Monday, June 7, 2010
Summary of Recommendations in Superior Court Races
Mark K. Ameli
Mark K. Ameli is a practicing attorney, but primarily an arbitrator and mediator, uniquely skilled in “cross-cultural mediation.” He strikes us as intelligent, mature, sincere, articulate, succinct, and dedicated to the law. We believe him to be the best choice among the eight contenders in this race.
Randy Hammock, in our view, is a close second. As a sitting Los Angeles Superior Court referee, he has judicial experience. Hammock is exceedingly bright, analytical and conscientious. Our only reservation about him is that he is not merely a type-A personality, but a type-triple-A personality, and is intimidating to some. The Los Angeles Times, while praising Ameli, endorses Hammock—an error, we assert, based on a failure to appreciate the higher comfort level many lawyers and litigants would have in a courtroom presided over by the more subdued Ameli.
Elizabeth Moreno has broad experience as an arbitrator, mediator, and hearing officer, as well as an attorney who has handled complex litigation. She is highly active in organized bar activities. Her demeanor is exemplary, and she is articulate and straightforward. She would be an asset to the bench.
Edward J. Nison has been a deputy district attorney for 24 years and has a generally favorable reputation within that office. He might well have what it takes.
Chris Garcia, a deputy Los Angeles city attorney, is no shining light within his office. Brazenly, he attempted to mislead voters, proposing a ballot designation of “federal criminal prosecutor” based on a temporary assignment. The Office of Registrar-Recorder disallowed it. He has made statements in the course of the campaign not comporting with the truth.
C. Edward Mack, running for the fourth time, has been a deputy public defender for nearly 20 years. We have repeatedly exposed his campaign deception. The fact that the head of his office, Public Defender Michael P. Judge, will not endorse him says it all.
Kendall C. Reed, a mediator/arbitrator, lacks courtroom experience and sound judgment. Why he is running is a mystery. Early in the campaign, he told this newspaper he anticipated the Los Angeles County Bar Assn. would give him its rock-bottom rating of “not qualified.” It did. It was right. (It was also correct, in our view, in so branding Kim Smith. It found the others “qualified,” which we regard as overly generous as to Mack, and unfair to Ameli and Hammock, perhaps Moreno.)
Kim Smith is assistant city attorney for Hawthorne. Lacking judicial temperament, succinctness, reasonableness and objectivity, he would be a disaster as a judicial officer.
Office No. 35
Soussan Bruguera is the incumbent. She is hard-working, skilled, and exceedingly dedicated to her job. She should not have been challenged. LACBA finds her “well qualified”; we were disappointed she did not garner its highest rating of “exceptionally well qualified.”
Douglas W. Weitzman, a realtor with a law license, is challenging Bruguera. He has unsuccessfully run for a judgeship twice before, each time being branded by the Los Angeles County Bar Assn. as “not qualified,” as he is again this year. Why does he do it?
Laura A. Matz
Office No. 73
Laura A. Matz is a sitting judge. LACBA rates her “well qualified.” It is generally felt that she is performing adequately.
Marvin G. Fischler is running against Matz, who sits in Glendale. He targeted her because he would like a Glendale seat, and has the notion that if he beats her, he would automatically be assigned to Glendale. LACBA was kind, too kind, in proclaiming him “qualified.”
Office No. 107
Valerie Salkin, a deputy district attorney since 1997, is dynamic, bright and personable. However, present and past DDAs say that Salkin is self-centered, a prima donna, abrasive at times, overly ambitious. Nonetheless, when this competent go-getter is contrasted with her rivals for the post, we find no choice but to endorse her, though guardedly. There is the prospect that Salkin would display excellence on the bench, and we would not foresee that on the part of her rivals.
Tony de los Reyes, a private practitioner, repeatedly draws the description by lawyers of “gentlemanly.” As a seasoned professional, de los Reyes enjoys respect within the legal community, and has earned a Martindale Hubbell AV rating. Yet, we have concerns about him. Anything questionable that has occurred in his campaign, he blames on someone else, accepting no personal responsibility for it, viewing himself merely as a product being promoted, with no involvement in that effort. He lacks a sense of accountability. The Times, while speaking highly of Salkin, endorses de los Reyes, failing to factor in evident shortcomings. LACBA rates him “well qualified” while finding Salkin only “qualified.” In our view, all of the candidates in this race are merely “qualified.”
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. LACBA deems him “well qualified” and he is endorsed by the Pasadena Star News and affiliated newspapers based on the wide variety of cases he has handled. Although his experience is in a broad range of legal fields, the totality of that experience has 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.
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 outstanding candidate 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. He is the only candidate in this race whom LACBA has found to be “well qualified.”
Pattricia Vienna is an attorney and an airline stewardess. In the category of demeanor and deportment, she is entitled to the highest marks. However, we can understand why, in light of her dearth of experience in the courtroom, LACBA has branded her “not qualified.” We do discern potential on her part.
Tom Griego, a deputy Los Angeles city attorney, also has potential—in his case, political potential. He is surrounded by people with political savvy, including his brother Victor Griego, a political consultant, slate vendor and force within the Democratic Party. We do not believe he possesses the relevant potential: that of serving ably as a judge. He is boastful to the point of arrogance, and riled by having his position questioned. Griego, also, was also declared “not qualified.”
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. LACBA says he’s “qualified.” Perhaps...but on the borderline of “not qualified.”
Maren Elizabeth Nelson
Office No. 131
Maren Elizabeth Nelson is the incumbent. LACBA awards her its only “exceptionally well qualified” rating this year. Her performance is exemplary, and the challenge is wholly unwarranted.
Jim Garo Baklayan is an obscure figure in the legal community who has an office in the hotel his family owns near the Magic Castle in Hollywood. His practice is minimal—but his mother says he would make a good judge. We are unaware of any other endorsements of him. LACBA says he’s “not qualified,” and we concur.
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company