Wednesday, December 18, 2019
JUDICIAL ELECTIONS: Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 145
By ROGER M. GRACE, Editor
Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Adan Montalban is competing with criminal defense lawyer Troy Slaten, a partner in the Beverly Hills law firm of Floyd Skeren Manukian Langevin.
Montalban has the election advantages of an Hispanic surname (at one time a drawback) and a ballot designation of “Deputy District Attorney, County of Los Angeles.”
Slaten, billed as an “Attorney/Legal Commentator,” has some name recognition, having been an actor for 20 years, starting at age 5, and appearing as a regular in two television series, as well as providing on-air legal analysis on various networks over the past five years. He also has the benefit of superior campaign finances.
Montalban, 47, received his law degree from Southwestern; Slaten, 44, has a law degree from Pepperdine.
Today: Part One of a profile on Slaten, centering on his being denominated a “former prosecutor.” Next: a look at Montalban, along with Part Two of a rundown on Slaten.
On-Air Descriptions of Lawyer Seen As Glorifying Role Played in Aiding DA’s Office
Aug. 14, 2017. Aaron Keller, an anchor on an online video channel, segues into an interview, saying:
“Troy Slaten is a criminal defense attorney and former prosecutorin California. He’s joining us by Skype right now. Troy, it’s good to see youagain. You’re on the Lawnewz Network.”
As it happens, right after Slaten was admitted to the State Bar of California on May 26, 2006, he went into private practice. It’s true that while studying law at Pepperdine, he had done some volunteer work for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, as a certified law student, but was never hired by that, or any other prosecutorial office.
So, having been introduced erroneously, what does Slaten say to correct Keller? Here are his words:
“Thanks for having me.”
In closing the segment, Keller says:
“Troy Slaten, attorney, Los Angeles, California. Current criminal defense attorney. Former prosecutor. Thanks a lot for joining us again here on the Lawnewz Network.”
Above is a shot of Beverly Hills criminal defense attorney Troy Slaten on Fox News. He’s portrayed as a “Former Prosecutor”—a designation that is disputed in light of Slaten never having been employed by a prosecutorial agency, though he provided assistance to the Los Angeles County Office of District Attorney while a certified law student.
This is not an isolated instance of Slaten being denominated, on the air, a “former prosecutor”; it happens repeatedly. As a matter of practice, he doesn’t contradict that description of him.
April 9, 2015. Slaten is on the Fox News Channel. Under discussion is the prospect of a death sentence for Tamerlan Tsarnaev, a terrorist who planted pressure cooker bombs at the 2013 Boston Marathon, resulting in three deaths and injuries to about 280 others. Anchor Gregg Jarrett says:
“Here now is reaction on the next step: criminal defense attorney Whitney Boan and former prosecutor Troy Slaten.”
The anchor goes on to say: “Troy, let me start with you because you were on the prosecution’s side.”
Slaten makes no protest that he merely aided a prosecutorial agency while in law school, under close supervision.
He presents a case for the death penalty being imposed, proclaiming: “There is a boatload of aggravating factors.”
Superimposed on the screen are the words, “TROY SLATEN | FORMER PROSECUTOR.”
Aug. 1, 2017. CNN anchor Rosemary Church says:
"So let’s talk more now about this with criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor Troy Slaten, who joins me now from Los Angeles. Thanks so much for being with us.”
“Thank you, Rosemary.”
Jan. 1, 2018. Fox News anchor Molly Line provides this lead-in:
“Let’s bring in Troy Slaten, a criminal defense lawyer and former prosecutor who specializes in constitutional law. Troy, happy New Year.”
Again, there is no correction. His words are:
“Happy New Year, Molly.”
Slaten responds to an email from the METNEWS concerning references to him as a “former prosecutor” by providing a reminder that he had discussed his work as a certified law student in an interview with the newspaper, and declaring:
“I was never a deputy district attorney nor have I ever held myself out as a deputy district attorney. I certainly was; however, a certified law clerk / volunteer prosecutor for the LA County District Attorney’s Office.”
“My service as a volunteer prosecutor for the DA’s Office was one of the most valuable experiences of my education and legal career. It was fun, challenging, rewarding, and, at times, heart-breaking and eye-opening. The experience has definitely helped make me into the lawyer I am today and I will be a better Judge because of it as well.”
Impropriety is seen in Slaten permitting himself to be depicted as an ex-prosecutor. The immediate past district attorney of Los Angeles County, Steve Cooley, says:
“If Mr. Slaten was only an unpaid certified law student it would be a complete misnomer for him to characterize himself as a ‘former prosecutor’.”
A former “higher-up” in the D.A.’s office advises:
“A certified law student is only a law student who may have assisted with prosecutions handled by Deputy District Attorneys who are full time career prosecutors. While it is possible for a law student to have presented some simple felony preliminary hearings or tried simple misdemeanors, the work would have been supervised by Deputy District Attorneys.
“The terms ‘dealing with’ and ‘involved with’ do not equate to actually prosecuting cases, especially felonies and complex cases. His ‘involvement’ and ‘dealing’ may be only descriptive of work assisting Deputy District Attorneys and do not make him a ‘prosecutor.’ ”
The person adds:
“A medical student who takes patients’ blood pressures and medical histories as part of clinical training is not a physician.”
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge with particular knowledge in this area says:
“It is my understanding that whenever a Certified Legal Intern (or Law Clerk) appears in court, he or she must be directly supervised at all times by an attorney, since the legal intern/law clerk is not a licensed attorney. So if Mr. Slaten has claimed that he is a ‘former prosecutor’ (or he allows himself to be so designated without correction) based solely upon court activities he performed as a legal intern/law clerk, that undoubtedly would be grossly misleading, and certainly would reflect poorly on his judgment and integrity to be a judge.”
Behavior Is ‘Comical’
Another Los Angeles judge has this to say of Slaten allowing himself to be portrayed as an erstwhile prosecutor:
“I find this type of behavior just comical. How does he think he can get away with this?”
The jurist quotes a 2008 opinion of the Commission on Judicial Performance (“CJP”) as saying:
“ ‘Honesty is the minimum qualification for every judge’....If the essential quality of veracity is lacking, other positive qualities of the person cannot redeem or compensate for the missing fundamental.”
The judge remarks:
“Why would a potential candidate already want a CJP inquiry before he/she is even elected a judge? This just baffles me!”
The jurist adds:
“I find Mr. Slaten’s statements about his position as a ‘prosecutor’ dishonest and violating every fiber of what it means to be a judge.”
Yet another judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court opines:
“Being a law clerk does not make one a prosecutor. While he may think it’s ok to exaggerate his credentials for television viewers, a judicial candidate should not engage in such puffery as it is not becoming of the position Superior Court Judge.”
A fourth member of the county’s trial bench asserts that a lawyer who, as a certified law student, undertook some prosecution work is “[a]bsolutely unequivocally NOT a former prosecutor.”
Prosecutor Utters Criticisms
Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Manuel Alejandro Almada is a candidate for a different Los Angeles Superior Court seat: No. 150. He was a certified law student who worked in the Long Beach Office of City Prosecutor.
He rejects the notion that someone who has served in the role of a certified law student could legitimately claim to have been a prosecutor. Almada says:
“You’re not a prosecutor. I’m sorry. It’s just not true.”
Almada—who performed administrative chores for the Orange County District Attorney’s Office earlier, before he became a “certified” law student, allowed to make court appearances—says of his experience in Long Beach:
“I was in Traffic Court, arguing certain cases….
“I was not a prosecutor. I was helping, I was learning….
“I was trying to put into practice what I was learning in school, in the field.”
“Now, fast forward to what I do now. I’m a prosecutor, and it’s very, very different when you’re in the driver’s seat and when you’re actually directing so many critically important decisions, in so many ways.”
Did Slaten submit to Fox, CNN, and other news outlets that have utilized his services, a CV that states he was employed by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office?
Slaten says in an email:
“My CV was always presented to media outlets in ‘bio’ form.
“Several versions were submitted over the years but they were substantially similar.”
He attaches a resume saying that it “is one I found from February 2015.” This particular one specifies:
“Mr. Slaten clerked for the Los Angeles District Attorney’s (DA’s) office and was involved in a multitude of cases as a volunteer prosecutor.”
Though not mentioning that he was a law student at the time, it discloses that he acted as a “volunteer prosecutor.” However, other Slaten “bios” have appeared on the Internet which do not make that clear, and the bios seem to have emanated from him.
●AVVO.com is a website where lawyers and firms can post their profiles. Recently found there and elsewhere (888duiteam.com) is this:
“Before continuing his career as a criminal defense lawyer, Mr. Slaten work [sic] from [sic] the Los Angeles District Attorney’s (DA’s) office and was involved in a multitude of cases as prosecutor. Dealing with felony cases, including drug, theft, sex, and a multitude of other complex cases, Mr. Slaten is experienced on both sides of the court room. After his time at the DA’s office, Mr. Slaten became a defense attorney and continues to deal with complex criminal cases at our firm.”
●This posting was located on Cacriminalfirm.com:
“After graduation, attorney Slaten took a position with the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office. There he worked as a prosecutor gaining court experience and learning about California criminal justice from the inside.”
●The broad-based legal website Justicia includes lawyer directories. A Google search revealed this entry on Justicia, closely resembling what appeared on AVVO:
“Mr. Slaten worked at the Los Angeles District Attorney’s (DAs) office and was involved in a multitude of cases as a prosecutor. Dealing with misdemeanor and felony cases, including drug, theft, sex, and a multitude of other complex cases, Mr. Slaten is experienced on both sides of the court room.
“After law school graduation and his time at the DAs office, Mr. Slaten became a defense attorney and continues to deal with a vast array of criminal cases at our firm.”
“My firm has used many PR copy writers over the last decade. They obviously could have been more clear and precise. I have taken the opportunity to revise the AVVO and cacrimininalfirm.com sites to more accurately reflect my experience as a volunteer at the DA’s Office.
“As far as Justicia is concerned, we are not sure who put that profile up but have taken steps to re-claim the profile so that we can make sure the publicly facing information is as accurate as possible.”
Does he, then, acknowledge that the copy on the AVVO and the cacrimininalfirm.com sites was generated by his PR copy writers?
After prodding, Slaten says:
“The answer is probably yes. But I have no independent recollection of who wrote those two versions of those two bios.”
Slaten, in the past few days, has caused changes to the AVVO and the cacrimininalfirm.com sites, as well as at least one other—that of Legal Information Institute at Cornell University—to reflect his former status as a “volunteer prosecutor.” The listing of him at Justicia has been removed.
Copyright 2019, Metropolitan News Company