Thursday, May 1, 2008
County Bar Rates Dau and Winters ‘Exceptionally Well Qualified’
By STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ralph W. Dau and state Deputy Attorney General Lance Winters have been rated “exceptionally well qualified” for election to the Superior Court by the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Judicial Elections Evaluation Committee, sources said.
Dau and Winters are apparently the only candidates to have secured the highest possible rating in the current elections cycle.
Dau, the only incumbent with a challenger on the June 3 ballot, is opposed by Redondo Beach attorney Sydney R. Singer, while Winters is running against Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Patricia Nieto for an open seat. Ratings for Singer and Nieto could not be learned.
Brent A. Braun, who chairs the committee, said it was hearing the last of its ratings appeals tonight and will issue its final report by Monday.
Report Mostly Complete
Braun said that the final report was mostly completed, with the exception of the outcome of the two appeals, and that the committee’s goal was to forward the final report to the association’s trustees tomorrow. He also said that he expected the report would then be released either that day or on Monday once all of the candidates had been notified of their final ratings.
He declined to identify which two candidates are the subjects of the two unresolved appeals.
The committee’s ratings reflect two major changes to the evaluation process from previous years, Braun said.
As in past years, the committee issued ratings to candidates regardless of whether the candidates participated in the evaluation process, and candidates who participated were required to submit a questionnaire detailing professional experience, and to provide 75 references who could be contacted for their opinions.
Candidates were also assigned one of four ratings—exceptionally well qualified,” “well qualified,” “qualified,” or “not qualified”—and those who received one of the latter three ratings and wished to appeal were generally allowed to make a 30-minute presentation to the committee where they could submit additional materials in support of their position.
However, this year, candidates who were unable to provide the required materials to the committee by the initial deadline to do so were not afforded an opportunity to appeal their tentative ratings or provide materials after the initial deadline.
Change in Process
Noting that all candidates had been given notice of the materials the committee required and the deadline to provide them, Braun said the committee had decided to make the change because granting non-participating candidates an appeal would give them a “tactical advantage.”
He said the committee was concerned that allowing non-participating candidates to submit materials in support of an appeal from a tentative rating would disadvantage those who had participated in the process because any materials later submitted by the non-participating candidates would not be subject to the same level of scrutiny given time constraints.
Braun said that the other major change this year was an increased level of participation in the process by sitting judges of the Superior Court.
He said that Presiding Judge J. Stephen Czuleger had appeared before the full committee on March 11 to provide remarks on what makes a successful bench officer, and had also forwarded a confidential questionnaire to all sitting bench officers soliciting comment on the candidates.
Braun said that the committee had decided to seek input from sitting bench officers in order to “broaden the universe” of references and contacts so as not to rely solely on information submitted by the individual candidates themselves.
In other news, two candidates, Commissioner James N. Bianco and Deputy District Attorney Thomas Rubinson, said that they had received “well qualified” ratings.
Deputy Public Defender C. Edward Mack disclosed that he had received a “qualified” rating, while Deputy Attorney General Bob Henry declined to state which rating he received.
Bianco, Rubinson and Mack said that they had no plans to appeal their ratings, but Henry, saying the situation was “like two years ago,” indicated that he planned to appeal his rating.
Henry, who previously ran for the court in 1992, 2004 and 2006, appealed his tentative “qualified” rating in 2006 after having successfully appealed a similar tentative rating in 2004. However, despite ultimately being rated “well qualified” in 2004, Henry was unsuccessful in his 2006 appeal and received a final rating of “qualified” that year.
He commented to the MetNews in 2006 that “I’ve got my truth, and I’ll continue to say it, I was rated well qualified in 2004.”
The MetNews has previously reported that 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, received tentative ratings of “well qualified” and did not appeal.
Deputy District Attorney Marc A. Chomel said he received a “qualified” rating which he planned to appeal, and Superior Court Commissioner Lori-Ann C. Jones declined to state which rating she had received, although she indicated that she too planned to appeal.
Tentative ratings remain unknown for Commissioner Harvey A. Silberman; Referee Cynthia Loo; Administrative Law Judge John “Johnny” Gutierrez; Deputy District Attorneys Pat Connolly, Serena Murillo, Mark Lee, Kathleen Blanchard and Eduard R. Abele; Deputy Attorney General Paul “Pablo” Bruguera; Deputy City Attorney Allan A. Nadir; and attorneys Steven A. Simons, Douglas W. Weitzman, Robert Davenport, Richard A. Nixon, and Bill Johnson, as well as for Nieto and Singer.
Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company