Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Tuesday, March 27, 2018


Page 8


Judicial Elections: Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 71

Long-Time Prosecutor Vies With Court Commissioner


Candidates for four of the 10 open Los Angeles Superior Court open seats in the June 5 election have no concerns over how to divide their campaign budgets between the primary and the general election because there are only two persons running. This is such a seat.

Deputy District Attorney David Berger, who lost in a run-off two years ago, is pitted against a former criminal defense lawyer, Danielle R. A. Gibbons, appointed eight months ago as a Los Angeles Superior Court commissioner.

Two years ago, it was observed in an introduction to profiles that Berger’s opponent had an “edge” based on the access to slate mailers that he lacked. This time, it is Berger who has that edge.


Long-Time Prosecutor Claims Advantages Over Sole Opponent in Race

This time, Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney David A. Berger predicts, he’ll achieve what he didn’t two years ago: win election to the Los Angeles Superior Court.

He entered a 2016 race in which there were five candidates in the primary election, got into a run-off with then-Deputy Attorney General Kim Nguyen, and lost by about three percent of the vote.

But in that race, he reflects, he faced obstacles that are not present this year.

It was a presidential year and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, was aspiring to become the first female chief executive. Women voters came out en masse, Berger says, to the incidental benefit of Nguyen.

Too, Nguyen’s husband is a partner in a major political consulting firm, SGA Campaigns, resulting in companies that put out slate mailers—generally considered to be a major factor in influencing voters—opting to sell space to a repeat customer rather than Berger, although he did have the services of consultant David Gould.

This year, the candidate notes, he has two campaign consultants: Fred Huebscher—who himself produces slate mailers, bills himself as “Dr. Slate,” and has access to other slates—and Gould.

Berger mentions on his campaign website:

“My 2016 campaign seems like a distant memory now….With that in mind I believe 2018 is my year to fulfill my dream and continue my career in public service in the best way possible; as judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court.”

Judicial Qualities

Berger has served as a deputy district attorney for 22 years. His experience, he says, gives him the edge over his campaign opponent, Danielle R. A. Gibbons, despite her position as a Los Angeles Superior Court commissioner.

 “I’ve watched what judges do and how they do it,” he remarks. “I’ve been in the unique experience of being in the position to watch maybe 100 or so different judges.

“Hopefully I’ve learned a lot from them and most judges seem to enjoy my appearance in their courts they appreciate how I conduct myself.”




He says that his 20-plus years of work as a deputy district attorney preponderates over Gibbons’s experience as a court commissioner. Prior to being elected a court commissioner, Gibbons was a criminal defense attorney.

“If one is going to make an assessment of how a person performs in a particular area,” the candidate reasons, “then one would pay attention to who has the longer term of experience.”

Berger also says he expects his ballot designation of “Deputy District Attorney, County of Los Angeles” to trump that of commissioner, observing that the average person does not know what a commissioner is.

“It doesn’t sound like someone who is a judge,” he comments. “It sounds like some sort of lower position.”

The prosecutor adds:

“Just on ballot designation alone, I think I’m on good standing.”

Prior Candidacy

In 2008, Berger pursued a different office, that of the Los Angeles city attorney. He was unsuccessful.

After finishing fourth in the March 3, 2009 primary, behind campaign frontrunner Jack Weiss and eventual winner Carmen Trutanich, he opted to back Trutanich in the May 19 run-off against Weiss. Berger joined the newly elected city attorney on his transition team, and was named by Trutanich when he took office July 1 as a special assistant.

However, after nine months there, Berger left the office abruptly, returning to the District Attorney’s Office. Publicly, Berger said that Trutanich asked him to do something unethical, and instead, opted to resign.

On a blog that has not been updated since 2012, “David Berger on Los Angeles,” he alluded to a “culture of corruption” surrounding Trutanich. He continued to criticize his former boss on his later and popular “Los Angeles Dragnet” blog, dormant since Feb. 23 of last year.

He spotlighted Trutanich’s pledge that, if elected, he would not run for a different office during his four-year term, or if reelected, during the next four-year term—which was breached when Trutanich ran for district attorney in 2012.

Berger’s pastime as a blogger drew some detractors.

At one point, two look-a-like websites, “”, which some might have assumed to be a campaign website address for Berger, and DragnetLA, a play on Berger’s Los Angeles Dragnet blog, sprang up with disparaging remarks about the deputy district attorney.

Controversy generated by the blogging resulted in a “not qualified” rating from a Los Angeles County Bar Association committee. Berger was nonetheless endorsed by the Los Angeles Times (as well as by the MetNews).

Candidate’s Background

Berger, 61, was born in London. His accent is unmistakably English, and his genteel manners and the unhurried pace of his speech reflect the situs of his upbringing.

He did, however, often visited the U.S. in his youth. His mother was an American citizen.

Emigrating here in 1989 after two years of study at the University of London, he returned to the U.K. in 1990 following his father’s death to wrap up affairs of the family’s London-based business, and resumed his studies there.

Back in the U.S., he earned his law degree at Loyola in 1997, and later that year joined the District Attorney’s Office, first as a volunteer certified law clerk and then as a salaried law clerk. In December 1997, he was admitted to the State Bar and, in 1998, was hired as a deputy district attorney.

Performance Evaluations

In his latest office performance evaluation for the period from Oct. 1, 2016 to Sept. 30, 2017, the deputy—who handles complex cases at the Airport Court—was given the rating of “Exceeded Expectations (Very Good).”

The deputy in charge at that branch, Linda Loftfield, says in the evaluation that Berger “has been and continues to be an invaluable member” of the victim impact program.

She notes:

“Mr. Berger sets a high standard for productivity. He maintains his own case-tracking system that ensures that he is always on top of his assigned cases in terms of court appearances, follow-up investigation, and discovery. Beyond that, he regularly volunteers to handle enquiries from law enforcement agencies regarding pending cases and investigations, and he encourages those law agencies to contact him after hours or over the weekend regarding imminent in-custody filings. In that way he is able to prepare cases for filing in advance, thereby avoiding delays and ensuring accuracy.”

Productive, Available

Loftfield adds:

“Mr. Berger sets a high standard for productivity. He maintains his own case-tracking system that ensures that he is always on top of his assigned cases in terms of court appearances, follow-up investigation, and discovery. Beyond that, he regularly volunteers to handle enquiries from law enforcement agencies regarding pending cases and investigations, and he encourages those law agencies to contact him after hours or over the weekend regarding imminent in-custody filings. In that way he is able to prepare cases for filing in advance, thereby avoiding delays and ensuring accuracy.”

The deputy in charge tells of a recent case—won by the prosecution—in which Berger “masterfully used video, audio and photographic evidence throughout the trial, creating several PowerPoint presentations to seamlessly draw together all the evidence In one such presentation,” undermining defense contentions.

The 2014-15 evaluation by Richard Doyle terms Berger “an exceedingly bright lawyer” who is “very professional” and “always ethical.”

 He notes:

“…Mr. Berger has become the resident expert on issues of sanity, malingering, competence, and mental health experts. He is regularly consulted by junior and senior deputies on these issues.”



Subordinate Judicial Officer Says She’s Ready to Become A Full-Fledged Judge

Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Danielle R. A. Gibbons wants to move up to the post of a judge—a job that, she says, she’s pretty much already doing.

She has been a commissioner for a bit over eight months, having been sworn in as a commissioner in July of last year after an evaluating panel ranked her 15th out of 400 candidates.

Stationed in Norwalk, presiding over a family law calendar, she says the fact that she underwent such a demanding vetting processes should cause voters to lean in her direction when they cast their ballots on June 5.

“They vetted me to make sure that I had the judicial temperament, and to see if I could handle pressure situations through hypotheticals,” she recounts.

Prior to serving on the bench, she was in private practice as a criminal defense attorney. She says she represented well over 1,000 defendants in juvenile and adult cases with charges ranging from traffic infractions to homicides.

 Family’s Law Firm

  She was a partner in her family’s law firm, Gibbons, Gibbons and Gibbons (now Gibbons and Gibbons), along with her father, Joseph Thomas Gibbons Jr., and her brother, Marc Gibbons.

The brother ran for the Los Angeles Superior Court in 2014, but was defeated in a two-person primary election, receiving 25.7 percent of the vote. He lost to then-Deputy District Attorney Donna Hollingsworth Armstrong.




Danielle Gibbons relates that she was also contemplating running for a judgeship that year, but thought that the law office would suffer with both of them out campaigning.

Her brother’s weak showing at the polls, Gibbons remarks, probably resulted from Armstrong’s superior ballot designation. She was billed as a “Gang Homicide Prosecutor” while he was identified as a “Criminal Defense Attorney.”

“I think we understand that running as a trial attorney was a very weak ballot designation,” she says. “There wasn’t a whole lot he could do about that.”

New Legislation

Under legislation effective Jan. 1, the rules for ballot designations have been altered. If they had been in effect in 2014, Armstrong would have been labeled a “Deputy District Attorney, County of Los Angeles” and Marc Gibbons would have been billed as “Attorney,” “Attorney at Law,” “Lawyer,” or “Counselor at Law.”

However, the commissioner expresses doubt as to whether the legislation will be helpful to voters.

In her case, she will be identified by her “actual job title”: “Superior Court Commissioner, County of Los Angeles.” Under prior law, her ballot designation would have been no more than three words and could not have contained the word “Judge” or “Judicial.”

The average voter, Gibbons says, does not know what a “commissioner” does (and on her Facebook campaign page provides a section spelling out what the duties are). She comments:

“I think there is going to be a lot of confusion in this election about ballot designations—not just with a ‘Superior Court Commissioner.’ I think with the new rules, it will be an interesting election.”

She continues:

“I just don’t think many people know what candidates’ official job titles are, so I don’t know if this solves the problem of before of one side having as you would say, very descriptive descriptions of what they do compared to their job titles.”

Campaign Consultant

Gibbons, 43, has retained as her campaign consultant Amanda Stayton—who has handled state and local elections, but never a judicial campaign.

The candidate says she’s not sure how much she is willing to spend on the election, but says it will be in excess of $100,000.

On her campaign Facebook page, she lists 70 endorsements from members of the judiciary. Among them are the Los Angeles Superior Court’s presiding judge, Daniel Buckley, and assistant presiding judge, Kevin Brazile.

Buckley says Gibbons has demonstrated a “fantastic work ethic” and would be a “superb” judge.

She learned how to preside over court matters “extra fast and very well,” he says, crediting her with a “very good demeanor.”

Gibbons has not been a commissioner long enough to have received an annual performance evaluation.

Autism Program

As the aunt of an autistic child, she says that she would like to spearhead a program that would help provide training for court officials to properly recognize persons in the courtroom with that affliction.

“If they are treated abruptly by any staff due to making noise, or stimming [repetitive behavior linked to autism], it can really aggravate a courtroom instead of controlling it.” Gibbons notes. “So I would really like to teach how to recognize and how to treat them with dignity.”

Gibbons is an avid traveler.

“I try to see as much of the world as I can,” she says. “It helps with your self-awareness and worldly awareness.”

She belongs to the South East District Bar Association, the California Judges Association, the California Commissioners Association.

Her law degree is from the McGeorge School of Law at the University of Pacific in Sacramento. She was admitted to the State Bar in 2001.



The day after this profile appeared, the supervising judge in Norwalk, Margaret Bernal, provided Gibbons with an evaluation of her work last year as a bench officer.

She says that Gibbons is “a quick study and is doing well” in her assignment, is “respectful and handles each matter with appropriate consideration,” has “has the perfect demeanor for her position,” being “calm, and respectful to all litigants and attorneys,” is punctual, and “is very efficient getting through her busy calendar with time enough to do all the” temporary restraining orders.

Bernal, who has endorsed Gibbons, comments:

“I am so happy to have Commissioner Gibbons as part of our team. She has been a great asset and is a joy to have.”


Copyright 2018, Metropolitan News Company