well qualified” by the County Bar.

Goldberg, who went through the primary without a campaign consultant, said he is satisfied with the way his “tactical decisions” worked out.

“I’m extremely pleased with my strategy and that I conserved my financial resources,” Goldberg said.

The deputy district attorney spent far less than his opponents in the primary, leaving him with a lot of cash on hand to make the final sprint in the November election, he said.

With his cash reserve and a strong ballot designation of criminal prosecutor, Goldberg said he expects to do well in November.

Deering, the only private attorney to make it into a runoff, said he plans to do more fundraising and rely on the volunteers who helped propel him into the runoff.

Like Bacigalupo, Deering touted the benefits of having a campaign statement as a way of reaching the voters.

“Maybe for me, being an unknown person, it gave voters an opportunity to get to know what I do,” Deering said.

Two deputy district attorneys, Craig Renetzky and Naranjo, will square off against each other for the seat of Judge Richard Spann as they eliminated law school professor Larry H. Layton from contention Tuesday.

Naranjo said he was disappointed that he didn’t manage enough votes to be an outright winner, but added that at least he was still in the runoff.

“It’s better than being eliminated,” Naranjo said. “I have mixed emotions. It would have been nice if this could have been all over yesterday.”

Layton’s candidacy was the wildcard in the race, Naranjo said, and those votes now have to split up between the two deputy district attorneys, something he said could go either way.

Naranjo, was running his own primary campaign himself, said he is considering hiring a political consultant for the general election and he plans to put together a campaign committee and have a campaign website.

Craig Renetzky did not return calls for comment.

Layton, who has now run six times, said he enjoyed his latest campaign—the first countywide race after previous efforts in the old Antelope Municipal Court District—and did not rule out yet another bid. “I’m not throwing away my signs,” he declared.



Results of March 5 Balloting in Judicial Races

Names in bold are those who won the contest or are in a runoff



Ballot Designation

(Through Feb. 16)

Times Endorsement

Candidate Statement


Office No. 2

Hank Goldberg

Criminal Prosecutor

$ 3,382.44




 Joseph “Joe” Deering

Eldercare Attorney 





 Donald Renetzky

Administrative Law Judge 






Office No. 39

Richard E. Naranjo

Deputy District Attorney

$ 5,606.42




Craig Renetzky

Criminal Prosecutor 





Larry H. Layton

Law School Professor






Office No. 40

Floyd Baxter

Judge/Law Professor

  $ 20,794.75




Ross Stucker







Office No. 53

Lauren Weis 

Criminal Prosecutor 

$ 32,591.51 




Richard Espinoza






Robert Harrison

Attorney/Hearing Officer





H. Don Christian

Attorney at Law





Office No. 67

Paul A. Bacigalupo

Judge, State Bar

$ 47,397.74




David Gelfound

Criminal Prosecutor





Steven Lubell

Superior Court Commissioner





David Crawford 

Trial Attorney  





Office No. 90

C. Robert Simpson

Superior Court Judge





Kenneth Wright

Trial Attorney





Office No. 100

Richard F. Walmark

Criminal Trial Prosecutor

$312.86 *




John C. Gutierrez

Administrative Law Judge





  Thomas H. Warden 

Trial Attorney 





*Up-to-date filing not available; figure is from previous filing.
**Candidate spent less than $1,000 and did not file detailed report.

Return to news story on the election results


Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company