Thursday, January 29, 2004
Seventh Candidate for Superior Court Reports ‘Well Qualified’ Rating
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
A deputy district attorney seeking the Los Angeles Superior Court seat being vacated by Judge Richard Hubbell reported yesterday that he has been rated “well qualified” by the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s evaluating committee.
Jeffrey S. Gootman, a senior prosecutor in Lancaster, is the first candidate for the seat to report receiving the highest possible rating.
Another candidate, Deputy District Attorney Lori Jones, said yesterday she had been tentatively rated “qualified” and will appeal, while Deputy Attorney General Gus Gomez said he was appealing his tentative rating and had an interview with the full committee scheduled for tonight.
Gomez declined to say whether his initial rating was “qualified” or “not qualified.”
There are three other candidates in the race—Deputy District Attorney Edward Nison, Acton attorney Larry H. Layton, and Deputy Public Defender C. Edward Mack.
Layton said he has not yet been interviewed. The perennial candidate said he expects to be rated “qualified,” as he was in 2000 and 2002.
He was rated “not qualified” in three bids for the Antelope Municipal Court, which was abolished as a result of unification in 2000.
“I haven’t done anything in the past year that would justify their rating me higher,” Layton said, “and I haven’t done anything in the past year that would justify their rating me lower.”
Nison and Mack could not be reached yesterday for comment. Each indicated last week that he had not yet been rated.
Gootman becomes the seventh candidate in the current election cycle to report a well-qualified rating.
The others are Los Angeles Deputy City Attorney Miguel Dager, seeking the seat of Judge Marcus Tucker, who did not file for re-election; Deputy District Attorney Laura Priver, running to succeed Judge Nancy Brown, who is retiring this weekend; Deputy District Attorney Craig J. Mitchell and Superior Court Referee Daniel Zeke Zeidler, both running for the seat being vacated by Judge Rosemary Shumsky; Deputy District Attorney Judith L. Meyer, who is running for the seat currently held by Judge James Wright; and Judge David Wesley.
Jones and Gomez are among six candidates who have said they will appeal their ratings to the full Committee on Judicial Elections Evaluation. The others are Deputy District Attorneys Patrick David Campbell and David Lopez, who were tentatively rated “qualified,” and Deputy District Attorneys Daniel Feldstern and Hilary Anne Rhonan, each of whom declined to disclose a tentative rating.
Campbell and Feldstern are seeking the Tucker seat. The fourth candidate in that race, Superior Court Referee Mildred Escobedo, did not have her subcommittee interview until Tuesday.
Rhonan is challenging Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Daniel Oki, as are attorney Eugene Salute and Deputy District Attorney Marc Debbaudt. Ratings for Oki, Salute, and Debbaudt were not available.
In another election-related development yesterday, Deputy Attorney General Bob Henry, one of six candidates for the Shumsky seat, said he would appeal Chief U.S. District Judge Consuelo B. Marshall’s order denying his motion for a preliminary injunction against distribution of the ballot pamphlet for the March 2.
Henry is challenging, on equal protection grounds, the requirement that candidates for countywide office pay $65,000 to place a statement of qualifications in the pamphlet.
The candidate argues that Elections Code Sec. 13307 discriminates irrationally by allowing each county to determine whether to print each candidate’s statement at public expense or to require candidates to pay the estimated cost of printing and distributing the statement. Only six of the 36 judicial candidates in this year’s primary paid the charge.
Marshall ruled last week that Henry is unlikely to succeed in his challenge, reasoning that the state’s interest in allowing counties to charge a fee is sufficient to withstand rational basis review even if some counties choose not to do so.
The judge also concluded that the denial of the opportunity to reach voters by means of a candidate statement does not constitute irreparable injury, since Henry may campaign by direct mail or other means.
Henry’s opponents are Mitchell, Zeidler, Lopez, Deputy District Attorney Craig Renetzky, and Torrance attorney Michael Shook. Shook and Zeidler were among those who paid for candidate statements.
Henry is making his second bid for election to judicial office. He challenged the candidate statement charge the first time as well.
Henry, running against then-Superior Court Judge Joyce Karlin in 1992, argued that candidates in counties where the charges are high are unfairly discriminated against. Smaller counties have smaller charges, and some counties, such as Santa Clara, exercise the statutory option of placing no charge on the candidate at all.
Henry lost that suit, as well as the election. But the prior decision is not binding, he has explained, because it came as a summary denial of a mandamus petition in state court.
The federal suit was filed as a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company