Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Candidates Say They Will Spend Liberally on Judicial Contests
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
Among the seven candidates who have announced their intention to seek open seats on the Los Angeles Superior Court bench in the upcoming judicial elections and begun fundraising efforts, at least two have said they plan to launch campaigns costing in excess of $400,000.
Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Lou Holtz Jr. yesterday told the MetNews he already has that amount in his war chest, while Beverly Hills practitioner Mark Ameli said he has just under $300,000 and that he plans to spent up to $500,000 on his campaign.
Holtz had raised over $95,600 during the first half of the year, according to his campaign disclosure statements. “I started out way before anyone,” he said.
Among his donors were four local attorneys who gave between $250 and $500 each, and Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lynn Olson, who gave $200.
Since the reporting period ended June 30, Holtz has contributed $300,000 of his own money to his campaign but raised no additional funds since he took a “hiatus” while undergoing treatment for prostate cancer.
“I could have raised double that,” he insisted, “but my attitude was if you’re not well enough to go to work, you’re not well enough to be raising money.”
Once he returns to work on Nov. 4, “it’ll be full-speed ahead,” he promised. “I’m cancer free, I’m healthy, I’m going back to work…and I’m going to give it my best.”
Holtz said he was “hoping to raise a lot more money” before the election, although he “wasn’t planning on” spending more than $400,000 on his campaign. But, “It all depends on who you’re running against and how much they’re spending,” he said.
Money Versus Qualifications
“In this day and age you have to have a lot of money to do well,” the candidate opined. However, he said, “I don’t want this campaign to be about money,” but rather about his qualifications, which include the prosecution of over 80 jury trials, 59 of which were felonies.
“My last 36 felony jury trials have all resuted in convictions,” Holtz added.
During his 13-year tenure with the district attorney’s office, Holtz said he has “tried so many different types of cases that I’m ready to tackle any kind of trial that would come before me as a judge.”
He said that several members of the judiciary will be endorsing him, explaining that many sitting judges are former prosecutors and colleagues of his. Their endorsements, he emphasized, “are going to be based on knowing me and my work for many years.…They’re not favors from people that I’ve only known for 15 minutes.”
Holtz said he is also expecting support from the defense bar, suggesting that there would be “very, very strong support” from prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges for his candidacy.
Ameli, the founding member and a partner in the Law Offices of Ameli, Ayvazi & Associates LLP, which maintains offices in Beverly Hills and Encino, was the front-runner in terms of fundraising as of June, according to campaign reports, with $212,000 in contributions and loans, including a $200,000 loan from his wife.
He said his coffers currently hold about $290,000 and that he had also secured the endorsements of Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca and Assembly members Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles, and Isadore Hall III, D-Compton.
The attorney added that he has another “eight or nine” fundraisers planned in the next few weeks and that he has been raising money at an average of about $7,000 to $8,000 per event.
“I’m hoping to have a high enough number by the end of the year to be the frontrunner,” Ameli said.
His previous supporters, according to campaign reports, include eight local attorneys who have given between $100 to $300 each.
Ameli, an immigrant from Iran, estimated that there are between 3,000 and 4,000 Iranian Americans in Los Angeles County and insisted that the community needed representation on the bench.
“I believe that diversity on the bench will give the bench a certain credibility that the bench would not have without the diversity present,” he said, explaining that he was “almost certain” he would be the first Iranian-American judge on the court.
“I would love that,” Ameli added.
The attorney also said he felt it was “very important to have litigators on the bench, people who have been in the trenches.”
Having practiced for 30 years, Ameli touted his experience handling bench trials and jury trials as well as his 15-year tenure as a judge pro tem presiding over small claims cases.
“I think that I have learned judicial temperament, or I have reinforced my judicial temperament, by participating as a judge pro tem,” he said, emphasizing that the cases he decided were “as important to the people who have come before me as litigants as it would be a million-dollar case to somebody else,” and that he treated them as such.
As his father and grandfather had both held judicial posts in his native country, Ameli said, he had wanted to become a judge for a long time, but only recently felt that he had gained enough experience and knowledge to “be able to do the job that a judge needs to do.”
Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher R. Garcia was the only other candidate to file a campaign report for the most recent reporting period, but only listed a $100 donation from himself.
A member the Major Frauds Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District, Garcia is also a member of the City Attorney’s Identity Theft & Fraud Unit and prosecutes identity theft, government benefit fraud and piracy of intellectual property. He could not be reached for comment.
His website indicated that he has secured the endorsements of Superior Court Judge Deborah L. Sanchez and former state Sen. Betty Karnette, D-Long Beach and that he has two upcoming fundraising events.
Superior Court Referee Randolph M. Hammock yesterday told the MetNews that he has budgeted between $200,000 and $250,000 for the primary, and that he will be financing between one-third to one-half of that amount himself.
“If I have to spend more money after the primary, then I’ll do it,” he added.
Hammock said he has a “major kick-off fundraising event” planned for December and that he anticipates having at least one event per month throughout his campaign.
He said he spent $50,000 on his unsuccessful bid in the June 2006 primary, in which he ran as a “Consumer Law Attorney” and drew a “well qualified” rating from the Los Angeles County Bar Association.
However, he finished sixth out of a field of seven candidates seeking the seat previously held by retired Judge Paula Mabrey, garnering only 8.59 percent of the vote.
Pasadena personal injury attorney Anthony de los Reyes of Thon & Beck said yesterday that he has begun his fundraising efforts but declined to venture an estimate into how much he had garnered. He said he has four fundraisers scheduled and a fifth one “in the works,” and that he plans to raise and spend a total of $250,000 on his campaign.
Deputy District Attorney Alan K. Schneider, a 14-year veteran deputy district attorney who has spent the past seven years in the hardcore gang division, previously said he plans to run with the ballot designation of “gang homicide prosecutor,” and spend between $250,000 and $500,000 on the race. He could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Also unavailable was Deputy Los Angeles City Attorney Thomas J. Griego, who has worked in the city attorney’s office since 1994, and before that served as chief of staff to then-Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Hernandez.
The number of open seats in the June 8, 2010 primary election will not be fully determined until next spring, when sitting judges must decide whether to file re-election paperwork with the Registrar-Recorder’s Office.
Judicial candidates may file declarations of intent to run beginning Feb. 1, and must file final nomination documents between Feb. 16 and March 12. In the 2008 primary election, 28 candidates ran for election to 10 open seats, while 25 vied for seven open seats in 2006.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company