Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Teresa P. Magno
Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 97
How would you regard the following statement?
“You should vote against Songhai ‘Sunny’ Armstead for Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 97 because she’s an African American.”
Any such statement would, of course, be blatantly and despicably racist.
Racist also is Armstead’s plea for votes because she’s an African American.
We view as disgusting any reference by a judicial candidate to his or her to race, religion, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation, other than in the context of listing affiliations or recounting discrimination the candidate has personally endured or has witnessed and how this life experience would be beneficial in providing insights in carrying out judicial duties.
Armstead has amply demonstrated in the course of the campaign that she is not suited for a judgeship. In endorsing her opponent, Deputy Los Angeles District Attorney Teresa P. Magno, we do so not simply because she’s not Armstead, but because, without respect to deficiencies of her rival, she deserves election.
RMSTEAD APPARENTLY SEEKS to shame voters into casting ballots for her by pointing out that since unification took place in 2000, no African American has been placed on the bench in a contested election.
(She doesn’t count Patricia Titus who was, in fact, elected to the Los Angeles Superior Court in 2000 but was on the ballot only in the Inglewood Judicial District, as a candidate for a municipal court seat. Unification came too late in the election cycle for the true destination of a winning municipal court candidate to be reflected. And, she doesn’t count Bobbi Tillmon, who declared her candidacy in 2006 and drew no opposition, and therefore did not face voters.)
Armstead could, if she were so inclined, point out that no black, who was not an incumbent, has been elected to the Los Angeles Superior Court since 1982. But, to stress the importance of her being elected, she casts a victory for her in terms of an artificial “first”—she would be the first African American elected, under unification, in a contested election.
As we see it, Armstead has no entitlement to election to Superior Court Los Angeles Office No. 97 based on some sort of duty to atone, on the part of voters, for African Americans not having won contests over the past seven elections. The fact is that numerous African Americans, fully possessed of credentials for the office, were appointed to the Los Angeles Superior Court by Govs. Gray Davis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Jerry Brown; the four African Americans who ran for judgeships and lost were persons who could not have gained an appointment, and shouldn’t have. Moreover, whatever happened in past elections has no bearing on voters’ mission in the present election: to choose the superior candidate for each post.
Speaking before a black congregation at a church in Gardena, Armstead asserted that non-black judges now on the Superior Court have no understanding of African Americans, and can’t empathize with them. Virtually pledging preferential treatment of blacks in her courtroom, she said: “I’m a judge for you.”
Armstead is bright and highly personable. She is an able advocate. She would, in partisan politics, have a high potential for success in attaining public offices.
But she’s just not the right person for the bench.
AGNO, FROM WHAT we can discern, would view herself, if elected, as a servant of the entire populace, while Armstead would perceive one segment to be her constituency.
Magno would be concerned about promoting the cause of justice, rather than self-promotion being her cause.
The fact that Magno has been a lawyer for 17 years and Armstead for only 10˝ years is of some significance, though not a great deal of weight can be put on the relative longevity of candidates’ practices. What counts is what they have done. Armstead has prosecuted misdemeanors and now has a desk job. For 15 years, Magno has been a deputy DA and, aside from prosecuting misdemeanors, has handled 81 felony jury trials, including two in which a death sentence was sought. Impressively, every one of the 40 murder cases she has tried resulted in a conviction of at least one of the defendants.
Turning attention solely to Magno, what we find is an able lawyer who is articulate, intelligent, and has a sense of humor. She is a Grade 4 deputy who is described in her latest office evaluation as “skilled and hardworking,” displaying “excellent analysis and judgment,” who is “liked and respected by her colleagues and support staff.”
A canon of ethics requires that a judge “be patient, dignified, and courteous.” For Magno, compliance would not be difficult; those qualities are part of her basic nature.
In light of her experience and commitment, we urge the election of Teresa P. Magno to the Los Angeles Superior Court.
Copyright 2014, Metropolitan News Company