E. Matthew Aceves
Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 42
UR CHOICE FOR THIS OFFICE in the primary was Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Cyndy Zuzga based not only on her having served as a bench officer for 10 years, but having performed with especial proficiency. She came in third in a four-person race.
In weighing the relative qualifications of the two candidates in the Nov. 8 run-off, we find that they are disparate. Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney E. Matthew Aceves is highly qualified, in our view, while private practitioner Alicia Molina is entirely unfit for the job she seeks.
Aceves, in his 18 years as a prosecutor, has been lead counsel in more than 100 jury trials. How many jury trials has Molina handled? None.
But that doesn’t matter, she insists, explaining in a March 29 interview:
“To automatically make it seem like I’m not qualified because I don’t have jury trial experience is not fair because if you look at the prosecutors [seeking election], they only have criminal law experience, but yet the position that they’re running for, they could end up a family law attorney [sic], they could end up a landlord-tenant attorney [sic]. There’s nine different areas of law that they could end up in.
“So, I think that we need to be fair here and realize that when you’re appointed a judge, you’re going to go to Judge School and they’re going to teach you how to be a proper judge, and they’re going to train you in the different areas of law.
“So, while I may not be versed in jury trials, I am versed in trials. I’ve done over 300.”
It emerges that those 300 “trials” were immigration hearings. The United States Supreme Court has held that such a hearing “is not a trial”; the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denominates the proceeding “a circumscribed inquiry.”
How many actual court trials has she handled? Three divorce cases in the Los Angeles Superior Court.
TROUBLING ASPECT OF HER CANDIDACY is her dishonest portrayal of herself as a “Domestic Violence Attorney.” That was her ballot designation in the primary. It is to the discredit of her campaign rivals that it was not challenged.
She predicates that title on her volunteer work twice a month at the Harriet Buhai Center for Family Law. That hardly meets the criterion under the Elections Code of an activity constituting one of the candidate’s “principal professions, vocations, or occupations.”
Molina is an immigration attorney. That’s not a helpful ballot designation, connoting, as it does, someone who tries to prevent deportation of illegal aliens. She could, of course, simply use the designation of “Attorney at Law,” but what she may not do—lawfully, that is—is to misrepresent her area of practice.
Below is a snapshot of the exterior of her law office. As seen from the sign, she holds herself out, to potential clients, as performing those services she actually provides:
“IMMIGRATION LEGAL SERVICES.”
Molina’s law office in Huntington Park, over a meat market, is pictured.
To voters, however, she holds herself out as something that she is not.
Will Aceves mount a writ challenge, now? He notes that she has until today to change her ballot designation voluntarily, and says that if she doesn’t, “we are prepared to challenge her fraudulent ballot designation” in court.
ASHLY, MOLINA ON MAY 1 posted this message on her Facebook page:
“These last few months have been super busy and an eye opening experience on backroom politics. I have unanimously been recommended for endorsement twice and twice one of my opponents, who did not receive a single vote by the endorsement committee, was able to overturn my endorsement clearly due to backroom politics deals.”
Molina did not respond to a request for an explanation.
Only one instance of the spurning of a committee’s recommendation to endorse Molina was uncovered. What it boiled down to was that the Endorsements Committee of the Stonewall Democratic Club had recommended that the club back her—but it had not interviewed Zuzga, thinking she did not meet a requisite: being a Democrat. But she was. As judicial officer, she had a statutory prerogative, which she exercised, of not being publicly listed given that her home address would thereby be bared.
Zuzga proved her registration, was interviewed, and at an open membership meeting, the vote was in favor of backing her, instead of Molina.
To allege a “backroom” political deal, without having the facts, was irresponsible. The facts did emerge in a MetNews profile of Molina, which included an explanation by the Stonewall president as to what happened.
Yet, the allegation remains posted on Molina’s Facebook page.
OLINA GRADUATED FROM Loyola University School of Law in 1995, according to the school’s Summer 2006 alumni newsletter. The State Bar website shows that she became an attorney on July 16, 2004.
On Molina’s campaign website, a union leader is quoted as saying of the candidate:
“Alicia worked for 14 years at a non-profit, the International Institute of Los Angeles, in Boyle Heights providing legal representation to low income clients.”
Her LinkedIn page recites that she was….
Director of Legal Department and Immediate Needs and Transportation Program
International Institute of Los Angeles
July 1995 – July 2009 (14 years 1 month)Greater Los Angeles Area
This is puzzling. How could she have been providing “legal representation” prior to admittance to the State Bar?
It would appear from the above that Molina either was practicing law without a license between July 1995 and July 2004, or that she is presently seeking to create the impression that she was engaged in legal practice prior to the time she actually was.
The candidate was asked for an explanation. Her response is:
“I was employed at the International Institute of Los Angeles from July 1995 – July 2009 (14 years 1 month)Greater Los Angeles Area. At the time I left I held the position of Director.”
This implies that she worked her way up to the post of director, and did not hold that post throughout the period of 1995-2009. But the verbiage on her website and on LinkedIn does tend to create a contrary impression.
S A JUDGE, MOLINA SAYS, she wants to be a “voice for people who are underrepresented, and need someone to be their voice.”
That comment was made in an interview with this newspaper. On her campaign website, she says:
“Judges should understand the unique and diverse make up of Los Angeles County so that they can make fair decisions that represent the communities they serve.
“Justice is best served with a balance of fairness, integrity, and compassion. The application of law is not only based on legal doctrine, but supported by the moral principles of the community. As a judge, I am here to be the voice of the community and uphold its core values so that justice prevails.”
A judge’s role is conventionally viewed as being that of a neutral arbiter, a “voice” or spokesperson for no faction and no particular segment of the population, and who applies the law in the same manner no matter which community the courthouse in which he or she is sitting happens to be situated.
Molina has a different view, and one which, we submit, should be rejected by voters.
OW MANY PRESENT AND PAST Los Angeles Superior Court bench officers have endorsed Aceves? Fifty. How many have lent their names to Molina’s campaign? Four. (And two of those four—Carol Najera and Yvette Verastegui—also endorse Aceves.)
Aceves, a past president of the Mexican American Bar Association (“MABA”), is personable, fair-minded, intelligent, and diligent. He would make an excellent judge.
Molina, a past vice president of the MABA PAC (unconnected to MABA), is disagreeable and snippy; she lacks reasoning ability and reasonableness.
It follows that we endorse E. Matthew Aceves for election to Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 42.
In each of the three other races for Los Angeles judgeships on the November ballot, one of the candidates we previously endorsed in the primary is a contender. We reiterate our recommendations that votes be cast for Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorneys Steven Schreiner (Office No. 11), Susan Jung Townsend (Office No. 84) and David Berger (Office No. 158).
Copyright 2016, Metropolitan News Company