Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, February 5, 2004


Page 1


Oki Opponent Rated ‘Well Qualified’ by County Bar


By a MetNews Staff Writer


A deputy district attorney seeking to unseat Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Dan Oki and a court commissioner running for an open seat have been rated “well qualified” for judicial office by a committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, the MetNews has learned.

A Superior Court referee running for an open seat also revealed she has been rated “qualified,” and said she is considering an appeal.

Marc Debbaudt, who is one of three opponents Oki has drawn in the March 2 primary election, said he was pleased by the outcome of the evaluation process.

“I feel good about this,” he said. “My peers have recognized me as being well qualified.”

Oki has also been rated “well qualified” by the Judicial Elections Evaluation Committee, which is considering appeals of their tentative ratings by the two other candidates in the race.

Encino attorney Eugene Salute yesterday declined to say what rating he received, but said he is scheduled to meet with the full committee next week in a bid to improve it. Deputy District Attorney Hilary Anne Rhonan, who met with the full committee Jan. 29, has also declined to reveal her tentative rating.

She could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Ratings less than “well qualified” are based on tentative subcommittee evaluations and are subject to review by the full panel. The committee rates candidates as either “well qualified,” “qualified,” or “not qualified” for judicial office.

Opposition to Oki and Judges Gilbert Lopez, William Ryan, David Wesley, and Richard Van Dusen was solicited in a full-page ad in a legal newspaper shortly before filing for judicial races closed. Only Oki, Wesley and Van Dusen drew opponents.

The ad was placed by Association of Deputy District Attorneys President Steve Ipsen, who is also a member of the State Bar Board of Governors. It repeated previous criticism of Oki and Wesley, saying they were responsible for the release of several suspects whose arraignments had not taken place by court closing time on May 28, the Wednesday following the Memorial Day weekend.

The County Bar’s Fair Judicial Election Practices Committee, acting on a complaint by Oki, found the ad was misleading because it appeared to have been sponsored by the ADDA, but also found none of Oki’s opponents were at fault.

The MetNews also learned that Superior Court Commissioner Donna Groman has received a “well qualified” rating. Groman is one of five candidates to succeed Judge James Wright.

The others are Department of Industrial Relations attorney P. Michael Erwin, Deputy District Attorneys Judith L. Meyer and Carol Najera, and Sherman Oaks lawyer Mitchell W. Roth. Meyer has also been rated “well qualified.”

Roth is appealing his rating, but has declined to reveal it.

Najera did not return a MetNews telephone call earlier this week, but a source said she has already had an appeal hearing on her tentative rating. The source did not say what the rating was.

Los Angeles Superior Court Referee Mildred Escobedo said yesterday she will decide today whether to challenge her “qualified” rating.

Escobedo also said she has appealed a judge’s ruling barring her from being listed on the ballot as “Temporary Judge.” Her attorney, sole practitioner Moises Vazquez, conceded the appeal would not impact the March 2 primary ballot, but said it was being filed to “preserve the issue” in the event Escobedo makes it into a runoff.

She could then seek to use the designation, which was disallowed by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Yaffe after a Jan. 8 hearing, in the November general election, Vazquez said.

He said the notice of appeal was filed “Friday or Monday” and no briefing schedule has yet been set. The attorney said he has requested expedited briefing to insure that the matter is resolved before the November ballots must be printed.

Yaffe ruled that Escobedo must be listed on the primary ballot as “Superior Court Referee.” She is one of four candidates for the seat being vacated by Judge Marcus Tucker.

One of her opponents, Deputy City Attorney Miguel Dager, has been rated “well qualified.” The other two, Deputy District Attorneys Pat Campbell and Daniel Feldstern, are appealing their tentative ratings.

Campbell was rated “qualified,” while Feldstern has declined to say what his rating was. Feldstern has reported he is scheduled to appear before the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s full Judicial Elections Evaluation Committee tonight in a bid to boost his rating, while Campbell has an appeal hearing set for Tuesday.

Escobedo is one of two Superior Court referees running for judge this year. The other, Daniel Zeke Zeidler, was rated “well qualified.”


Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company