Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 117
ALAN SCHNEIDER, a Los Angeles deputy district attorney, is far and away the worthiest of the candidates in this particular judicial race, and might well be the premier aspirant in all of the three open-seat contests.
He has been a felony prosecutor for 15 years, handling more than 100 trials, including 40 homicide prosecutions. We are unaware of any controversy surrounding him. Accolades are flowing from those who know his work.
Schneider is endorsed by Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, which is not particularly impressive; Cooley is prone to endorse just about any deputy DA running for a judgeship, unless there’s a serious concern. What is notable is that Schneider’s sense of fairness and his integrity are on such a plane as to inspire an endorsement by Michael Judge, the county’s public defender.
Seventy-nine sitting Los Angeles Superior Court judges endorse him, as well as two former members of the court. This is far more meaningful than endorsements which some candidates boast from non-lawyer members of various city councils, from unions, and from partisan political groups. How a candidate is viewed within the legal community is generally a good indicator of fitness for a judgeship.
A highly significant signal of how he would perform on the bench is that he has racked up endorsements not only from more than 200 fellow prosecutors, but at least two dozen defense attorneys who appeared opposite him, most of them in murder trials.
He has been assigned for seven years to the Hard-core Gang Division, to which only top prosecutors are attached.
Schneider is a hard-working lawyer drawing consistently high praise in his annual office performance evaluations.
We strongly endorse him for election to Office No. 117.
PATTRICIA VIENNA is an enigma. Our instinctive reaction to her candidacy is favorable based on meeting with her this year and two years ago (when she declared as a candidate but withdrew). Our view is based on an observation of her demeanor—including her ability to field questions, even antagonistic ones, gracefully, with composure—and her knack of providing responses that are straight to-the-point, without coloring.
Our positive view of her potential as a jurist is not borne out, however, by the level of her attainment as a member of the legal profession. It’s based on intuition.
We could not possibly endorse her over Schneider, whose qualifications are stellar. However, as to the other two candidates in the race, Vienna would be our choice.
Two years ago, we opined that Vienna was “bright and possessed of poise” and had “ideal judicial temperament” but did not have “an ideal background,” pointing out:
“Admitted to practice in 1996, she has not made a court appearance since December, 2004. She has never handled a jury trial. She has had only one client in a criminal case—one that involved a misdemeanor—which was disposed of.
“Her career in law, prior to that final appearance three years ago, had been comprised primarily of handling unlawful detainers. She estimates having made court appearances on about 85 UDs, as well as about 15 other cases, including a two-week trial.”
Our Feb. 26, 2008, editorial went on to say of Vienna:
“To her credit, she has, over the past five years, devoted substantial time to acting as a volunteer temporary judge in traffic cases. Too, she is a past president of the Benjamin Aranda Inns of Court in Long Beach.
“Were the municipal courts still in existence—and it is a shame that they’re not—Vienna would be a credible contender for a judgeship on such a court given her personal attributes, numerousness of court appearances, and pro tem experience. However, she is simply not presently Superior Court material….”
Her experience in legal practice over the past two years has increased but, as in previous years, has not been extensive—although she has now handled, at last count, 99 sessions (full or half day) as a pro tem judge (presiding over what used to be municipal court matters).
She continues to devote time as a stewardess for United Airlines.
In the category of demeanor and deportment, Vienna is entitled to the highest marks. We believe she could quiet a drunk on a flight or a noisy lawyer exceeding the bounds of rightful advocacy in a courtroom. But that’s only a part of the qualifications for a judgeship.
The likeliest outcome of the primary is that Vienna, as the only woman in a four-person race, will be in the run-off. If she is, and if Schneider isn’t, we’ll endorse her.
TOM GRIEGO, a deputy Los Angeles city attorney, has perhaps the strongest chance of winning the seat. He is surrounded by people with political savvy, including his brother Victor Griego, who is a political consultant, slate vendor, and a force within the Democratic Party.
While high in political potential, we question whether he has the potential of serving ably as a judge. He is boastful to the point of arrogance, and riled by having his position questioned.
Griego is running with the ballot designation of “criminal prosecutor” notwithstanding that at the time he filed his election papers on March 8, he was not prosecuting alleged criminals—nor had he done so since the 1990s. He had been assigned to the civil branch of his office. Yet, Griego insists that the designation is proper, as meeting the statutory requirement of being one of the candidate’s “current principal professions, vocations, or occupations.” This is so, he rationalizes, because he was transferred back to the criminal side prior to filing his papers. It remains that as of that time, he had engaged in no criminal prosecutorial role; he was reading manuals, in preparation for again becoming a criminal prosecutor, but he had not become one.
Overall, we do not believe the bench would be well served by Griego.
WILLIAM MITCHELL MARGOLIN is also a candidate. He’s a lawyer and former actor. He’s maintained his membership in AFTRA and SAG, but is not a member of the Los Angeles County Bar Assn.
Margolin is not taking his own candidacy seriously enough to put money into his campaign, and we can’t think of a single reason why a vote should be cast for him.
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company