Friday, February 6, 2004
LACBA Panel Downgrades Najera’s Rating to ‘Not Qualified’
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
A Los Angeles deputy district attorney and Superior Court candidate who appealed her tentative “qualified” rating from the County Bar’s Judicial Elections Evaluations Committee confirmed yesterday that she had been downgraded to a final rating of “not qualified.”
Deputy District Attorney Carol Najera, who is seeking the seat being vacated by Judge James Wright, declined to disclose the reasons given by the committee for the rare, although not unprecedented, downgrading.
The committee’s guidelines say that “not qualified” means that the candidate lacks “one or more of the qualities of professional ability, experience, competence, integrity and temperament indicative of fitness to perform the judicial function satisfactorily.”
Najera suggested that some of the committee members may have had it in for her based on some of her past work as a prosecutor.
“When I saw that Gerald Chaleff was the head of the committee, it made me have some second thoughts” about going ahead with the appeal, she told the MetNews.
Suspicions About Motivation
She noted that Chaleff was a longtime criminal defense attorney and a close friend of Leslie H. Abramson, one of the defense attorneys in the Menendez brothers murder case. “I think Menendez is a huge part of [the negative rating],” Najera said.
Najera and David Conn were the prosecutors in the second trial of Lyle and Erik Menendez, who were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for the premeditated murders of Jose and Kitty Menendez in their Beverly Hills home.
Najera also acknowledged misgivings about the role of Gigi Gordon, a criminal defense attorney who is a vice-chair of the committee. Neither Chaleff nor Gordon was on the subcommittee that initially recommended the qualified rating, she said.
Najera said she and Gordon tangled during 1996 litigation brought by criminal defense groups seeking to block the district attorney from destroying files in thousands of older criminal cases.
Najera said the office was only trying to free up storage space, but Gordon and the defense groups charged that destruction of the files might prevent wrongfully convicted defendants from gaining exoneration.
Najera emphasized that she had no way of knowing what actually took place in the committee’s deliberations, or whether Abramson discussed her candidacy with Chaleff, something Abramson yesterday denied.
Abramson said she had paid no attention to Najera’s candidacy. “[Najera] flatters herself to think I would give a s—-,” Abramson said.
Najera is one of five candidates for the Wright seat. The others are Deputy District Attorney Judith L. Meyer and Superior Court Commissioner Donna Groman, both rated “well qualified;” Department of Industrial Relations attorney P. Michael Erwin, who did not return MetNews phone calls; and Mitchell Roth, a civil litigator who was not available for comment yesterday.
Roth previously disclosed he was appealing his tentative rating, but did not say whether it was “not qualified” or “qualified.”
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company