Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 87
Deputy Los Angeles City Attorney Tom Griego does not possess the ability to function with competence as a judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court. He talks in circles; he cannot focus. The man simply does not have what it takes.
It’s a sure bet that if he did, he would have been appointed by the governor, a Democrat, in light of the political connections of his brother Victor Griego, a Democratic campaign consultant.
Yet, we view him as preferable to his opponent in the Nov. 4 run-off, criminal defense attorney Andrew Stein—though admittedly, in the course of endorsing a third candidate in the race in the primary, we did label Griego the “least qualified” of the three. Upon further reflection, we would opt for ineptitude over outrageousness.
Griego, as a judge, would falter. Stein, a loud, bombastic egomaniac, would, we foresee, offend and bully. We question his judgment and his integrity.
•This is the same Andrew Stein who received two public reprovals from the State Bar for unethical conduct. He says the discipline came “when I was a young lawyer, for s—t that I screwed up on.” In the course of the campaign, he has minimized what he did. In one instance, he received an extension for filing a brief in the Court of Appeal until Nov. 20, 1980, with the admonishment that if a brief were not filed by that date, the appeal would be dismissed. On Nov. 19, one day before the brief was due—a brief that he had not prepared—he accepted a third payment from the client, knowing that the money would not be earned. To put it bluntly, he stole the client’s money.
•This is the same Andrew Stein who has posted on his campaign website this “tweet”:
Snowden is a computer expert who took it upon himself to leak classified information from the National Security Agency, imperiling U.S. intelligence operations. For Stein to defend criminals as a criminal defense lawyer is one thing; for him to speak out as a judicial candidate, hailing a person who is evidently a criminal as a “hero,” is rash and injudicious.
•This is the same Andrew Stein who ran in the primary as “Gang/Homicide Attorney”—a designation not challenged in that election. Challenged by Griego just as sample ballots for the general election were about to go to printer, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Joanne O’Donnell granted a writ barring the designation, finding it to be deceptive. She held that the designation “is provocatively selected to liken [Stein] to various other criminal prosecutors who seek judgeships” and “appears intended to create and will likely actually create confusion in the mind of reasonable voters by implying that [he] is a criminal prosecutor like his opponents and not a defense attorney.” The Court of Appeal declined to intercede. Stein will be listed on the ballot as “Trial Attorney.”
•This is the same Andrew Stein who made the claim that “the entire bench has endorsed me” in Long Beach, later acknowledging that only seven of the 24 judges there had embraced his candidacy.
•This is the same Andrew Stein who, after coming in first among the three candidates for Office No. 87 in the June 3 primary, posted the following taunting message on Facebook at about 3:15 a.m. on June 4, addressed to seven criminal defense lawyers who had endorsed Deputy District Attorney Steven Schreiner:
It would appear that Stein lacks the maturity expected of a Superior Court judge.
The correct spellings of the names, by the way, are McGregor, Ernenwein, and Haushalter. While not his most meaningful shortcoming, Stein does tend to be less than meticulous. Here is a e-mail he sent out Feb. 10:
he Los Angeles Times, in its reendorsement of Stein on Thursday, observes that Griego “lacks the experience and the mastery of the courtroom needed in a Superior Court judge” and that Stein “has mastered many courtrooms in his more than 30 years representing criminal defendants.” It acknowledges that Stein “has a reputation for being contentious, perhaps as a byproduct of vigorous advocacy that sometimes bends the unwritten rules of courtroom decorum,” but dismisses that as “hardly a fault in a criminal defense lawyer.” It queries: “[H]ow well would it translate to the bench?”
The editorial reaches this conclusion:
“In a head-to-head showdown with the unqualified Griego, it’s an easy choice. Stein, as a criminal defense lawyer, would bring some diversity of background to a bench on which prosecutors are well represented.”
We regard as fatuous the assertion that criminal defense lawyers have a license to behave in a courtroom in a manner lacking civility.
The mere posing of a question as to “how well” Stein’s confrontational style would “translate to the bench”—rather than forthrightly noting that Stein has a proclivity that creates a substantial doubt as to his ability to function as a judge—trivializes a major flaw.
Most bothersome of the comments in the editorial is that “Stein, as a criminal defense lawyer, would bring some diversity of background to a bench on which prosecutors are well represented.” The Times, in the primary, seemed to take a stance that there should be a rebuttable presumption against electing a prosecutor in any given race based on the large number of prosecutors who have already been elected to the bench.
We do not see any logic to this. In any given Superior Court race, should voters not opt for the best or better candidate, by objective criteria, irrespective of whether that individual’s election lends some sort of balance to the bench?
The Superior Court does have an executive committee and other committees. Yet, a court is not essentially a deliberative body, where diversity of viewpoint and experience would be helpful to reaching a balanced decision. Judges preside over individual cases, making determinations in isolation from the views of colleagues.
If a litigant, or a criminal defendant, or an attorney, has a matter that’s assigned to Department X, that person wants a competent judge in that department, and it makes no difference whether judges in other departments are from the same or different background.
t is true that Griego, running for a Superior Court open seat four years ago, used the ballot designation of “Criminal Prosecutor.” It was a falsehood. He was handling civil cases for the City Attorney’s Office, and had not prosecuted anyone since 1997. His rationale was that he had just been transferred to the criminal side and was “in the process of transiting” and being “reacclimated to the criminal branch.” Yet, he was not involved in any prosecutorial work at the time he filed his election papers claiming to be a prosecutor, and his use of the title was plainly a sham.
He currently expresses no regret for his deception, and won’t admit that he did anything wrong.
We agree with the Times that Griego is “unqualified,” but base our conclusion not so much on his lack of “mastery of the courtroom”—he does have courtroom experience—as his lack of straight-forwardness and lack of mental acuity.
Recognizing that Griego lacks fitness for judicial service, but convinced he would do less harm on the bench than Stein, we endorse him.
Copyright 2014, Metropolitan News Company