Tuesday, April 24, 2018
JUDICIAL ELECTIONS: Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 60
Two Male DDAs Compete With Female ‘Attorney at Law’
By ROGER M. GRACE, Editor
Three government lawyers are vying for Office No. 60. Of them, Deputy District Attorney Tony Cho is putting forth the greatest push.
Neither of the other two has a campaign website; Cho has a campaign consultant experienced in judicial elections while the consultant to Deputy Public Defender Holly Hancock has never guided a campaign in that sort of contest; and Cho boasts of access to as much as $500,000 in campaign funds.
Cho and Deputy District Attorney Ben Colella will be listed on the ballot as “Deputy District Attorney, County of Los Angeles.” Hancock has opted not to use her office title—which could deter those concerned about crime from voting for her—and will be described as “Attorney at Law.”
While Cho’s campaign spending could conceivably bring him victory in the primary, Hancock’s gender could be enough of a factor as to put her in a run-off in the Nov. 6 general election.
Prosecutor Would Relish Ceremonial Enrobement By Immigrant Parents
When Joseph and Lucy Cho emigrated to the United States in 1974, virtually penniless, they would little have imagined the prospect that now looms of soon helping a son—one of three children, all lawyers—into a judicial robe at a Los Angeles Superior Court ceremonial investiture.
At the time of their arrival from Korea, son Tony Cho, now a candidate for an open seat in the June primary, had not yet been born. That was to occur in Los Angeles on April 4 of the following year.
Their only child at the time of setting foot here, Andy Cho, was left behind because of their lack of finances, but they were soon able to send for him. He’s now a lawyer for Caltrans; their daughter, Jennifer, the youngest of the children, is a lawyer in New York, no longer practicing.
Candidate Tony Cho, a Los Angeles deputy district attorney, is enthused over the possibility that his parents might be ceremonially enrobing him, saying:
“That would be amazing. That would be an incredible experience.”
He recounts, as to his father’s early activities in the U.S.:
“He worked as a gas station attendant in the mornings, he would go to school, and then work as a janitor at night.”
Cho recalls that his mother would help his father “with his work as a janitor, so he could get home,” have dinner with the family around 8 or 8:30 p.m., then “get some sleep.”
Through hard work, he recounts, his father advanced, launching a real estate company, which was lucrative.
Then, Cho says, his father founded a newspaper known as the “Korean Street Journal,” the only Korean language newspaper outside of Korea and, as such, “the only one that wasn’t under a kind of censorship,” and which provided Korean Americans with “a voice.”
That newspaper was published from 1981-91. It folded, Cho says, at the point it was “not financially viable.”
Joseph Cho, who attained a PhD, served two terms on the Cerritos City Council, including a year as mayor.
Candidate Tony Cho says he hopes that he has acquired his parents’ work ethic.
His office performance evaluations suggest that he has.
A Feb. 15 evaluation for the period from April 2, 2016 to April 1, 2017, prepared by his supervisor in the Elder Abuse Section, Belle M. Chen, says:
“Mr. Cho is one of the most productive and diligent attorneys in the unit. His average monthly caseload is 22-27 cases His caseload covers most courthouses, including Van Nuys, Pasadena, Pomona, Airport, Inglewood, Torrance, Long Beach and the Criminal Justice Center. He never turns down any assignment and always accepts additional work with a positive attitude.”
“Because his cases are in so many different courthouses, he often works after hours and on weekends to prepare his cases. Despite his many long hours, Mr. Cho never complains and is always willing to help the other attorneys. Mr. Cho has often volunteered to work on weekends for community outreach events that I cannot handle. He enjoys communicating with the public about elder abuse prevention, especially about scams.”
“Mr. Cho is consistently pleasant and professional to everyone with whom he interacts. He gets along well with all his co-workers and regularly offers to help them with any work related issues. He is well-respected and sought after by law enforcement officers and other professionals in the elder abuse field for his experience and skill in prosecuting all types of elder abuse cases.”
The supervising attorney states this assessment:
“The variety and complexity of Mr. Cho’s cases is a testament to his hard work and motivation. Mr. Cho is a valuable resource and asset to the Elder Abuse Section and the District Attorney’s Office.
His overall rating for the period was “Exceeded Expectations (Very Good),” as it was for the two previous periods.
Nearly 70 Trials
Cho, who is unmarried, received his law degree from George Washington University School of Law in the District of Columbia. Admitted to practice in California on Dec. 4, 2001, he joined the District Attorney’s Office in 2005 and says he has been the prosecutor in nearly 70 jury trials.
For the past eight years, he has served in the California State Military Reserve as a staff judge advocate at the Office of the Judge Advocate General, holding the rank of captain.
Cho is on the executive committee of the newly formed California Lawyers Association’s Criminal Law Section and is a member of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, the American Inns of Court Los Angeles Chapter, the Korean Bar Association, the National Pacific Islanders Prosecutors Association, and the Korean Prosecutors Association.
He is endorsed by 50 Los Angeles Superior Court judges—including Assistant Presiding Judge Kevin Brazile and former California Judges Association President Judge Eric Taylor—and one court commissioner, as well as by the former head of the office he works for, Steve Cooley, and by the Los Angeles County Democratic Party and seven Democratic clubs.
He is represented by political consultant David Gould and says he is prepared to spend as much as $500,000 on his campaign, drawing on family resources.
Consistent Picture Is Painted Of DDA: Nice Guy but Quirky and Indolent
Deputy District Attorney Ben Colella is running for a judgeship—which some who know him say astounds them. Persons who work with him presently, or have worked with him in the past, or are in the same building, agree that he’s not fit for the post he seeks.
He’s described by lawyers who have had contact with him as pleasant, but lazy and inept.
Colella—who has no campaign website—is described by one prosecutor as a “bottom-of-the barrel DA.” The person adds:
“I would never ask him for advice. I would never ask him to fill in for me.”
The candidate is stationed at the Eastlake Juvenile Court facility. He handles progress reports relating to minors who have had drug problems and does not try cases.
“He’s in the place where he does the least amount of harm,” the observer remarks.
Colella, the person alleges, does not take an interest in his cases, spends little time actually working, and is there “just collecting a paycheck.”
The detractor describes the would-be judge as a “hot mess,” adding:
“He acts like a side character in a sitcom, like the goofy neighbor.”
Worst Judicial Candidate
Another person says:
“I’ve never seen a more unqualified judicial candidate,” continuing:
“I can’t see him being reasonable. I can’t see him weighing the facts.”
In his post at Eastlake, “he is not really expected to make any decisions on any cases because he can’t be trusted,” the person reports.
Describing him, the individual says:
“Frumpy, going bald, heavy set. Imagine the loudest New Yorker you’ve ever met.
“Put him in a purple jacket that doesn’t really fit very well, no tie, dockers, pastel green shirt.”
Spotting Colella in court one day, the person recounts, the thought occurred:
“Where’s Batman? I didn’t know the Joker was coming today.”
The lawyer terms Colella “a pretty gregarious guy.”
Yet another person who knows Colella calls him “a very friendly person” but comments:
“I don’t believe he would be very qualified to be on the bench,” explaining:
“He doesn’t have good decision-making skills. He doesn’t have the ability to think through problems.”
This observer, too, says Colella “sometimes wears sneakers to court” and “mis-matched suits.”
Another individual terms Colella “a quirky guy,” but “a nice guy,” adding:
“He doesn’t strike me as someone who’s fair-minded.”
A former co-worker relates this impression:
“He’s not a man who’s fond of hard work. You probably would not find anyone in the office as lazy as Ben.”
Lacks ‘Work Ethic’
One critic says in an email:
“I worked directly with Ben. He was a filing DDA in Metro Court for years where the rumor was that he was basically warehoused. He was a very pleasant and friendly person, however he lacked work ethic. It simply was not in his vocabulary. He spent the entire day on the phone and internet researching flights and travel. He spent more time in the air than at work. He was on the phone all day long filing complaints with hotels and airlines in an attempt to get freebies and vouchers. Frankly I have no idea why the office tolerated it. Recently when my colleagues heard that he was running for Judge, we were shocked. If he can arrange flights from the bench, then the job will work out for him. He is a very nice person, however his priorities are not in the office during work hours.”
Colella—whose first name is Benedetto—was admitted to the State Bar in 1989. He has a law degree from Whittier College of law.
He is 59 and single. The candidate has no campaign website.
Colella did not respond to a request for his resume, or a photo of himself, or to set up an interview.
And he did not accede to the request for a copy of his last three annual performance evaluations.
HOLLY L. HANCOCK
Candidate Recalls a Time When She Would Not Have Wanted a Judgeship
There was a time, Los Angeles Deputy Public Defender Holly L. Hancock says, when she thought she would never want to become a judge. “The fun is going to trial” as an advocate, she explains.
Her view changed recently when she got a promotion to Grade III, a boost in pay—and a consequent reassignment from felonies to misdemeanors, which she had handled when she started in the office 12 years ago. A new policy, she notes, calls for those who climb in status to make way, for a time, for newer deputies to get experience handling felonies.
“Once I got to misdemeanors,” Hancock says, she could see that judges handling those cases “have an impact.”
The candidate says, “I think that’s what encouraged me” to run for a judgeship. She elaborates:
“I’m going to be starting, for sure, in misdemeanor court [if elected], and I might be in misdemeanor court for awhile—and this is where you can have an impact on the day-to-day people, working people, every day.”
Hancock observes that the judges she’s seen presiding over those courts “were hands-on”—“much more” so, she says, than judges in felony courts.
In pursuing her goal—in essence, to play the role of what was, prior to trial court unification in 2000, that of a municipal court judge—she has retained the services of a political consultant, Steven Randle. She acknowledges he has never handled a judicial campaign but notes that he has guided candidates in local races.
Hancock relates that she is “not a wealthy person,” but is willing to devote “thousands” of dollars to her campaign.
She says she will expend funds to “get on some slates” but will, primarily, focus on an effort to “get out and engage in getting to know the community and let people know what I’m about.”
Hancock, 57, has no campaign website. She does, however, have a Facebook campaign page but lists no endorsements on it.
Born in Chicago on Nov. 26, 1960, she earned a bachelor’s degree in rhetoric from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana; came to California with her then-husband; gave birth to a daughter in 2000 and later to a son; went to work as a stewardess for United Airlines in March 1996; received a law degree from Southwestern in May 2004 under an accelerated two-year program; filed for dissolution of marriage in 2004, dropped the action that year, but filed for divorce anew in September, 2005 and obtained it; was admitted to practice in December 2005; left her airline job in March 2006; and became a deputy public defender in April 2006.
She has resided in Denver, New York, and London.
While working for United Airlines, Hancock became active in a union, the Association of Flight Attendants. She served as local grievance chairperson “for quite a while,” she recites, saying that the experience “kind of led me into law.”
She is a member of the Black Public Defenders’ Association and is a former member of the Black Women Lawyers. Hancock says she is involved, with her daughter, in Jack and Jill of America, which describes itself on its website as “a membership organization of mothers with children ages 2-19, dedicated to nurturing future African American leaders by strengthening children through leadership development, volunteer service, philanthropic giving and civic duty.”
Copyright 2018, Metropolitan News Company