Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Local Lawyers Gearing Up for 2012 Judicial Contests
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
At least five local attorneys are exploring a possible run for the Los Angeles Superior Court bench next year, the MetNews has learned.
Deputy District Attorney Andrea Thompson, Deputy City Attorney Matthew Schonbrun and Woodland Hills private practitioner Laurence N. Kaldor have each established campaign websites, while Deputy District Attorney Eric Harmon has retained the services of Hal Dash of Cerrell Associates Inc. as an advisor.
Consultant David Gould said yesterday that he is working with Thompson and Deputy District Attorney Sean Coen as both their treasurer and advisor. Gould is also Kaldor’s consultant and Harmon’s treasurer.
Thompson, Kaldor, and Coen could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Harmon, a prosecutor in the district attorney’s Major Crimes division, said yesterday that he is “really excited to run” because becoming a judge “has been a dream and a goal for a long time,” and that he was “humbled” to have already secured District Attorney Steve Cooley’s endorsement.
According to his curriculum vitae, Harmon has prosecuted 60 felony jury trials and 25 misdemeanors during his 12 years with the office. Notable cases include the successful prosecution of former Ventura County-based gold magnate James Fayeed for the murder-for-hire of his wife earlier this year, as well as the 2008 trial of Compton gang member Steven Cheatham.
Harmon told the MetNews that he felt “really lucky to have had a chance to serve in the D.A.’s office,” and that appearing before the criminal court bench—especially Judges Kathleen Kennedy, Robert Perry, and Michael Pastor—has been “inspirational” for him.
He said he intends to run “no matter what” in an open seat, even if that entails a contest with a colleague, and his consultant hinted that Harmon’s war chest may deter other candidates from declaring for the same position.
Dash said that Harmon already has over $110,000 and plans to have “in the vicinity of $150 to $200,000” on hand for the primary.
The consultant related that “it’s nice to have a candidate where money will not be an object, not just because of his personal means but a big network of friends and supporters,” noting that much support comes from associates of Harmon’s wife, Sarah Aubrey, an attorney-turned-Hollywood producer.
Dash quipped that Harmon has one other stellar virtue for a candidate, in that “he’s willing to take advice.”
Harmon graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from UC Berkeley, where he played varsity rugby and was a five-time national champion and All-American fullback. He then attended law school at the University of Texas and joined the California State Bar in 1998.
Schonbrun said yesterday that he felt qualified to become a judge based on his knowledge of the law, garnered from over 10,000 hours spent in the courtrooms, and his work on developing an appropriate “judicial temperament.”
“I’m in court every single day,” he explained, so he has seen “how important it is for those who take that role as a judge to be even-handed and neutral.”
The prosecutor said he has “worked on myself” by ‘being introspective” to develop an ability to “deal with opposing counsel and the people I work with in a calm way, in a professional way.”
Schonbrun said his colleagues tease him by saying, “if you were any calmer, I’d have to check for a pulse.” Being a judge, he said, is “a calling, an absolute calling,” for him. “I enjoy being of service to other people,” and as a judge, he said he felt he could best “effect positive changes in people’s lives.”
Next year will mark his 10th with the city attorney’s office, and Schonbrun said he felt “ready for a new challenge” at this point.
He said he plans “to raise six figures” and to pursue an open seat. “If someone wants to run against me, that’s fine,” Schonbrun added.
Schonbrun, a graduate of UC Santa Cruz and Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Michigan, has secured consultant Brendan Huffman as his advisor; this will be Huffman’s first foray into judicial elections.
His endorsers, according to his website, include Superior Court Judge Lauren Weis Birnstein, Marcelita V. Haynes, Elaine Mandel, Mary Lou Villar de Longoria, and Deborah Sanchez, as well as retired Judges Randolph Moore and Carlos Velarde, and Commissioner James B. Copelan.
Thompson is the deputy in charge of Stuart House, a public-private partnership
that serves the west judicial district of Los Angeles County. It houses professional staff from the county Department of Children’s Services, district attorney’s office and the Los Angeles Police Department.
She attended the University of South Dakota and McGeorge Law School before joining the State Bar in 1984.
Kaldor, a graduate of State University of New York and Golden Gate University law school, has focused his practice on family law since he was admitted in 1996.
He is an active volunteer with the Harriet Buhai Center for Family Law, according to his campaign website, and lists one of its attornesy, Judith Schwartz-Behar, among his supporters.
Others who have given Kaldor their endorsement include Douglas W. Kmiec, a former U.S. ambassador and Pepperdine University School of Law faculty member, and Rachelle M. Neshkes, a staff attorney for Community Legal Services.
Declarations of intent to run for judge in the June primary must be filed between Jan. 30 and Feb. 8, although there will be an extension to Feb. 13 in open seats.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company