Wednesday, May 7, 2008
LACBA Rates 10 Judicial Candidates as ‘Not Qualified’
Final Report Gives Negative Rating to All Four Candidates for Office No. 84
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Ten candidates for the Los Angeles Superior Court have been rated “not qualified” for the office, including all four candidates in one of the races, the Los Angeles County Bar Association Judicial Elections Evaluation Committee reported yesterday.
The committee, which rates candidates prior to each biennial election, said in its final report that Deputy District Attorney Pat Connolly, Workers’ Compensation Judge John “Johnny” Gutierrez, state Deputy Attorneys General Bob Henry and Paul “Pablo” Bruguera, Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Lori-Ann C. Jones, Deputy City Attorney Allan A. Nadir, North Hills attorney Richard A. Nixon, and Los Angeles attorneys Robert R. Davenport, Douglas W. Weitzman and Bill Johnson “possess less than the minimum qualities and attributes considered necessary to perform the judicial function adequately and satisfactorily.”
Of the 20 other candidates seeking election in the 10 contested races that will appear on the June 3 primary election ballot, two were rated “exceptionally well qualified,” nine were rated “well qualified,” and seven were rated “qualified,” while the two candidates in the race for Office No. 69—Deputy District Attorney Serena R. Murillo and Superior Court Commissioner Harvey A. Silberman—were not rated “due to pending matters outside the control of the committee.”
The committee’s chair, Brent A. Braun, said that the “not qualified” rating of all four candidates running for Office No. 84—Connolly, Henry, Gutierrez and Jones—marked the first time in his recollection that no candidate in a race involving more than two people was found at least to be “qualified” during his 18 years of involvement with the committee, on and off.
The report also reflected a decline in ratings for three repeat candidates—Gutierrez, Henry and Bruguera—who all received “qualified” ratings when they pursued judicial office in 2006.
Gutierrez, who ran for judicial office in 2002 and 2004, had drawn a “qualified” rating in each of his first three campaigns, while Bruguera drew the same rating during his first judicial campaign in 2006.
Neither Gutierrez nor Bruguera returned phone calls seeking comment on their ratings, but Henry told the MetNews last week that the committee had advised him of his final rating after rejecting an appeal he had mounted.
Henry previously ran for the court in 1992, 2004 and 2006, earning a “well qualified” rating in 2004, and “qualified” in 2006. He was similarly unsuccessful in an appeal of his 2006 rating, and stated on his Web site during that year’s campaign that he had been rated “well qualified” in 2004, omitting the then-current rating of “qualified.”
He said last week that, when interviewed by members of the committee as part of the current campaign, he was told that he should have listed his then-current rating in 2006 instead of, or in addition to, his 2004 rather than merely stating that he was rated “well qualified in 2004.”
Henry was far from mollified when he learned that his opponents and one of his state colleagues also received the lowest-possible rating.
“There’s no way Pat [Connolly] is ‘not qualified,’” Henry insisted. “There’s no way Lori [Jones] is ‘not qualified.’ There’s no way John Gutierrez is ‘not qualified.’ And there’s no way Paul Bruguera is ‘not qualified.’”
Those ratings, he said, show that the evaluation process is “bankrupt” and has “no credibility.”
Henry said that if he runs for the court again, he will not cooperate with the rating process.
Jones said that the committee had notified her that her rating stemmed from controversy over her prosecution of a drug case while she was still a deputy district attorney. In 2006, the Court of Appeal held in People v. Woods, 146 Cal.App.4th 106, that Jones had engaged in prosecutorial misconduct, and that there was a “clear effort” on her part “to obstruct” the accused’s “presentation of a defense.”
Noting that the matter arose before she became a commissioner, Jones said that the committee indicated to her that she should have “handled the matter differently.”
Connolly and Nadir could not be reached for comment on their ratings, and both Weitzman and Nixon previously declined any comment on their ratings, the former noting that he had not cooperated with the committee’s evaluation process, and the latter commenting that he had nothing to say to the MetNews until he received an apology for its coverage of his 2006 judicial campaign, which he characterized as “a hatchet job.”
The MetNews previously reported the “exceptionally well qualified” ratings for Superior Court Judge Ralph W. Dau and Deputy District Attorney Lance E. Winters, as well as the “well qualified” ratings for Deputy District Attorneys Marc A. Chomel, Hilleri Grossman Merritt, Thomas Rubinson, Michael J. O’Gara, Jared D. Moses and Michael V. Jesic, and for Superior Court Commissioners Patricia D. Nieto, James N. Bianco and Rocky L. Crabb.
Additional “qualified” ratings were reported by the committee yesterday for Redondo Beach attorney Sydnee R. Singer, Tarzana attorney Steven A. Simons, Superior Court Referee Cynthia Loo, and Deputy District Attorneys Mark Lee, Eduard R. Abele and B. Kathleen Blanchard.
The committee declined in its report to identify the bases upon which individual candidates were deemed “not qualified,” but said that candidates were rated on the following attributes: integrity and character, judgment and intellectual capacity, fairness, experience, industry and diligence, judicial temperament, professed ability and knowledge of the law, absence of health problems that affect the ability to serve as a judge, and positive professional reputation in the community.
It also said in its report that a total of nine candidates had appealed their ratings, but the only candidate who has gone on record to state that his appeal was successful was Chomel, who had initially been tentatively rated “qualified.”
The candidates whose names will appear on the June 3 primary ballot, and their ratings, are:
•Office No. 4—Dau has been rated “extremely well qualified,” and Singer has been rated “qualified”;
•Office No. 69—Murillo and Silberman were both not rated;
•Office No. 72—Chomel and Merritt have been rated “well qualified,” and Simons has been rated “qualified”;
•Office No. 82—Rubinson has been rated “well qualified,” and Lee and Loo have been rated “qualified”;
•Office No. 84—Connolly, Gutierrez, Henry and Jones have all been rated “not qualified”;
•Office No. 94—O’Gara has been rated “well qualified” and Deputy Public Defender C. Edward Mack and Abele have been rated “qualified”;
•Office No. 95—Winters has been rated “exceptionally well qualified,” and Nieto has been rated “well qualified”;
•Office No. 119—Moses has been rated “well qualified,” while Davenport and Weitzman have been rated “not qualified”;
•Office No. 123—Blanchard has been rated “qualified,” and Nadir and Nixon have been rated “not qualified”;
•Office No. 125—Bianco has been rated “well qualified,” and Johnson has been rated “not qualified”;
•Office No. 154—Crabb and Jesic have been rated “well qualified,” and Bruguera has been rated “not qualified.”
Braun also said that the committee did not evaluate the six sitting Los Angeles Superior Court Judges whose names will appear on the ballot as the result of an apparent write-in campaign targeting Hispanic judges—Daniel P. Ramirez, Juan Carlos Dominguez, Michael Villalobos, Hector M. Guzman, Daniel S. Lopez and Jose Sandoval—because it would “not be fair to rate them without rating their challenger as well.”
A copy of the committee’s final report is available on the County Bar Web site, lacba.org.
Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company