Monday, November 3, 2003
LAPD Sergeant Preparing for ‘Uphill’ Race Against Wesley
Kevin M. Burke Says Incumbent Judge Was Responsible for Decision That Led to Release of Suspects
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
A onetime Orange County prosecutor who left law practice to become a police officer said Friday he is preparing to oppose Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Wesley in the March 2 primary.
Kevin M. Burke, a sergeant who supervises a vice unit in the Los Angeles Police Department’s Wilshire Division, said that while he will not have much money to spend and recognizes “it’s an uphill battle,” he is inclined to run unless someone who “puts a higher priority on public safety” elects to take on the incumbent.
Burke, 37, has taken out papers for the contest, and has until Wednesday to file them.
The potential challenger said he holds Wesley, now the criminal courts supervising judge, responsible for a May 28 snafu in which a court commissioner declined to keep his arraignment courtroom open past normal hours on the Tuesday following the Memorial Day weekend.
As a result, a number of suspects were released, and while most either returned to court voluntarily or were held on other charges, several absconded and one is accused of having committed a murder in June. District Attorney Steve Cooley said the decision to close the court was “unilateral and arbitrary,” but court officials blamed Cooley’s office for not filing charges earlier in the day.
Burke cited a court transcript. “It seems clear that Judge Wesley gave the order to the commissioner” to close the courtroom, even if that necessitated dismissing cases.
Wesley Friday told the MetNews that “the transcript does not reflect what happened.”
Boalt Hall Graduate
Burke, a graduate of Whittier College and Boalt Hall School of Law, was admitted to practice in 1991. State Bar records show that he was on inactive status from 1996 to 2001.
He explained Friday that he spent three years with the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and later practiced civil law, first with Dewey Ballentine and later with Bewley, Lassleben and Miller in Whittier before joining the LAPD.
“I enjoy the police department,” he explained, because it allows him to use his legal knowledge while also doing hands-on law enforcement work. He noted he had taught law at the police academy for six years.
Wesley declared he would not take his underfunded challenger lightly. He said he has hired Cerrell Associates Inc. as his consulting firm and is prepared to run on his record.
“I’m supported by state and federal judges, prosecutors and defense [lawyers],” he said. “I was assigned as supervising judge of the criminal division because of my abilities. I’ve been honored by the City Council for my crime prevention activities in South Central Los Angeles.”
Wesley, a judge since 1997 and a court commissioner, State Bar Court Judge, and defense lawyer before that, said he expects to have the bulk of law enforcement endorsements in any contest.
Gootman Picks New Seat
In another election development, Deputy District Attorney Jeffrey Gootman filed a declaration of intention to run for the seat being vacated by Judge Richard C. Hubbell.
Gootman, who had taken out papers to run for the seat of Judge Chesley N. McKay Jr. before McKay filed, said he did not want to take on an incumbent judge or a fellow deputy district attorney. He is the second candidate to file for the Hubbell seat, after Deputy Attorney General Gus Gomez.
Gootman acknowledged that he is unlikely to keep up with Gomez, a proven campaign fundraiser, in the finances department. But he has raised some money and said he was “going to have to try” to be competitive with regard to spending.
He probably will not have the money to hire a consultant, he said. Gomez has retained Parke Skelton, who ran two winning races for him—Gomez is a Glendale councilman, in addition to his state duties—and has had some successful judicial campaigns over the years.
Gootman said he would campaign on his record of almost 19 years as a prosecutor, handing death penalty cases, major narcotics prosecutions, appeals, writs, and search warrants, among other tasks. He said he prides himself on his legal knowledge and research skills, including a database consisting of almost 35,000 citations he keeps on his laptop computer.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company