Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Page 7



Kim Smith Perfects Candidacy for Judgeship, Is Blasted by an Old Buddy




A dozen years ago, a deputy district attorney who was seeking to unseat DA Gil Garcetti stopped by my office.

“Want to go to lunch?” he asked.

I said I did, and we walked over to the Redwood House on Second Street.

Accompanying DA-to-be Steve Cooley was a rough-around-the-edges cohort of his, Kim Smith, a campaign supporter. I can’t say that I would have pegged the gruff Smith as a natural for the bench.

Two years ago, Smith ran for a Superior Court open seat, apparently convinced by his campaign consultant, Fred Heubscher, that his name could bring him victory. In 2006, Heubscher had engineered the successful challenge by a non-practicing lawyer, Lynn Diane Olson, to a respected judge with the foreign-sounding name of Dzintra Janavs.

Smith, who had become an assistant city attorney in Hawthorne, was rated “not qualified” by the Los Angeles County Bar Assn. and barely put on a campaign. Nonetheless, his name (which many voters no doubt thought was that of a woman) did attract votes; he came in third out of eight candidates in the primary.

Among those endorsing him was his old pal, Cooley.

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Smith on Monday filed his nominating papers in a race against Los Angeles Superior Court Sanjay Kumar…targeting that jurist, it can’t be doubted, based on his name.

Is the moniker “Kim Smith” enough of a political asset to bring about the defeat of an incumbent with a mideastern name?

“Yes,” Heubscher responds.

Will Smith be receiving backing from his estwhile compatriot, Cooley?

In light of Smith’s evident reason for running against Kumar, the answer is NO.

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Cooley says:

“I am very disappointed in Kim Smith, who is a former deputy district attorney, for undertaking the challenge for a very wrong reason.”

The DA declares that when the public catches on to his motivation, “he will be vilified and denigrated—and properly so.”

He terms Smith’s candidacy “deplorable and despicable.”

Cooley tells me he spoke with Smith, who “did not deny” he was running against Kumar because the judge’s name renders him vulnerable at the polls.

He noted that Olson’s challenge to Janavs was not the first judicial race in which an unqualified candidate played upon the electorate’s prejudices in targeting and defeating an able incumbent. He drew attention to the 1992 contest in which attorney Patrick Murphy defeated then-Citrus Municipal Court Judge Abraham Aponte Khan.

(The Commission on Judicial Performance in 2001 acted to eject Murphy from the Superior Court—to which he had ascended in 2000 by virtue of unification—but then quickly found out that it couldn’t remove him because he had just resigned. The most the CJP could do was censure him. Murphy was disbarred in 2004. Khan was elected to the Los Angeles Municipal Court in 1994, was elevated through unification, and remains a member of the Superior Court.)

Cooley says he endorses Kumar “in the most emphatic of terms.”

Smith could not be reached for comment.

Cooley relates that he also endorses Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Otto, being challenged by sole practitioner Kenneth R. Hughey. Otto enraged Hughey by shifting Judge J.D. Lord, a veteran of the bench, to duties previously performed by a commissioner.

As to Olson—who has drawn a challenge by attorney/realtor Douglas Weitzman, running for the fourth time—Cooley says:

“I’m not going to endorse her.”

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Kumar has been sitting for about a year as pro tem justice for Div. Five of this district’s Court of Appeal.

The presiding justice of that division is Paul Arthur Turner, who said yesterday:

“The work he has done on the Court of Appeal is exceptional.”

He terms Kumar a “preeminent jurist,” and remarks:

“It is incumbent on Mr. Smith to articulate why one of the finest judges in the state should be removed—and so far, he has not done so.”

Kumar’s assignment to the Court of Appeal ends today. Tomorrow morning, he’ll be in the Appellate Division of the Los Angeles Superior Court.

He has been a judge of that court since 2005 and was a commissioner of it for four years prior to that.

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Smith is not the only challenger to perfect his candidacy. So has Weitzman.

Hughey has taken out nominating papers for the seat held by Otto but has not filed them, according to the latest available information from the Registrar-Recorder’s Office.

Kumar, Olson and Otto have all filed their papers.

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WHAT OTHERS SAY—Los Angeles Times editorial writer Robert Greene, former associate editor of this newspaper, comments on the Olson-Weitzman race in a Times blog titled, “Ballot comeuppance for Judge Lynn Olson?” He ends it by observing:

“Olson has the edge in campaign and fundraising know-how, but still—instead of cruising to automatic victory, she will have to campaign and raise money to keep her job.

“What’s this called? Payback? Turnabout? The hunter becoming the hunted? Divine justice?

“Or just a judicial election.”

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A posting yesterday on draws attention to Monday’s broadcast on KFI of the John and Ken Show, saying: 

“John and Ken, returning to the airwaves after a brief hiatus, slammed City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, aka Carmen the Clown, for ‘being all over the place’ on several issues. It was in the 6 o’clock hour, the most listened to hour of the show, that John and Ken attacked Trutanich over his wavering policies regarding the Dream Act protesters, the Occupy LA protesters, and now his support for giving illegal aliens driver licenses. ‘He’s an odd one’ said John, while Ken added ‘He’s running to be the next DA of LA County in place of Steve Cooley, and now that’s not going to happen.’

“Trutanich had previously enjoyed the support of John and Ken Show, but the veteran broadcasters appear to be tiring of his grandstanding headline-grabbing threats which, they noted, eventually “dwindle” once he actually has to try cases in a court of law, rather than in the court of public opinion.”

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An article in the current issue of LA Weekly lambastes Trutanich, who has attracted brickbats from all directions since declaring his candidacy for DA. Gene Maddaus’s piece includes this:

“Trutanich’s critics point out that, while his office is limited to prosecuting misdemeanors, he’s been obsessed with enhancing his powers. He launched a Bureau of Investigation to pursue his own cases, rather than wait for local law enforcement to bring him its handiwork. He tried to get the Legislature to give him control of a criminal grand jury. And, in a little-noticed move, he got state law rewritten to let his investigators eavesdrop electronically.

“Now Trutanich is after even more power. If he becomes district attorney, he’ll be the top prosecutor in Los Angeles—able to launch his own investigations, influence policy and punish people with long prison sentences.

“It’s an idea that makes a lot of folks nervous.

“ ‘It would be truly scary with him in charge of the DA’s office,’ says one of Trutanich’s subordinates, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution. ‘This is an office that only does misdemeanors. You want him controlling death-penalty cases?’ ”

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Speaking of drivers licenses for illegal aliens, Fifth Supervisorial District Communications Director Tony Bell put out this release yesterday:

“Providing a legal driver’s license to one who has broken federal law so one can drive ‘legally’—is an oxymoron,” said Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich on the proposal to provide driver licenses to illegal immigrants. 

“What’s disappointing is that three law enforcement officials, L.A. City Police Chief Charlie Beck, Sheriff Lee Baca and L.A. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, have turned a blind eye to enforcing the law,” he added. 

“Our nation is strengthened by legal immigration — but creating another incentive to those who break federal immigration laws encourages illegal immigration and places further economic burdens on taxpayers.”

In Los Angeles County, children of illegal immigrants born here are receiving over $642 million a year for welfare and food stamps. In an ICE survey of Los Angeles County jails, illegal immigrants annually cost taxpayers over $550 million. Our costs for medical services exceed $500 million. This is $1.7 billion — not including the cost of education.

“Our county and state taxpayers can no longer afford to be the HMO for the world or to provide financial rewards for those who break the law,” he added. 

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In an intra-office memo yesterday, Cooley noted the death on Saturday of retired Court of Appeal Justice Lynn “Buck” Compton, commenting:

“Compton was a real-life all American hero: college sports star, World War II combat veteran, detective, prosecutor and judge. He was a great man who lived a great life.”


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