Tuesday, April 22, 2008
LACBA Begins Issuing Tentative Ratings to Judicial Candidates
Five ‘Well Qualified,’ Two Others to Appeal, Remainder to Be Determined
By STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer
The Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Judicial Elections Evaluation Committee has begun issuing tentative ratings of candidates for election to judicial office in the June 3 primary, and has rated at least five of the candidates “well qualified,” the MetNews has learned.
Deputy District Attorneys Hilleri Grossman Merritt, Michael J. O’Gara, Jared D. Moses and Michael V. Jesic, and Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Rocky L. Crabb all confirmed that they have received the tentative rating.
The MetNews has also learned that Deputy District Attorney Marc A. Chomel has received a “qualified” rating which he says he will appeal, and that Superior Court Commissioner Lori-Ann C. Jones, who declined to state which rating she received, plans to appeal her rating as well.
However, nine of the remaining 23 candidates who will appear on the June 3 primary ballot say they have not received their tentative ratings, and the remaining 14 could not be reached to determine the status of their tentative ratings.
Candidate Evaluation Process
The committee issues ratings to candidates prior to each biennial election, regardless of whether the candidates participate in the evaluation process. Candidates who do participate are required to submit a questionnaire detailing professional experience, and to provide 75 references who can be contacted for their opinions.
The list of candidates is divided amongst three committee vice-chairs, who review the information with their respective subcommittees and interview each candidate before forwarding a tentative rating to the committee as a whole.
Candidates receive one of four ratings: “exceptionally well qualified,” “well qualified,” “qualified,” or “not qualified.”
The committee defines “exceptionally well qualified” as possessing “qualities and attributes considered to be of remarkable or extraordinary superiority so that, without real doubt, the candidate is deemed fit to perform the judicial function with distinction.”
A “well qualified” candidate is one who “[p]ossesses professional ability, experience, competence, integrity and temperament indicative of superior fitness to perform the judicial function with a high degree of skill and effectiveness,” while a “qualified” candidate is one who “[p]ossesses professional ability, experience, competence, integrity and temperament indicative of fitness to perform the judicial function satisfactorily.”
A candidate found “not qualified” is one who “[l]acks one or more of the qualities of professional ability, experience, competence, integrity and temperament indicative of fitness to perform the judicial function satisfactorily.”
Appeal of Ratings
Candidates who receive one of the latter three ratings and who wish to appeal their rating before the committee issues a final report are allowed to make a 30 minute presentation to the full committee, where they can submit additional materials in support of their position.
However, although candidates can theoretically convince committee members to upgrade a challenged tentative rating, they run the risk that the committee might downgrade the rating as well.
Chatsworth attorney Brent A. Braun, who chairs the committee, said that some candidates had been notified of their tentative rating while others had not because the committee has taken a different approach this year, evaluating some candidates and moving on to the appeal phase while it continues the initial evaluations of other candidates.
In previous years, Braun said, all tentative ratings were completed and appeals handled at the same time. However, this year, he said, the committee had decided to put the processes on “parallel tracks” in the interest of time.
Braun said that the committee is currently “about two thirds done” with the process, and that it has set a goal of completing the evaluations by May 1.
Candidates who said they have interviewed with a subcommittee but have yet to receive a tentative rating include Superior Court Commissioner James N. Bianco, Deputy District Attorneys Pat Connolly and Lance E. Winters, Deputy Attorney General Paul “Pablo” Bruguera, Deputy City Attorney Allan A. Nadir, and attorneys Steven A. Simons and Douglas W. Weitzman.
Deputy District Attorney Serena R. Murillo said that she has yet to be interviewed by the subcommittee handling her rating, and Evelyn Jerome Alexander, a consultant representing Murillo’s opponent in the race for Office No. 69, Superior Court Commissioner Harvey A. Silberman, indicated that Silberman similarly had yet to be interviewed.
The remaining candidates in the race—Superior Court Judge Ralph W. Dau; Commissioner Patricia D. Nieto; Referee Cynthia Loo; Administrative Law Judge John “Johnny” Gutierrez; Deputy District Attorneys Mark Lee, Kathleen Blanchard, Thomas Rubinson and Eduard R. Abele; Deputy Attorney General Bob Henry; and attorneys C. Edward Mack, Robert Davenport, Richard A. Nixon, Bill Johnson and Sydnee R. Singer—were unavailable for comment yesterday.
Thirty candidates will appear on the June 3 primary ballot in 11 judicial races. One incumbent judge, Dau, is being challenged, and 28 other candidates are competing for 10 open seats.
Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company