Monday, March 22, 2010
Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 107
None of the three candidates in this race is highly qualified for the post. Each has admirable qualities, but as to each, there are negative aspects. We endorse the contender we view as the best choice among the three.
VALERIE SALKIN, a deputy district attorney since 1997, is dynamic, bright and personable.
Assigned to the hard-core gang unit up until she went on a leave of absence some months ago, she has handled about 100 trials, and roughly an equal number of juvenile delinquency matters. Her boss, District Attorney Steve Cooley, attests to her high success rate as a prosecutor, and her annual performance evaluations by her supervisors are glowing.
Salkin is possessed of a sense of humor, and is seemingly able to roll with the punches.
Impressively, the prosecutor has racked up endorsements of 56 judges of the Los Angeles Superior Court.
There is no question as to her competence or her industriousness.
So far, she appears to be an ideal candidate. But she does have detractors. Present and past DDAs, though not being willing to speak for the record, say that Salkin is self-centered, a prima donna, abrasive at times, overly ambitious. Their assessments of a colleague obviously cannot be dismissed.
However, when this competent go-getter is contrasted with her rivals for the post, we find no choice but to endorse her, though guardedly. Our hope is that her ambition to attain yet higher office would deter her, as a Superior Court judge, from performing other than in an exemplary fashion.
TONY DE LOS REYES, a private practitioner, is also running. Drawing, repeatedly, the description by lawyers of “gentlemanly,” he exhibits the sort of demeanor a judge should have. As a seasoned professional, de los Reyes enjoys respect within the legal community, and has earned a Martindale Hubbell AV rating.
To his credit, he has been highly active in civic affairs. De los Reyes is presently vice president of the City of Los Angeles Civil Service Commission and has served in the past on the Police Commission and, as president, on the Cultural Affairs Commission.
The lawyer is of counsel to a reputable Pasadena law firm, Thon Beck Vanni Callahan & Powell.
Nonetheless, we have concerns about him.
●He is using the ballot designation of “attorney/hearing officer.” We question whether the five or six Los Angeles Police Department disciplinary hearings he conducts a year justify his designation as a “hearing officer” given that Elections Code §13107 requires that only principal professions, vocations or occupations be listed.
It is regrettable not only that he is using the ballot designation that he is, but that he refuses to take any responsibility in connection with that designation.
The candidate acknowledges that he has not read the governing statute. (He should have read it. It was right there on the back side of a campaign form he signed attesting to the legitimacy of his chosen designation.)
Even without reading it, however, he should know what the word “principal” connotes.
De los Reyes insists that he is entitled to the designation, proclaiming that he would oppose a writ petition challenging the description of what he does for a living. He recites that his campaign consultant, Jill Barad, referred him to the law firm of Laurence Zakson, “a firm specializing in election law.” De los Reyes at first says that Zakson assured him that his experience as a hearing examiner would entitle him to use the designation. The election contender acknowledges: “I only hear five, six cases a year, but [Zakson] said he thought that would be enough.” He remarks: “I’m really relying on counsel, I don’t know.” De los Reyes then says with reference to Zakson: “He was not the person I talked to; I talked to one of his lawyers” whose name he doesn’t remember.
(Zakson is a partner in Reich Adell & Cvitan.)
A judge must be capable of independent thinking. For example, a memo of a research attorney should be of assistance, but not determinative of the ruling to be made. De los Reyes is willing to take a stance that his proposed ballot designation is valid notwithstanding that he has not examined the legal question himself, and is merely relying on what was told to him by some lawyer whose name he does not recall. This creates serious doubt as to whether he has the makings of a judge.
●De los Reyes otherwise displays a lack of a sense of accountability.
Gentleman that he is, he apologized when advised that his campaign website includes a MetNews article on him which was reproduced without permission, and without the copyright line being included. (Permission would have been given, according to standard practice, with the proviso that the words “Copyright, 2010, Metropolitan News Company” appear.)
De los Reyes offers this excuse:
“Actually, you know, I rely on my political consultant to do the right thing....She’s the pro. I’m new to this. I don’t know a lot of these things.”
Any lawyer, indeed any educated person without legal training, should be aware that it is a copyright infringement to reproduce an article, not in public domain, without permission. De los Reyes cannot, reasonably, put the blame on Barad for something which he, as the candidate, should not have permitted to be on his campaign website without the copyright proprietor’s consent. Shifting responsibility to Barad seems reflective of an attitude that “the buck never stops here,” he’s not the one who’s at fault.
De los Reyes, when interviewed at the MetNews office Feb. 23, said he would bring the copyright matter to Barad’s attention. The copyright line has not been added. By contrast, the same sort of infringement was pointed out to a candidate in a different race, Pattricia Vienna, who, before she left our premises, logged onto her website and added the copyright line on the spot.
De los Reyes is well thought of as an attorney. Whatever his attributes as a civil practitioner, we sense that he is not well suited to be a judge.
R. STEPHEN BOLINGER is the third candidate in the race. He does enjoy a modicum of stature within the legal community; in 2007, he served as president of the Southeast District Bar Association.
He would bring to the bench maturity, as well as experience in a broad range of legal fields, including having presided over a number of military disciplinary proceedings. He is intelligent and articulate, possessed of a knowledge of history and an understanding of humanity.
The totality of his experience in law, however, has apparently not been vast. For 17 years—which included the time he was in law school and time after he gained his law license in 1984—he worked as a security guard at Disneyland.
Bolinger has vowed to spend no money on his campaign beyond the $1,787.89 filing fee.
He could, theoretically, be readying to pull the same stunt Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lynn Olson did two years ago, as a challenger. At the outset, she filed a document declaring that her campaign expenses would not exceed $1,000; then, right at the end, torrents of cash, from personal resources, flowed into the campaign effort, with the incumbent, having been blind sided, losing. We doubt, however, that Bolinger has a like intention. We discern sincerity on his part in declaring that further spending by him on the campaign would be “unfair” to his family. We also sense that he does not have an abundance of cash at his disposal; in 2005, there was a $5,247 federal tax lien against him.
His chances of winning the contest are a quarter of a centimeter above nil. Nonethelesss, were we of the view that he was the candidate with the greatest potential of the three in the race of providing high-level service as a judge, we would endorse him notwithstanding his candidacy being virtually doomed. Well impressed though we are with Bolinger in certain respects, we do not believe his background is adequate to prepare him for a judgeship.
It is Salkin who, in light of her knowledge, industriousness, experience, and attainment, stands out as the clear choice in this field.
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company