Monday, February 1, 2010
Criminal Defense Attorney Mounts Judicial Campaign
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Keith M. Bowman said Friday he will run for an open seat on the Los Angeles Superior Court.
Bowman, 43, said he had “been contemplating [running] for several years” and started putting together a committee about two weeks ago.
The solo practitioner said he was in the process of getting fundraising efforts organized and had “some ideas” about a budget. While Bowman was uncertain about how much he would spend, “Obviously we’re going to try to make it as effective as possible,” he said.
Based on the crowded field of candidates, Bowman said there was a possibility he would refrain from running if the number of open seats remains at three, but that he did not think it was likely.
He acknowledged that “typically defense attorneys don’t do very well” in judicial elections, positing that “many people think they’re soft on crime.” But Bowman said, “That doesn’t bother me, because as long as people feel good about you as a person, I don’t think it matters what side you come from.”
Bowman has spent his entire career doing criminal defense, with perhaps “one percent” of his practice involving civil matters.
The California State University, Fullerton graduate attended Pepperdine Law School, and clerked for the federal public defender’s office while a student. Upon gaining admission to the State Bar in 1994, Bowman immediately struck out on his own, establishing his solo practice.
“I’ve been doing this for a while, I understand people, and I’d like to think I’m intelligent enough to make sound decisions without any bias,” Bowman said of his qualifications for judicial office. “I have a lot of experience, I have a lot of friends on both sides of the table, and I understand that the system only works when those in it work together.”
He named Superior Court Judges Elden S. Fox and Norman Tarle and Justice Tricia A. Bigelow of this district’s Court of Appeal as role models whom he would like to emulate.
Bowman said that he had submitted an application to the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation in 2007, but late last year was informed that they had rated him “not qualified.”
Although the commission’s reason for its decision was not explained, Bowman said that one of his interviewers had remarked that his public reproval from the State Bar in 2008 was likely to adversely affect his ability to gain a judgeship through the appointment process.
He was disciplined for “multiple acts of failure to perform and failure to communicate” during his representation of a client from 2003 until 2007 and stipulated to the misconduct alleged in the State Bar complaint.
Bowman admitted that he had failed to exhaust state remedies for his client’s appeal, take certain actions to prosecute the appeal, provide case documents upon request by his client, promptly issue a refund of unearned fees, advise his client that the appeal had been denied, inform the client that he had relocated offices, and keep the client’s family informed of developments in the client’s case.
Bowman explained that “it was a situation where I tried quite a few cases a year, and [this one] slipped through the cracks.”
“I’m not going to make excuses for it,” he added. “It was what it was.”
But the attorney insists that his whole career does not “boil down to that one incident” and that he has “done exemplary work other than that.”
“I can’t undo it, but I feel good about what else I’ve done,” Bowman said. “I can sleep with that knowing I’ve done my best.”
Bowman is one of nine judicial hopefuls seeking open seats on the bench who have retained David Gould as treasurer, and one of six to hire him as a consultant. Gould’s other consulting clients include Deputy District Attorneys Alan Schneider, Valerie Salkin—whose spokesperson said Friday that she had raised over $500,000—Laurie Trammell Castaneda and Lou Holtz Jr. and Beverly Hills attorney Mark K. Ameli. Gould is treasurer for the campaigns of Los Angeles Deputy City Attorneys Chris Garcia and Thomas Griego and Pasadena attorney Anthony de los Reyes.
Schneider took out papers to succeed Judge William Pounders, Garcia did so for Judge Emily Stevens’ post, and Salkin for Judge William Weisman’s seat. Griego said he also plans to pursue Weisman’s seat.
The remaining candidates include Calabasas solo practitioner William M. Margolin, Los Angeles Superior Court Referee Randolph M. Hammock and West Los Angeles attorney and mediator Elizabeth A. Moreno.
Judge Laura A. Matz also faces a challenge by Los Angeles attorney Marvin G. Fischler. Matz is the only incumbent to have drawn an opponent thus far.
She said Friday that she hopes Fischler will chose to run for an empty seat instead, but if he does not file for another race, “of course I’ll mount a campaign, of course I’ll fight for my job.”
Matz said she intended to go to the county Registrar-Recorder’s office today to take out papers and that she was “gratified” to have received pledges of support from her fellow juridical officers and other members of the legal community since learning of Fischler’s challenge.
The jurist said she did not think she had ever met Fischler, adding that “if you look at my record for the past 14 years…I don’t believe I fall into the category of complacent judges for whom he has so little respect,” referring to a comment Fischler made in Wednesday’s MetNews.
A former presiding judge of the Glendale Municipal Court, Matz served as Glendale site judge for the Superior Court after unification in 2000. She also noted her service on the Executive Committee of the Superior Court and her two pro tem assignments to the Court of Appeal.
Matz estimated that she presides over 500 cases each year, and over more than 100 jury trials annually.
She also emphasized her work instituting an Order to Show Cause program for the court, which is geared toward identifying cases that languish due to a failure to prosecute, and running the court’s mandatory settlement conference program.
Although she is no stranger to judicial campaigns, having successfully defended her post on the municipal court bench two years after she was appointed in 1996 by then-Gov. Pete Wilson, Matz said she was hoping she would not have to give consideration to issues such as hiring a consultant and putting together a campaign budget again this year.
Today is the first day that potential candidates can file their declarations of intent to run, and they are due no later than Feb. 10, or for open seats, Feb. 16. Those who have filed declarations must then file nomination documents between Feb. 16 and March 12 in order for their names to appear on the June 8 ballot.
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company