County Bar Rates Judge McKay ‘Not Qualified’ for Reelection
By DAVID WATSON, Staff Writer
A Los Angeles County Bar Association panel yesterday said Judge Chesley McKay, who has been off the bench because of illness since September, is “not qualified” for reelection to the bench.
Final ratings for the 36 candidates for judicial office on the March 2 primary ballot were released by the County Bar’s Judicial Elections Evaluation Committee. The panel rated 12 candidates as “well qualified,” including at least one in each of the nine races except McKay’s and that of another challenged incumbent, Judge Richard W. Van Dusen.
McKay, who last heard cases in the Antelope Valley, is opposed by Stella Owens-Murrell, an attorney with the Department of Industrial Relations. Owens-Murrell, who was rated “qualified,” said of the judge yesterday:
“Obviously his record speaks for itself.”
McKay could not be reached for comment.
The panel rated 16 candidates “qualified” for judicial office and said eight, including McKay, were “not qualified.”
Departures From Past Reports
In a departure from past procedure, the full report of the committee—available on the County Bar Web site at www.lacaba.org—did not provide explanations of the particular shortcomings of candidates rated “not qualified.” In another departure, the “well qualified” ratings of two candidates were accompanied by an asterisk, indicating they were themselves members of the committee during the last judicial elections cycle in 2002.
Those candidates are Deputy District Attorney Judith L. Meyer, who is one of five candidates to succeed Judge James Wright, and Deputy District Attorney Daniel Feldstern, who is one of four candidates seeking the seat being vacated by Judge Marcus Tucker.
Feldstern’s rating was among those made public for the first time yesterday. Many of the candidates had previously announced their ratings.
Feldstern became the second candidate to win the highest rating in his race, joining Deputy City Attorney Miguel A. Dager.
Feldstern said he was tentatively rated “qualified” by a subcommittee but succeeded in convincing the full committee to raise his rating after a hearing Tuesday evening.
One of his opponents, Deputy District Attorney Pat Campbell, also appeared before the full committee Tuesday in a bid to improve a “qualified” rating but was not successful.
The fourth candidate in the contest, Los Angeles Superior Court Referee Mildred Escobedo, was also tentatively rated “qualified” and said yesterday she chose not to appeal.
Henry’s Rating Boosted
Deputy Attorney General Bob Henry, who had strenuously protested his tentative “qualified” evaluation, also had his rating boosted to “well qualified” after appearing Tuesday. Henry is one of six candidates to succeed Judge Rosemary Shumsky.
Under the committee’s procedures, initial interviews are conducted by a subcommittee, which recommends a rating of “well qualified,” “qualified,” or “not qualified” to serve as a judge. Ratings less than “well qualified” are tentative and can be appealed to the full panel.
Other ratings not known before yesterday were those of Acton lawyer Larry H. Layton, rated “qualified,” and Deputy District Attorney Edward Nison, rated “not qualified,” in a six-way race to succeed Judge Richard Hubbell; Workers’ Compensation Judge John Gutierrez, rated “qualified” in a three-way race for the seat left open by Judge Nancy Brown’s retirement last month; Torrance attorney Michael Shook, rated “not qualified” in the six-way race to replace Shumsky; Department of Industrial Relations attorney P. Michael Erwin and Sherman Oaks lawyer Mitchell W. Roth, both rated “not qualified” in the five-way race to replace Wright; Los Angeles Police Dept. Sgt. Kevin Burke, who is one of four candidates seeking to unseat Judge David Wesley and was rated “qualified”; and Encino lawyer Eugene Salute, who is among three challengers to Judge Dan Oki and was rated “not qualified.”
The committee provided no explanation of its decision not to provide the type of elaboration on its lowest ratings given in reports in recent election cycles. In 2002, two of 21 candidates were rated “not qualified,” and the committee report cited the specific standards as to which each had found wanting.
The report released yesterday said only that the eight candidates deemed “not qualified” were found not to “adequately possess one or more of” nine “attributes necessary to perform the judicial function satisfactorily.”
The candidates and their ratings are:
Office No. 18: Miguel Angel Dager, Well Qualified; Mildred Escobedo, Qualified; Pat Campbell, Qualified; and Daniel Feldstern, Well Qualified.
Office No. 29: Lori Jones, Qualified; Jeffrey S. Gootman, Well Qualified; Gus Gomez, Qualified; Larry H. Layton, Qualified; Edward Nison, Not Qualified; and C. Edward Mack, Qualified.
Office No. 52: Larry Diamond, Qualified; John C. Gutierrez, Qualified; and Laura F. Priver, Well Qualified.
Office No. 53: Craig Jordan Mitchell, Well Qualified; Michael D. Shook, Not Qualified; David Lopez, Qualified; Craig Allen Renetzky, Qualified; Daniel Zeke Zeidler, Well Qualified; and Bob Henry, Well Qualified.
Office No. 67: Daniel K. Dik, Qualified; and Richard W. Van Dusen, Qualified.
Office No. 69: Donna Groman, Well Qualified; Carol Najera, Not Qualified; Mitchell W. Roth, Not Qualified; Judith Levey Meyer, Well Qualified; and P. Michael Erwin, Not Qualified.
Office No. 72: Kevin Burke, Qualified; Herbert R. Lapin, Qualified; David S. Wesley, Well Qualified; and Daniel Lee Bershin, Qualified.
Office No. 95: Marc Debbaudt, Well Qualified; Eugene M. Salute, Not Qualified; Dan Thomas Oki, Well Qualified; and Hilary Anne Rhonan, Not Qualified.
Office No. 111: Chesley N. McKay Jr., Not Qualified; and Stella L. Owens-Murrell, Qualified.
Twenty-one of the 36 county candidates for judge have said they will appear at a candidates’ forum on Sunday sponsored by the League of Women Voters, a forum organizer said yesterday.
Margo Reeg, voters services vice president of the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles County, said Oki and Wesley have told her they will not be there.
The candidates who have notified her they plan to attend, Reeg said, are Campbell, Feldstern, Escobedo, Gootman, Nison, Layton, Mack, Gutierrez, Henry, Mitchell, Lopez, Zeidler, Dik, Erwin, Roth, Meyer, Najera, Burke, Debbaudt, Rhonan and Owens-Murrell.
The forum is jointly sponsored by the Los Angeles County league, the League of Women Voters of Whittier, and the League of Women Voters of East San Gabriel Valley.
It will be held in the council chambers at the West Covina City Hall, 1444 West Garvey, in West Covina and will run from 2:30 to 4:30. The candidates will be split into two groups based on the races in which they are running, with an hour devoted to each group, Reeg said.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company