Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Two Judicial Candidates at Voter Forum Criticize Ratings Process
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Eight of the 10 candidates for seats on the Los Angeles Superior Court in the Nov. 4 election took part in a town hall meeting in Hacienda Heights Saturday morning to make their case directly to voters, with two of them taking direct aim at the County Bar’s evaluation process.
Answering the question posed by event organizer Charles House, “Why should we hire you?”, Deputy District Attorneys Hilleri G. Merritt, Thomas Rubinson, Patrick Connolly, Michael O’Gara and Michael Jesic, Tarzana lawyer Steven Simons, Superior Court Commissioner Lori Jones and Deputy Public Defender C. Edward Mack contrasted themselves with their opponents and took questions from among the approximately 40 voters present at the Steinmetz Park Community Room.
Superior Court Commissioner Rocky Crabb and Superior Court Referee Cynthia Loo were not present at the event.
After an introduction by Diamond Bar attorney Thomas Dovidio, the candidates delivered opening statements highlighting their relative strengths and addressed voters’ questions on the merit of ratings assigned by the Los Angeles County Bar Association.
Those assigned more favorable ratings indicated support for the rating process, while those who received less favorable ratings—particularly Connolly and Jones—offered criticism, as well as the reasons they respectively believed underlay their ratings.
Jones attributed her “Qualified” rating to a disagreement over how to classify a case she tried as a deputy district attorney, and said in retrospect that she regretted not contesting the rating. Connolly attributed his similar rating to his public criticism of then-District Attorney Gil Garcetti in 1996, a stand he said he was proud to have taken.
The candidates also explained to voters how the seats for which they were vying would be assigned by the presiding justice once filled, described their work in the community outside the courtroom, and emphasized the importance of professionalism and civility, as well as the workload faced by judges, in response to a question about misconceptions of the legal system fed by television.
House told the MetNews that he was pleased with the event, and said that he decided to organize it because of the limited awareness of judicial campaigns among the public, as well as the limited ability of judicial candidates to campaign under attorney ethics rules.
A retired officer of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, he said that he held a similar candidate forum in his backyard 10 years ago and made the decision to organize a similar event this year after friends kept asking for his advice with respect to judicial elections.
He also said that he planned to organize further judicial candidate forums in future elections based on the event’s success.
Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company