Tuesday, May 15, 2018
Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 20
The contestants for Office No. 20 are Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys Mary Ann Escalante and Wendy Segall. We are unable to endorse either.
We have never before witnessed a judicial race marked by so many rumors, so much innuendo, and so much doubt as to who is telling a straight story.
The election rivals were once friends. The relationship between candidates is ordinarily of no possible relevance in gaging their respective qualifications. Singular circumstances in this contest, however, render the matter necessary to a discussion of the candidates, a discussion entailing “she-said, she-said” recitations.
Segall and Escalante were members of a journeying female rat pack—prosecutors, judges and defense lawyers—that went off to this city or that to celebrate a comrade’s birthday. Segall is now shunned by some members of this erstwhile coterie, suspecting that she tattled on two of its constituents, Los Angeles Superior Court Judges Lori Ann Fournier and Olivia Rosales, to the Commission on Judicial Performance (“CJP”). It appears that while in New York in June 2016, the jurists accepted bottles of wine sent to their rooms by a male lawyer (who was present here in Los Angeles County, not part of their entourage), and they did not report the gifts.
Segall insists that she did not contact the CJP, but merely responded to questions by investigators.
There are, however, assertions that the five-page complaint to the CJP contained matters as to which no one but Segall had knowledge.
WOMAN WHO PARTICIPATED in the New York festivities relates to this newspaper that Segall told her during the trip that she was upset with Fournier for “not supporting her application for appointment” to a judgeship. She claims that Segall expressed the perception to someone else that Fournier and Rosales had spoken ill of her to Peter Espinoza, a judge of their court at the time of the alleged communications (he resigned May 31, 2016), explaining that Espinoza “was known to be part of the secret committee that advises the governor and influential when it comes to judicial appointments.” The person supplying the information notes: “The CJP complaint also levied allegations against Judge Espinoza.”
The woman maintains that Segall “did tell me about many complaints she filed in the DA’s office—some were official grievances but she also told me about anonymous complaints she levied against her perceived enemies.” Segall acknowledges filing one grievance and says that the matter was resolved.
In an interview at an early point in the campaign—before the identities of those under CJP investigation had been ascertained by this newspaper—Segall said, with respect to the two judges in whom the CJP had taken an interest, “I’ve never appeared in front of either of them,” evidencing an awareness of who they were. She subsequently declared, again before the identities were established, that she did not know who the CJP’s targets were. Her attempt to explain the inconsistency was clumsy and unconvincing.
If Segall reported judges to the CJP, and believed that they had done wrong, that conduct is hardly blameworthy. But if she did make such a report, whether in good faith or not, she has lied about not having done so. Such conduct would, obviously, be reflective of a lack of integrity, spelling unfitness for election to the office she seeks. Yet, there’s the rather important matter of “if.” While there looms a suspicion that she lied based on reasonable inferences, there is no proof.
HAT FACT OF A LACK OF PROOF reflects on the utter irresponsibility of Escalante in proclaiming, in an interview with us:
“I choose to surround myself with people that have similar integrity and character and trust and loyalty. I’m not saying anything disparaging about Ms. Segall, but I just didn’t agree with some tactics in some incidences.”
Unmistakably, she was accusing Segall of a lack of “integrity and character and trust and loyalty.” Yet, she declined to elaborate.
To wage such a bold charge and then fail to make any attempt to back it up is inconsistent with possession of a sense of fairness.
The Los Angeles Times, in its Sunday issue, endorsed Segall. Escalante sent an email to Times editorial board members Robert Greene and Linda Hall, with a copy to the MetNews, that protests:
“I am so disappointed with your choice for seat 20. A judge is suppose to have integrity and honesty. I have these qualities. My opponent does not. She is a wolf in sheeps clothing.”
Escalante goes on to say of her rival:
“She registered as a democrat on February 9, 2018! She has been on outspoken staunch Republican her entire life! Shortly after Trump’s victory, she and two other DA’s started a women’s lunch group called ‘Women on the Right’ and ‘Right of Center’, I am including her recruiting emails below. I have never changed my political party. I am not political at all! I vote my heart, not the party! I too was told by a political consultant to change my party in order to ‘win’. I refused and said, ‘if I have to lie to get elected to be a judge, a noble profession, I don’t want the job!
“Read below and see for yourself who you just endorsed. Also, Segall’s character is so questionable, her LACB [Los Angeles County Bar Association] rating initially was ‘Not Qualified’. She had to appeal to bring it up to ‘Qualified’. Who takes a picture of pregnant DA’s shoe and post it on Facebook with a mean spirited comment, just to be mean and petty? Wendy! I have lost so much respect for the democratic process.”
N LOS ANGELES COUNTY, 51.1 percent of the voters are registered Democrats and 21.6 percent are Republicans. One might well suspect—suspect, without certainty—that Segall registered as a Democrat to attract votes. She now boasts the endorsements of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, East Area Progressive Democrats, New Frontier Democratic Club, Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley, North Valley Democratic Club, Monterey Park Democratic Club, Stonewall Democratic Club, Torrance Democratic Club, West Hollywood–Beverly Hills Democratic Club, Miracle Mile Democratic Club, the Culver City Democratic Club, and West LA Democratic Club, along with Americans for Democratic Action, Southern California.
The fact that Segall was an organizer of a Feb. 16, 2017 gathering at Yxta, a Mexican restaurant on South Central Avenue, at which conservative-minded women huddled to discuss political issues, does suggest her philosophy is not in tune with that of the Democratic Party, or Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a candidate for governor, for whom she staged a fundraiser. Explaining her involvement with Women on the Right, Segall says: “As a 23 year prosecutor, I tend to lean right on issues involving law enforcement.”
However, Escalante portrays Segall as having dropped a lifelong allegiance to the GOP by switching to the rival camp last February. She is merely assuming that up until then, Segall was a Republican. What Segall says is: “I was a Democrat from 1981-2003, Republican from 2003-2013, and no party affiliation from 2013-2018, and again a Democrat in 2018.”
SCALANTE HAS AN UNFORTUNATE PROPENSITY for making allegations without backing them up.
In an interview, she said of Segall:
“I don’t think she’s ever tried a murder. I don’t think she’s ever tried a violent crime.”
(Escalante was the prosecutor in 34 murder cases, but that was before she went on part-time status for about 12 years. During that period, and since recently returning to full-time status, she has been handling dispositions.)
“I have tried 9 violent felony cases, including [a] murder. One of the cases was an 18 count robbery case with gun allegations.”
In the interview, Escalante denied that she entered the race for the seat Segall was seeking out of spite. While acknowledging they had been friends, she stressed that they were never “close” friends. Yet, there’s a video of Escalante, at a birthday celebration, saying of Segall:
“She’s my oldest friend, my most trusted friend”(with Segall heard saying, “That’s not nice to everyone else”).
Oh, and there’s the matter of the Facebook posting. It shows the feet of someone—who is not identified, and whose gender is not determinable—in “sock shoes.” Segall questioned the appropriateness of such attire in a courtroom. We see nothing “mean spirited” about that.
E HAVE NO DOUBT as to which candidate would be more adept at running a courtroom. It would be Segall. While Escalante has strong points, succinctness is not among them.
But we do have doubts as to other matters. We lack the power to subpoena, we can’t put candidates under oath.
Segall, who expresses frustration that she is disbelieved in her assertion that she made no report to the CJP, declined an invitation by this newspaper to prove her truthfulness, if she is in fact being truthful, by submitting to a polygraph examination. That refusal is not necessarily indicative of a fear of the outcome, however; a person with integrity might well choose not to dignify assaults on his or her character by agreeing to such a test.
As it stands, we confess an inability to make a recommendation of one candidate over the other.
Copyright 2018, Metropolitan News Company