Wednesday, May 28, 2014
JUDICIAL ELECTIONS: Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 87
All Three Candidates Have ‘Gang’ in Their Ballot Designations
By ROGER M. GRACE, Editor
On the June 3 ballot, criminal defense lawyer Andrew M. Stein is designated a “Gang/Homicide Attorney,” Los Angeles County Deputy District Deputy Los Angeles District Attorney Steven P. Schreiner is listed as a “Gang Homicide Prosecutor,” and Deputy City Attorney Tom Griego is identified as a “Criminal Gang Prosecutor.”
The influential Los Angeles Times has boosted the chances of Stein being in the run-off by endorsing him, but in an editorial lacking in enthusiasm over his candidacy. It says, in essence, that all three contenders are unworthy, but adds: “Because of the background he would bring to a court in which relatively few judges have experience as defense lawyers, The Times recommends Stein.”
Schreiner and Griego were profiled in Friday’s edition. Below is a look at Stein.
ANDREW M. STEIN
Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Bombastic Manner: Endearing To Some, Annoying to Others
One judge refers to criminal defense lawyer Andrew Stein as a “holy hell nightmare.” Another calls him a “big teddy bear” and a “legal scholar.”
Overbearing to some, endearing to others, few who deal with Stein are neutral about him.
He’s gregarious. Boastful. Forceful. Sly. He tends to exaggerate.
Listeners have no need to ask him to “speak up.”
In the course of ordinary conversation, he might, at points, adopt a dramatic air, as if he were onstage, or as if he were doing what he so often does, with proficiency: perform before juries.
Stein could be likened to an Old English Sheepdog, jumping up on the shoulders of someone he likes and licking the person’s face, or to a sharp-toothed, growling bulldog, intent on protecting his clients. Or he could simply be viewed as a dog who yaps too much.
While many count him as a friend, the lawyer does have detractors—enough of them that he wound up with a Los Angeles County Bar rating of “not qualified.”
So did Deputy Los Angeles City Attorney Tom Griego, while his other election rival, Deputy District Attorney Steven Schreiner, was found “qualified.”
Support From Mader
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Katherine Mader, a former deputy district attorney who has endorsed Stein, points to a posting on Stein’s Facebook page by Barry Thorpe, a Long Beach private practitioner. Thorpe recounts that in his days as a neophyte deputy district attorney, 20 years or so ago, he did battle in court with Stein, and tells why he is supporting him now:
“1. Andrew is never disingenuous or shifty. He will vividly tell you what he is going to do to your case, and then promptly does. When Andrew says he will do a thing, you can take it to the bank. I know many prosecutors that despised Andrew, but that was chiefly because they really didn’t believe that even guilty defendants had a right to counsel, or because Andrew took them away from their office coffee, or because Andrew’s advocacy had in some way shamed them before judge and jury. However, even upon these haters, I never met a prosecutor that thought Andrew dishonest.
“2. Andrew is fundamentally kind; you can only devote the time Andrew does to clients and to mastering the current state of the law, if you’re extremely concerned about the well being of your client ... every client. Andrew would be at your juggler [sic] in front of the jury one moment, and then share a funny war story with you as soon as the jury was sent out of the room. There are many important qualities that in the aggregate form a great judge. Foremost among these must be the equitable quality of kindness, for what would our judicial system be if we ever denuded our judges from the virtue of kindness?”
Mader, herself, says:
“Andy has appeared before me. I also consider him a friend. I have endorsed his candidacy as have numerous other judges.
“I am surrounded in the lunchroom and courthouse with other judges, also in the criminal arena, who appreciate Andy’s candor, knowledge of the law, and basic human kindness and compassion. There is a great deal of support for Andy Stein in the Foltz Criminal Justice courthouse, and that says a lot about who he is as a person.”
Deputy District Attorney David Berger—who maintains the Dragnetblog.com website—sees Stein in this light:
“He is the gold standard when it comes to criminal defense, leaving no stone unturned in his efforts to protect the rights of people who are all too often guilty of vile and inhuman acts. The fact that Stein defends the indefensible professionally and effectively often upsets my fellow prosecutors, but that is his job and he does it well.
“Does that translate into having the right temperament to be a judge? I see no reason to doubt that he would make an excellent judge; he does know the law—something that cannot be said of several other candidates. Based on the high standard he employs in defense of his clients, I would expect him to be a judge who would demand excellence in preparation and representation from attorneys appearing before him on both sides of the case. He may not suffer fools gladly.”
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lance Ito, in an email he has sent to those who have solicited his views on judicial candidates, remarks: “Stein is a skilled and energetic trial lawyer who has tried complex cases in my courtroom.”
An incoming judge, Deputy District Attorney Christopher Frisco (who drew no election opposition in filing for an open seat), says Stein is “a very impassioned and dedicated defense lawyer who zealously defends his clients, very competently.”
Los Angeles criminal defense attorney David D. Diamond declares:
“Andrew Stein is a brilliant attorney, one who knows the law. He has a great demeanor and understands the criminal justice system.”
Deputy District Attorney Bobby Grace has this to say:
“I have tried cases against Andrew Stein and consider him a friend. He’s a smart and aggressive trial attorney who fights hard for his clients. I have always found Andrew to be fair and impartial in matters unrelated to his advocacy. I believe that he would be a fair and impartial jurist.
“Andrew is congenial and works well with court staff and the judiciary. Andrew is a very hard worker and is known for trying difficult cases throughout the county.”
Then there’s this perception on the part of a deputy district attorney:
“Although I believe the length and breadth of his experience will be invaluable as a bench officer, I can not look past his blatant attempt to deceive the voters with his very misleading ballot designation of ‘Gang Homicide Attorney,’ clearly an attempt to sound like someone who ‘prosecutes’ gang murderers instead of someone who ‘defends’ them. But what is more troublesome than the actual deception is the pride in which he flaunts what he believes to be a very effective deception. I have personally witnessed him admit to a group of attorneys the deceptive intent of his strategy and brag how he has surveyed numerous LA Superior Court judges, and that all of them believe that his deceptive designation would be approved by the Registrar’s Office.
“Additionally, I had one trial against him years ago and I found that his reputation of being bombastic and obstreperous to be well earned.”
A judge remarks:
“I have known Andy Stein for over 20 years. He has appeared before me on numerous occasions. He is an excellent advocate but he lacks the calm civility that surrounds the best lawyers in the trade. His bombastic style irritates opponents, judges and jurors, but it can also be entertaining and effective. I have always enjoyed having him in my court and I maintain a very cordial relationship with him.
“It would be interesting to see how he functions as a judge but his choice of the intentionally misleading ballot designation strongly suggests that he lacks the integrity to be a judge.”
Another judge says:
“I’m certain there are people who love him and people who hate him.”
The jurist reports that an attorney who has expressed disdain for Stein referred a personal injury case to him several years back which yielded a $3 to $4 million settlement.
“He didn’t give the other lawyer one cent in a referral fee,” the judge notes. “That rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.
“Certain things are just done by handshake.”
The judge adds:
“He fills up a room. He’s the biggest personality in any room.
“That turns people off.”
Deputy District Attorney Kevin R. Young provides this comment:
“I have worked on cases against Andy Stein as a defense attorney. He is a hard working attorney, but often pushes the envelope as to what is truly relevant and admissible evidence in cases.”
Stein Discusses Stein
Stein’s most ardent supporter appears to be Stein.
“I’m as good as anyone in this race—in these races,” he maintains, asserting that he is “clearly the most qualified” among all the 26 candidates this year.
He points to his long list of endorsements by judges and says:
“I know what it means when the bench endorses you….I was shocked….I have been humbled….I used to think I was tolerated. I didn’t know how respected I was. I had a judge tell me that great trial lawyers sometimes make great judges and he can’t wait to have me on the bench. I had three judges tell me that I actually taught them the law when they were new judges.”
On his campaign website, 85 judicial endorsements are listed. An updated list was supplied to the MetNews on Monday with 102 names.
Stein adds: “Mr. Griego, who has been running for four years, has eight [judicial endorsers], and two of them are retired.”
Schreiner, on his website, also lists eight persons under the heading of “Superior Court Judges”; two are retired and one of them, Joan Comparet-Cassani, has incurred public discipline.
(Stein’s judicial endorsements also include several by retired judges, and some of the endorsers are commissioners, not judges.)
“You can ask any judge who knows me…,” Stein proclaims. “Ask any of the 100 judges who endorsed me. And then ask all the ones who know the other people. First, if you just ask them about me, they’re going to tell you of everybody running, I’m the most qualified. It isn’t even close.”
In his enthusiasm in discussing his candidacy, Stein tends to put forth statements that are not accurate, sometimes contradicting them later in his discourse.
Stein acknowledges that “Mr. Griego has Jackie Lacey,” district attorney of Los Angeles County, as a supporter, but dismisses this as politically motivated because Griego’s political consultant is Parke Skelton, an influential figure in Democratic politics. Lacey, while currently holding a nonpartisan post, is a Democrat. The flaw in Stein’s analysis is that Lacey has made no endorsement in the race.
In Long Beach, where Schreiner served for five years until his recent transfer to Norwalk, “the entire bench has endorsed me,” Stein boasts, proclaiming that such support is “beyond belief.”
It is also beyond reality.
Later, Stein backpedals, saying of the endorsements by judges: “I got seven in Long Beach, I think Schreiner got three.”
There are 24 judges in the Long Beach Deukmejian Courthouse.
“Four years ago, Mr. Griego signed a document, under penalty of perjury, that he was something that he was not,” Stein asserts, alluding to Griego having listed himself on the ballot as a “Criminal Prosecutor” when he was serving in the civil side of the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office and had not handled a prosecution in 13 years.
The Ballot Designation Worksheet Griego signed four years ago—like the one Stein signed this year—is not a form that is executed under penalty of perjury.
In disputing the legitimacy of Schreiner’s ballot designation as “Gang Homicide Prosecutor,” Stein at first says: “He is not really a gang prosecutor. He hadn’t been for years.” Later, he opines: “Probably that would be an appropriate designation for what he had done for the last 12 months.”
Comments on Himself
Stein also offers these observations on himself:
•Dealing With Clients
“I don’t hold hands. OK? I’m a blunt, in-your-face, honest guy. I lose a lot of clients, because most clients want…you to lie to them, and tell you it’s going to be OK, and tell you that, ‘Don’t worry,’ and they’re going to come home, and I’m very direct, maybe too harsh, but I’m direct, OK?
•“Who I am”
“I’ve mellowed with age. OK? I’m still as good a lawyer as I was, but I’ve mellowed with age.
“I realize you have to have a change up. When I was young, I had two pitches: fast and faster.
“You know, people say, who am I? I’ll tell you who I am. I represented a man for 27 years. I brought him home from death row. OK? I picked him up from prison. Three years and three months ago….The man’s been convicted of murder twice. You know where he lived? In my home. OK?
“You know what I did with him after that? I rented him an apartment for a year. I got him a job with Father Greg [Boyle], at Homeboy [Industries]. He’s self-sufficient now….
“That’s who I am.”
“I made some difficult decisions in this race. I’m proud of that, ethically. [Campaign consultant] Fred Huebscher wanted me to run against Dayan Mathai. OK? I’m proud to tell you—I may lose this race, OK?—but I’ve known Dayan Mathai for years….Other than me, I thought he was the most qualified person running. So, how do I run, ethically and morally, against someone who I think is qualified, more qualified than all the others, who has a bad name [politically]? It’s wrong to run against someone who has a bad name.”
•Rejecting Conventional Wisdom
“Nobody thinks I’m going to get any Hispanic votes [based on Griego being in the race]. I’m not going to concede that, at all….
“I’m not accepting any of the conventional wisdom here.
“I hired Fred. He’s my political consultant. He doesn’t believe in any of modern-day technology. He doesn’t. I tell people, 20 years from now, Barack Obama not going to be taught in political science classes and government classes for being the first black president. That’s going to be a footnote. Barack Obama is going to be known as the politician who changed how people are elected—by the use of the Internet, and the power of the people.”
(Stein, like other candidates, has a campaign website and is utilizing social media.)
“I think I would give a different perspective to the bench. Everybody says I’m going to be super-hard. I don’t think I’m going to be super-hard. I think I’ll just make the calls, what the law dictates. I have no predisposition.
“In fact, the nickname in Bellflower for me is I’m ‘the lawyer the cops hate, but they call me when they’re in trouble.”
Admitted in 1978
Born March 5, 1954, Stein received his law degree from the University of San Diego School of Law in 1978. He was admitted to the State Bar on Nov. 29 of that year.
“I got started with 13 cases,” he recalls. “Court-appointed cases.”
Under Penal Code §987, if a criminal defendant cannot afford to pay the cost of legal representation, the court must appoint counsel. Prior to creation of the Alternate Public Defender’s Office in 1993, this meant the appointment of a lawyer in just about any case with two defendants; the Public Defender’s Office represented the first defendant and, if a conflict appeared, a private lawyer would defend the second one.
“I am a product of the 987 system.” Stein says, proceeding, abruptly, to volunteer a discussion of the State Bar discipline he’s received:
“I have two public reprovals, when I was a young lawyer, for s—t that I screwed up on. I had no one to teach me. I’m candid about it, I admitted it. I made mistakes when I was young.”
“I failed to timely file an appeal, and didn’t know what to do. Told my client it was progressing and it wasn’t. …And I got a public reproval. And years, later for stuff that was ancient, I got another one for something that happened in ’86 and ’87, I believe. They’re on the record. All the people that have endorsed me, they know about it.”
With regard to the first public reproval, he points out:
“I was going through a divorce. I was a lawyer for like 12 months and took a case I wasn’t qualified to take. I’m being honest.”
According to the stipulated facts, Stein received $1,200 in May, 1980 to handle a criminal appeal. The opening brief was due Oct. 20. He requested an extension to Jan. 15, 1981; what he was given was an extension to Nov. 20, 1980 at which time, he was warned, if no brief had been filed, there would be a dismissal. He subsequently accepted two additional $600 payments—one of the payments being received on Nov. 19, the day before the due-date for a brief he had not prepared. The court dismissed the appeal on Nov. 25. Stein continually misrepresented that the appeal was progressing, making that assurance as late as May 19, 1981.
The State Bar found mitigating circumstances based on the content of a verified letter from Stein dated Nov. 5, 1984, in which the lawyer said:
“From November, 1980, through the summer of 1981, I was involved in a difficult and very stressful marital relationship which resulted in a separation and divorce in the fall of 1981. This was despite my wife having sought professional counseling in an effort to save the marriage. My wife was drinking to an excess and causing me additional strain and stress. At that time I closed my office and went to work for a firm to help alleviate the pressures of trying to make a marriage and a practice work. This case was a case that I had while in sole practice and had only a part-time secretary. To complicate matters, in November, 1980, I was a relatively inexperienced attorney with no real calendaring control or system insofar as office procedures were concerned. Fortunately, no other mistake occurred in my office despite these problems.
“Subsequent to this incident, I have become what I consider to be a well known and well respected criminal defense attorney in the southern area of Los Angeles County.”
The public reproval was issued June 7, 1985.
With respect to the facts underlying the second public reproval, imposed on March 12, 1993, Stein says:
“I took a divorce case and…I couldn’t figure out how to publish [a summons]. I was supposed to publish in a newspaper….And by the way, in retrospect, it’s not an easy thing to do unless you really know what you’re doing. I wouldn’t know how to do it today. I mean, I don’t do divorce law, but I know everything’s hyper-technical.”
There was actually misconduct on the part of Stein in connection with representation of two clients, in unrelated matters.
Charges relating to his handling of the dissolution of marriage case—which he says concerned “stuff that was ancient”—entailed misconduct stretching into August of 1990. His client and her “putative husband” complained to the State Bar on Aug. 27, 1990; the State Bar notified Stein of the complaint on Sept. 25 of that year; formal proceedings were commenced against him on Sept. 21, 1991.
The reason the client had a “putative” spouse was that she had remarried, on Dec. 31, 1`988, believing—based on assurances by Stein and his secretary—that her previous marriage had been dissolved. After that marriage took place, Stein advised that the divorce from the previous spouse would be entered nunc pro tunc which was not legally possible.
Stein’s representation of the woman commenced Oct. 12, 1987. There was a series of flubs by Stein, and a failure to communicate with his client, with the lawyer providing no information on the status of the case from October of 1987 to November of 1988, and ducking her phone calls over periods of time that extended into August of 1990.
In the other matter, Stein was hired in January, 1985, to represent a man on a drunk driving charge. He made two court appearances in the case, then missed the next five scheduled hearings and refused to return the client’s phone calls.
Stein says his law practice, over the years, “burgeoned, blossomed, grew.” He notes:
“I own my own building, right across the street from the Bellflower Courthouse, the Stein Law Building.”
He is, in Bellflower, “a big fish in a small sea,” he remarks.
Weds Defense Lawyer
Stein was wed to criminal defense lawyer Gigi Gordon on Jan. 1, 1998, just 19 days after Gordon proposed. U.S. District Court Judge Florence-Marie Cooper, now deceased, “married Gigi and I,” he recounts.
His reflections on their marriage came in an interview on Jan. 20, 2012, two days after Gordon, depressed over the effects of multiple sclerosis, committed suicide.
Gordon wanted to be married on New Year’s Day “so she wouldn’t forget our anniversary,” Stein noted, explaining that she “wasn’t very good with dates.”
It was on the eve of their first wedding anniversary, he related in that interview, that Gordon was diagnosed with MS. Few knew that she was suffering from the disease, he said.
They were divorced in 2009.
Stein told the reporter that Gordon “had two great loves, and unfortunately I’m not one of them.” He identified those loves as “the law and her dogs.”
His own love of the law, he now says, is interfering with a relationship.
“I have a girlfriend who just told me that my love of the law was more than my love for her,” he discloses. “I don’t think that’s true but, you know what it is?
“It’s been good to me. I do love the law.”
“I’m not married, unfortunately. I don’t have any kids. I got a dog.”
Copyright 2014, Metropolitan News Company