Monday, October 20, 2008
Endorsements in Judicial Races
There are five Los Angeles Superior Court races on the Nov. 4 ballot. In four of them, the candidate we endorsed in the primary is in the run-off. We reiterate our support for each of those contenders.
In the fifth race, the candidate we favored in the primary lost. However, we made a contingency endorsement, indicating our preference as among the two candidates who seemed likely to get past the primary. Our preference hasn’t changed.
We chose up sides in the primary before the Los Angeles County Bar Assn.’s evaluation committee announced its ratings. However, we note that in each of the five races on the general election ballot, the candidate we endorse is rated the same as the opponent or higher.
Hilleri Grossman Merritt
Office No. 72
We endorsed Deputy District Attorney Marc Chomel in the primary, fully aware that he was likely to be eliminated in the initial balloting by virtue of his lack of a commitment to spend what it takes. He was our preference over Deputy District Attorney Hilleri Grossman Merritt because of his more extensive experience. We indicated that “a run-off between Merritt and private practitioner Steven A. Simons is likely. Should that occur, Merritt would be our choice. She’s affable, non-confrontational, and plain-talking.”
Merritt has served 14 years in the District Attorney’s Office. She is at home in a courtroom and has gained a solid reputation for fairness.
Her opponent—whose website is “onesmartlawyer.com”—is a sole practitioner who is listed on the ballot as a “Consumer Rights Attorney.” His specialty is suing automobile dealers in fraud actions.
Simons has placed an impressively well-worded candidate statement in the sample ballot while Merritt has none, and he appears to have more money to spend than she. He has decided campaign advantages, but his credentials for judicial service are simply not on a par with Merritt’s.
Merritt has drawn a County Bar rating of “well qualified” and Simons is labeled “qualified.” We agree with those assessments and endorse Merritt.
Office No. 82
Deputy District Attorney Thomas Rubinson has the skills necessary for judicial service. Los Angeles Superior Court Referee Cynthia Loo is a well-meaning, conscientious person who desires to serve, but lacks the aptitude.
Three times, she has applied for a commissionership, and the judges of the court have turned her down, denying her a place on the eligibility list. They, certainly, should know whether she warrants a higher post than she presently holds.
Loo has failed to provide copies of her performance evaluations to this newspaper. This is understandable in light of the various negative renditions we have heard concerning her performance, and the probability that the evaluations reflect her deficiencies. These include an inability to keep proceedings moving along and a tendency to evince emotion on the bench, including crying.
The County Bar has termed Rubinson “well qualified” and Loo as “qualified.”
We believe that Rubinson is clearly the better choice.
Lori-Ann C. Jones
Office No. 84
Four candidates competed in this race in the primary. All drew the County Bar’s bottom designation of “not qualified.”
We endorsed Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Lori-Ann Jones in the primary as “the least objectionable of the contenders.” She started her judicial career two years ago and her conduct, oppressive to defendants, so enraged the Office of Public Defender that, for awhile, it would not stipulate to her. We believe she is growing into her job and is intent upon putting controversies behind her.
Deputy District Attorney Pat Connolly is an able prosecutor. He has staunch supporters and adamant detractors. Connolly says he’s “pugnacious,” and that can’t be doubted.
As a judge, he would be apt to get into matches with lawyers, and he would be in a position to be doing most all the punching. Given his aggressiveness, we believe Connolly is better suited to the role of an advocate than that of a judge, someone who is supposed to be a calm and neutral adjudicator.
We believe Jones would make the better judge.
Michael J. O’Gara
Office No. 94
Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Michael J. O’Gara is up to the task. Deputy Public Defender C. Edward Mack, who ran unsuccessfully in 2004 and 2006, is not.
Two years ago, we said:
“Mack is a deputy public defender. He represents in his campaign that he’s had 15 years of experience in the criminal field, which is true, and ‘[f]ive years of civil experience.’ What he obviously intends to communicate is that he practiced law in the civil arena for five years before becoming a criminal defense attorney. He didn’t. Mack includes in the ‘[f]ive years of civil experience’ the three-and-a-half years he spent as a deputy clerk in the Los Angeles Superior Court [that should read Los Angeles Municipal Court] Clerk’s Office.
“Any lawyer with so devious a mind as to fabricate experience in law based on activities before being admitted to practice is clearly unworthy of consideration for election or appointment to the bench.
“Beyond that, Mack is far from being a dynamo. He’s a run-of-the-mill lawyer who has evinced no particular aptitude for the bench.”
Mack thunders in a press release—which appears on the League of Women Voters’ “Smart Voter” website—that those allegations are “completely untrue.” Under the heading, “THE LOS ANGELES METROPOLITAN NEWS NEEDS TO GET THEIR FACTS STRAIGHT,” he devotes 1,713 words to disputing what we’ve said about him.
An irrefutable fact is that Mack was not licensed to practice until July 5, 1989. He became a deputy public defender in September, 1990, a job he has held continuously since then. He could not have had five years of civil experience as an attorney. Yet, that is what he did, in his first two campaigns for the Superior Court, imply. (He is more careful in his phraseology this time, but is hardly repentant, arguing in his 1,713-word defense that there was nothing misleading about his past representations.)
In his confidential “Personal Data Questionnaire,” dated Dec. 3, 2003, which he submitted to the County Bar’s evaluation unit, Mack responded to a question which began: “With respect to each legal job you have held after being licensed to practice, state the following:....” Emphasis added. He responded: 12/85-09/90: Los Angeles Municipal Court [¶] Research attorney and supervisor of Court Defaults.”
The clear implication is that he performed both functions “after being licensed to practice.”
On the League of Women Voters website in the 2004 primary, he claimed “18 years of legal experience, 5 Civil, 13 Criminal,” implying that he has been a lawyer for 18 years, with five years of civil practice.
In a “full biography” section of the website, he wrote: “My experience covers 5 years in Civil related matters, 13 years in Criminal matters, and over 100 Jury trials.”
Mack came in last among six candidates.
Two years ago, he represented on the League of Women Voters website:
“•Five years of civil experience.”
“•Fifteen years of criminal experience as a Los Angeles County Public Defender.”
Again, the implication is clear.
He protests in his press release:
“The Met-News is saying that the civil experience as a law clerk doesn’t count as civil experience, even though I was responsible for reviewing and evaluating cases for entry of civil default judgments and ex parte orders for the presiding Municipal Court Judges....The Met-News is saying that the civil experience as a law clerk doesn’t count as civil experience even though I was also responsible for reviewing ex-parte applications and orders, such as writs of attachments and possession and stay orders for writs of execution, and noticed motions, such as demurrers, motions to strike and summary judgments. [¶] Why in the world is this misleading, and why can’t this be considered as civil experience?”
Mack is missing the point. Is he that obtuse? The criticism here has been founded on his implied—yet clear—representation that he had five years of civil experience as a lawyer.
The MetNews has its facts straight.
A fact regarding O’Gara is that his 2007 and 2008 performance evaluations say he has served his office “exceptionally well,” rendering him “deserving of an outstanding evaluation.” O’Gara handles major cases, handles them well, and questions do not loom as to his integrity.
The County Bar rates O’Gara “well qualified” and Mack as “qualified.” We believe it has been overly generous to Mack.
Michael V. Jesic
Office No. 154
Deputy District Attorney Michael V. Jesic does not have judicial experience; Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Rocky Crabb does. Despite that, we favor Jesic in what is a close contest to call.
Both candidates are termed “well qualified” by the County Bar, and again we agree with the assessments by the group’s evaluations panel.
While we recognize that Crabb has the advantage of three years of judicial experience, we endorse Jesic because he stands out as a lawyer who ought to be a judge. He seeks to do his best in prosecuting cases, which does not mean winning at any cost. Imbued with a sense of fairness, he is forthright, intelligent, and highly regarded by other lawyers.
It is our impression that Crabb would be an able judge, but that Jesic would become a leading member of the bench.
Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company