Wednesday, May 3, 2006
Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 95
Two members of the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office are competing for Superior Court Office No. 95. While both are respected by colleagues, we believe that Lopez-Giss is by far the abler contender.
She and her rival, Deputy City Attorney Richard Kraft, each has a background in both civil and criminal law. Kraft gained his civil experience as a private practitioner from 1981-89, and has been prosecuting misdemeanors for the past 17 years. Lopez-Giss was first a prosecutor, setting up her office’s first domestic violence unit in 1978, and has been handling civil cases for the past 16 years, currently serving as assistant general counsel to the Department of Water and Power. She has been with the Office of City Attorney for 30 years.
Both have more than ample experience in law to be fit to adjudicate cases.
But Lopez-Giss far outdistances Kraft in the areas of maturity, drive, and forthrightness.
In material posted by him on the League of Women Voters website, Kraft stresses that “a judicial candidate should have recent trial experience,” and points to his having “tried more than 40 jury trials over the past 5 years and more than 100 jury trials over the past 10 years.”
Kraft is conveying that he possesses “recent trial experience,” the implication being that his opponent does not. He wants voters to discount Lopez-Giss’s extensive prosecutorial experience simply because it is not “recent.” Yet, he asks voters to credit him with civil experience—he trumpets his “7+ Years Civil & Complex Litigation Experience at Major Los Angeles Law Firms, including 6 years at Adams, Duque & Hazeltine”— somehow conveniently overlooking his own postulate that experience, to count, must be “recent.”
In truth, trial court procedures have undergone no basic changes since Lopez-Giss was in court on a near-daily basis from 1985-91 (and with frequency during the decade before that). In any event, her switch from the criminal side of the office to the civil side has not meant a cessation of court appearances by her. She has appeared in court in recent years on numerous occasions and, even though cast in an administrative role a year-and-a-half ago, has continued, though with less frequency, to represent her office in court proceedings.
Moreover, Kraft has been handling prosecutions of those accused of misdemeanors—that is, minor crimes. Lopez-Giss has been handling some major civil matters, including an action against the public relations firm of Fleishman-Hillard for fraudulent over-billing of the city, resulting in a $5.7 million settlement.
Kraft is capitalizing in a big way in his campaign materials on having been selected by the Los Angeles County Bar Assn.’s Criminal Justice Section as “Prosecutor of the Year.” One might well suspect he was derelict in not advising that section prior to the March 2 public announcement of the award that he intended to seek a judgeship. He took out nominating papers on March 8.
Kraft will be honored at a dinner on Thursday, along with recipients of three other awards. The County Bar, which does not set out to take sides in any elections, is thus in the no doubt uncomfortable position of advancing the interests of one particular judicial candidate.
It is, of course, conceivable that Kraft decided to run for office at the last minute. Whether that’s the case or not cannot be ascertained from Kraft. He refuses to be interviewed.
The candidate did make brief comments to a MetNews reporter on March 8, and responded to some questions by e-mail, but has otherwise been incommunicado.
If Kraft is this stand-offish now, as a mere candidate, it might well be speculated that as a judge, he would be all the more insular. Yet, a judge is a public servant, a role not wisely bestowed on one lacking a sense of accountability.
It is also disturbing that Kraft would claim on his campaign website that he “Started 1st Domestic Violence Prosecution Team for City,” and fail to remove that claim even after learning that Lopez-Giss started the first such program in 1978. Her claim is corroborated by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Burt Pines, who was city attorney at the time, and otherwise documented.
Despite his evident talents and his accomplishments as a prosecutor, including authorship of manuals used statewide, we believe Kraft is lacking in some of the qualities a judge should have.
Lopez-Giss is a bright, energetic, capable lawyer who would, in our estimation, make an outstanding judge.
We urge her election on June 6.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company