Thursday, March 9, 2006
Prosecutor, Beverly Hills Practitioner to Run for Superior Court
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Los Angeles Deputy City Attorney Richard E. Kraft and Beverly Hills attorney Maria Rivas Hamar took out papers yesterday to run for Los Angeles Superior Court judge.
Kraft becomes the first candidate to seek the seat of Judge Larry S. Knupp, who is not running for re-election, while Hamar is seeking to succeed Judge Paula Mabrey, who is retiring in April. Deputy District Attorney David W. Stuart has already qualified as a candidate for that seat.
Kraft, 49, said that as a lawyer in public service, running for the bench was a natural next step.
“It’s a challenge that I think I’m suited for,” Kraft told. “I think I have the experience.”
Kraft has been a prosecutor for the city for the past 17 years. He was a real estate lawyer at the since-dissolved firm of Adams, Duque & Hazeltine from 1983 to 1989.
Switched to Prosecution
He made the switch, he explained, after spending a month working for the city as a volunteer, part of a County Bar program. He said he fell in love with the work and “wanted to make a difference,” so he decided to make prosecution a career.
“I wouldn’t trade these 17 years for anything, but I think I have something else to offer,” he commented.
He spent 10 years in the central trials unit, he explained, followed by three years prosecuting domestic violence cases. He now works in a special unit that prosecutes crimes against children, sexual assaults, and violations of workplace safety standards, among other types of cases.
He has had over 200 criminal jury trials, he said.
As a political neophyte, Kraft commented, he thought he needed an experienced consultant and has hired Fred Huebscher, who has guided a number of former prosecutors toward election to the bench. He has obtained financial commitments from family and friends which, along with his personal funds, total $100,000 and hopes to raise an equal amount, he said.
He has begun soliciting endorsements from judges and intends to release a list once the incumbent’s non-candidacy becomes official.
Tomorrow is the filing deadline, but any race in which an incumbent does not file would be subject to a five-day extension, expiring Wednesday of next week. It appears that there will be eight such races for the court.
Kraft grew up in New Jersey. He attended Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire and Brandeis University in Massachusetts before coming west to attend law school at USC.
Hamar, 48, practices with her husband, Richard Hamar, in Hamar & Hamar.
She said she had been thinking about seeking a judgeship for a long time, but with two children at home, the timing had not been right before. But with both of her offspring now ensconced in East Coast colleges, she said, this is the time for her to run.
“I feel really good about it,” she said, adding that she has not yet decided whether to hire a consultant. She said she has the backing of the Mexican American Bar Association, and hopes to use her contacts in other groups, such as the Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles, on whose board she serves, to gain support.
Hamar, whose undergraduate and law degrees are from the University of Miami and who practiced in Miami before she and her husband moved west in 1989. At the time, she explained, she and her husband were doing a lot of federal criminal work and had a number of cases in this area of the country.
A bilingual Cuban-American, her practice currently focuses on family law and on providing legal advice to Colombian nationals referred by that country’s consulate.
Hamar said she was qualified for the bench because of her broad experience in criminal and civil law.
“I think I would really be a fair judge,” she said, “and I think I’ll have a lot of community support.”
In another election-related development, a spokesperson for the registrar-recorder confirmed that there will be no elections for the seats from which Superior Court Judges Thomas Peterson and Ruth Essegian retired, since no one filed for those seats before the governor filled them.
Instead, Judges Thomas T. Lewis and Steven Pfahler will be up for election in 2008.
There will, however, be an election for the seat formerly held by retired Judge Michael E. Knight, the spokesperson said, because the governor has made no appointment and a candidate, Encino attorney Stephen Feldman, has filed for that slot. There will be a five-day extension unless Knight files for his old seat, the spokesperson said.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company