Wednesday, April 20, 2016
JUDICIAL ELECTIONS: Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 158
Three Prosecutors, a Deputy A.G., Private Practitioner Seek Open Seat
By ROGER M. GRACE
The three prosecutors in the race are Deputy District Attorneys David Berger (whose law degree is from Loyola) and Fred Mesropi (a graduate of Southwestern Law School), along with Los Angeles Deputy City Attorney Onica Valle Cole (who also has a JD from Loyola). Deputy Attorney General Kim L. Nguyen (a Harvard Law School alumnus), who handles civil cases, is in the contest, as is Naser “Nas” Khoury, a Van Nuys sole practitioner who handles civil litigation and criminal defense work (and matriculated at the University of West Los Angeles School of Law). Berger was profiled yesterday. Today: Cole and Khoury.
ONICA VALLE COLE
Candidate, Who Joined Pro Tem Program Last Month, Touts Experience as a Bench Officer
Los Angeles Deputy City Attorney Onica Valle Cole bills herself as the “only candidate with experience as a bench officer.”
The campaign website of this contender—who filed her election papers on March 16—proclaims:
“Onica volunteers as a Temporary Judge for the Los Angeles Superior Court and is regularly called upon to fulfill the duties of a judge. She is supported in her run by bench officers familiar with her trial skills and reputation.”
How often has she sat as a pro tem?
Once, she admits.
She was accepted in the program March 3, Cole says, and sat at the Chatsworth Courthouse on March 18, handling a half-day calendar.
However, she notes, four more stints on the bench are scheduled for later this month and in May.
Cole, 44, filed during a five-day extension occasioned by the incumbent, Elden Fox, having taken out nominating papers, and not filing them. Deputy District Attorney David Berger and Deputy Attorney General Kim Nguyen have been campaigning in excess of a year.
“I am behind,” Cole says, “but I’m not out.”
The candidate—who relates that she was in the midst of preparing an application for appointment to a judgeship when the five-day extension was created—has hired a social media consultant, and says:
“I believe that running a very effective social media campaign may be my best hope of catching up.”
No Feuer Endorsement
On her website, she lists the endorsements of former Los Angeles City Attorneys Rockard Delgadillo and Carmen Trutanich. Conspicuously missing is that of the current head of the office in which she works, Mike Feuer.
In an April 1 interview, she explains why.
More than a year ago, she says, Feuer endorsed Nguyen.
Cole mentions that she and Feuer “sat down and had a conversation” after she became a candidate in which he “indicated that it’s very unusual for him to do a dual endorsement because in so doing, that often makes his endorsement null and void—and that he wanted his endorsements to mean something.”
However, she continues, he said he “would reconsider his position on dual endorsements once my rating came out” from the Los Angeles County Bar Association.
She predicted she would be found “well qualified.”
Disseminated to candidates this week are the tentative ratings. Cole’s is deemed “qualified”—which she says she won’t appeal, rendering it the final rating. The potential ratings are “not qualified,” “qualified,” “well qualified,” and “exceptionally well qualified.”
Cole—who dwells in, to use her term, “Misdemeanorland”—is pitted against two deputy district attorneys. She dismisses the fact that they handle felonies, saying:
“What’s filed as a misdemeanor in the City of Los Angeles would be a felony in any other county.”
She maintains that her office handles “some of the most violent and difficult cases,” and queries:
“What is the real difference between handling a murder case and handling a misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon case?”
Cole answers that there is none, declaring:
“A jury trial is a jury trial.”
Summing up her attributes, Cole—who terms herself a “feminist” and an “environmentalist”—says:
“I’m not lazy….
I’m unusually self-confident. I don’t apologize for that. I am a confident lady. I like to think that if I was a man, you would just call me ‘self-assured.’
“I’m a smart person. I know my weaknesses, I work on them.”
She also says of herself:
“I’m an extremely competent prosecutor.”
As to her future, Cole says that whether by election or appointment, “My chances of making the Los Angeles Superior Court bench are 100 percent.”
NASER “NAS” KHOURY
Private Practitioner Has Incurred Criminal Conviction, State Bar Discipline
Sole practitioner Naser Jiries Khoury—who usually goes by Naser J. Khoury but is utilizing a nickname on the ballot—is the only candidate in this year’s judicial races with a criminal record.
“I had a reckless driving in 1995, if I’m not mistaken,” he acknowledges. “It was a misdemeanor.
“Nothing to do with practice of law. And I was given what’s called a ‘private reproval,’ and that’s the only thing that I have.”
The private reproval was issued on Oct. 15, 1999, according to the State Bar’s website.
Khoury ran into financial difficulties early in his practice.
He was a partner in the Wilshire Boulevard law firm of Walfield and Khoury. State tax liens were imposed on the firm in 1994 ($1,231), 1995 ($601), and 1996 ($144).
Khoury declared bankruptcy on April 25, 1995.
So far as litigation against him, Khoury recites:
“In 1994, ’95, I had a partner, Paul Walfield, and the firm got sued for unlawful detainer. I had a small claims action, which the judge dismissed, by a former client. I had a personal injury case, where I hit somebody, before I was an attorney….There may have been one or two personal injury things, but the insurance company handled them.”
A glance at Westlaw shows that there was also an action against Khoury and others filed in Los Angeles Municipal Court on Nov. 30, 2000, seeking $15,842. That could not have been the small claims matter to which Khoury alluded because that amount would be above the jurisdictional maximum of the court even now ($10,000), let alone then ($5,000), and the action could not have arisen out of an automobile accident; it was for breach of contract.
There were actions filed against him in 2001 and 2004.
Khoury’s ballot designation is “Law Professor/Attorney.”
Where does he teach law?
“I teach business law at El Camino Christian College,” he says.
That school, which accepts and provides financial assistance to any person with a high school diploma or the equivalent, primarily provides training for the ministry.
Doesn’t “law professor” imply being a professor at a law school?
“I don’t know if it implies that,” Khoury responds. “It just says I teach law courses and I’m an attorney.”
On his campaign website, Khoury proclaims:
“With over 25 years of experience as a former Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney and a private practice attorney, I am well qualified to represent our great city of Los Angeles County [sic] as a superior court judge.”
He goes on to say:
“I, Naser Khoury, am living the true ‘American Dream’! I came to this great country in 1978 and it has been an incurably [sic] fascinating ride since the day I arrived. Not only have I proudly defied the odds of graduating high school, university and a doctorate degree in law, but also becoming a Deputy District Attorney for the largest prosecutorial agency in the world, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office; and now running to be a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge On June 7, 2016.”
Despite heavy emphasis on his erstwhile status as a prosecutor, there’s no hint on his campaign website, campaign Facebook page, or literature that he served as a lower-level deputy district attorney from 1990-92, for less than two years.
On the websites and literature, Khoury lists no endorsements. He explains:
“I’m not really seeking any endorsements.”
But, he contends, “I could get thousands of judges to endorse, if I asked them.”
Khoury has not hesitated to interject religion in the campaign, saying on his campaign website:
“God always gives us more than we deserve. But for his Grace and Mercy we have absolutely nothing. I always give credit to the Lord Jesus Christ for everything that happens in my life.”
On his campaign Facebook page, he lists his favorite book as the Holy Bible and declares himself to be a “Believing On Fire Born Again Christian.”
In an interview with the MetNews, he volunteers:
“When I came to the United States, I became a born-again Christian. I love the Lord with all my heart, and that’s been an amazing blessing for me.”
He cites evangelists as among the groups from which he intends to solicit support.
Something he has in common with a rival for the office, Deputy District Attorney David Berger, who was born in England, is the stated belief that if he had remained in his native country, he could not have aspired to a judgeship.
Khoury notes that he was “born and raised in Jordan,” and remarks that becoming a judge is something he could “never dream of doing” there. He says that being able to run for judgeship here “is just like, wow.”
Copyright 2016, Metropolitan News Company