Friday, May 30, 2014
Summary of Recommendations in Superior Court Races
Below, we summarize endorsements we’ve made—or, in one contest, did not make—with particular attention to two of the races.
Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 22
Amy Carter is a highly able deputy district attorney whose fitness for a judgeship is unmistakable. Her opponent, attorney Pamala Matsumoto, is a job-hopper who attempted to use an invalid ballot designation, requiring Carter to go to court to bar its use.
Charles M. Calderon
Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 48
Charles M. Calderon is a former California Senate majority leader, former Assembly majority leader, and former chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He is seeking election to a judgeship.
Calderon is no stranger to law practice. He has been an assistant to the general counsel for the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, a deputy Los Angeles city attorney, a partner in the law firm of Burke, Williams & Sorensen, and an attorney with Nossaman LLP. He continued to practice law while in the Legislature.
Moreover, a lawmaker who has a background as a practicing lawyer looks at proposed legislation in quite a different way than does a farmer or a school teacher serving in the Assembly or Senate. The lawyer/lawmaker views bills in light of a knowledge of existing law, with regard for how legislation in one area of law would impact other areas of law, and a cognizance of constitutional restrictions (and also with an awareness of the need for specificity and comprehensibility, and with a concern for the limited resources of courts).
In applying an understanding of law, the lawyer/lawmaker is, in a loose sense (though not a legal sense) “practicing” law. By dealing with the creation of laws, the changing of laws, it can hardly be said that the lawyer/legislator has strayed from the field of law.
This is especially so where the lawyer/legislator has formulated bills dealing with such matters as court structure and the legal process—as Calderon has. And he was a member of the Judicial Council from 1994-97.
Yet, viewing his candidacy with myopic vision, the Los Angeles County Bar Association has approved the report of its Judicial Elections Evaluation Committee which finds Calderon “not qualified” for a judgeship. It has done so because he was not able to list, on LACBA’s personal data questionnaire court appearances and trials within the past five years.
If the time frame had been seven-and-half years, Calderon could have filled in the blanks.
This is reminiscent of the State Bar’s Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation in 2009 finding former state Sen. Charles Poochigian “not qualified’ for the Court of Appeal based on “actual practical legal experience” While then-Chief Justice Ronald George was clearly out of line at Poochigian’s confirmation hearing in launching into a blast at the JNE Commission—comprised of unpaid volunteers who devote a substantial number of hours to their evaluations—it remains that the rating did reflect inadequate weight having been lent some of the statutory criteria.
LACBA is, of course, not bound by the statute and rules applicable to JNE. As a private organization, it can make up its own rules. It has done so, rigidly applied those rules, and come up with a finding with respect to Calderon which we suggest is unreasonable.
We regard Calderon, by virtue of his training, his background, and his intelligence, well qualified for a judgeship.
We agree with LACBA that his opponent, prosecutor Carol Rose, is not qualified. She is scattered and deceitful, and not competent to serve as a judge.
Debra L. Losnick
Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 54
Jacqueline H. Lewis
Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 61
Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioners Debra L. Losnick and Jacqueline H. Lewis each has a track record as a judicial officer. We strongly suspect that their respective opponents, Deputy District Attorneys Shannon Knight and Dayan Mathai, would each do an admirable job as a judge; with Losnick and Lewis, we don’t suspect it; we know it. They have proven themselves.
Former admiralty lawyer B. Otis Felder is also seeking Office No. 61, and might make it to a run-off owing to an unsound ruling by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Luis Lavin that he may use the ballot designation of “Los Angeles Prosecutor.” Felder formerly served as an extern in a Los Angeles City Attorneys Office training program.
At a recent candidate forum, former U.S. District Court Judge Robert Bonner, in introducing Lewis, mentioned: “Her opponent is…B. Otis Felder, who’s an L.A. prosecutor, I assume with the deputy DA’s Office here.” If Bonner was confused, it’s a sure bet others will be, also. Lavin failed to protect the integrity of the election process.
Alison Matsumoto Estrada
Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 76
There is a high probability of a failure of the elective system for judges in connection with this contest.
Deputy District Attorney Alison Matsumoto Estrada is an accomplished, fulltime prosecutor; she is articulate, balanced, and intelligent and, in our estimation, capable of performing the role of a judge.
Yet, there is a strong prospect of her losing to a rival who is manifestly unfit for the post. The unfitness of that rival is clear from her meager background in law and, more significantly—as her campaign amply demonstrates—her shortage of scruples.
The rival is Helen Kim, a three-day-a-week filing deputy. She does not go to court. She does not prosecute. Nonetheless, she is portraying herself on slate mailers as a “violent crimes prosecutor.”
She’s a liar.
What makes her deception all the more despicable is that she tried to use “Violent Crimes Prosecutor” as her ballot designation and a challenge was waged by Estrada via a writ petition, resulting in the issuance of a writ. The invalidity of Kim’s claim to being a violent crimes prosecutor has thus been adjudicated by the Los Angeles Superior Court.
It is true that the writ, ordering the registrar of voters to strike Kim’s preferred ballot designation, does not act as a prior restraint on Kim making claim in the course of her campaign to being a “violent crimes prosecutor.” Too, the judge allowed her to represent herself as a “prosecutor” but held that the crime reports she evaluates do not predominantly deal with “violent” crimes. It remains, however, that it has been judicially determined that Kim’s claim to being a “violent crimes prosecutor” is bogus. Her use of that description amounts to sticking her tongue out at the very court she seeks to serve.
In ballyhooing in campaign materials that she is something which she is not, Kim acts brazenly, and in blatant defiance of Rule 1-700 M of the Code of Professional Conduct. (It requires attorneys who run for judgeships to “comply with Canon 5 of the Code of Judicial Ethics.” Canon 5B(1) provides: “A candidate for judicial office…shall not: [¶] (b) knowingly, or with reckless disregard for the truth, misrepresent the…present position… concerning himself or herself….”)
Despite her unsuitability for judicial office, notwithstanding the endorsement of Estrada by the Los Angeles Times and the pronouncement of Kim by the Los Angeles County Bar Association as “not qualified,” Kim will quite possibly win election.
She is apparently determined to buy a victory. According to her latest financial report, from the start of this calendar year through May 17, Kim raised (primarily from family members) $853,802; she has spent $415,304.03; she has $461,534.01 available to spend. (The reason the figures don’t tally is that the cash-on-hand figure takes into account income and expenditures prior to the start of the year.)
Should Kim win, her victory is apt to raise the volume of voices, and the number of voices, calling for reform of our system for electing judges.
And should she win, lawyers will be addressing as “Your Honor” someone who is lacking in honor.
We urge that Kim—a past president of the Korean Bar Association, which has, tellingly, endorsed Estrada—not be placed in a position for which she lacks qualifications, and that Estrada, who does possess the necessary attributes, be elected.
Steven P. Schreiner
Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 87
We are not convinced that any of the three candidates in this race is up to the task. Deputy District Attorney Steven P. Schreiner comes closest.
Teresa P. Magno
Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 97
Deputy District Attorney Teresa P. Mango is an able prosecutor who is suited to judicial service. Her opponent, Songhai “Sunny” Armstead, has run a deplorably racist campaign, calling upon African Americans to vote for her because she is African American, and seeking to shame members of other races into voting for her because of the lack of blacks elected to judgeships in recent years.
Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 107
The choices are Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Emma Castro and Deputy District Attorney Joan M. Chrostek. Castro was found “not qualified” by JNE for appointment to judgeship. LACBA found her “qualified,” after she successfully appealed a “not qualified” rating. Just as Losnick and Lewis have, through stellar performance, proven themselves deserving of judgeships, Castro has shown herself not to merit that prize.
While we find ourselves leaning slightly toward Chrostek, we are loath to endorse her owing to her “surely-I-can’t-be-wrong” attitude, which she manifests in connection with a series of blunders on her part that led to the imprudent release of a wife-abuser so he could get his affairs together before going to prison. He proceeded to slay his wife and commit suicide. Chrostek‘s Yaffe-esque delusion of infallibility lead us to suspect that as a judge she would, once she reached a conclusion, be unwilling to be shown she was wrong.
Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 113
A seasoned deputy district attorney, Stacy Wiese, is competing with Steven Klaif, who is on temporary assignment as a court referee. Klaif has portrayed himself as a fulltime judicial officer since 2000 when, in truth, he has been an as-needed referee, serving some months of some years. In light of Wiese’s broad courtroom experience and Klaif’s deceitfulness, the choice is clear.
James B. Pierce
Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 117
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James B. Pierce can be cranky, but he is knowledgeable, impartial and skilled. His challenger, Deputy District Attorney Carol Najera, is running in order to teach judges a lesson: to show them that they are not entitled automatic renewal of their six-year terms. Najera’s challenge is of a crackpot nature.
Donna Hollingsworth Armstrong
Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 138
Deputy District Attorney Donna Hollingsworth Armstrong possesses maturity and judgment; her opponent, criminal defense attorney Marc Gibbons, doesn’t.
Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 157
Deputy District Attorney Andrew Cooper could have used a bit more seasoning before running, but has a high potential for turning into an able judge. His opponent, Arnold Mednick, unemployed since January 20013 and quite picky about what sort of job he would take, does not have such potential.
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