Tuesday, January 28, 2020
Los Angeles Superior Court
Office No. 76
Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey advises that Emily Cole, a deputy in her office who is seeking election to the Los Angeles Superior Court, “is a skilled ethical advocate who brings energy and dedication in handling a voluminous caseload of some of the most serious cases prosecuted by the office including murders, sexual assaults and child abuse cases.”
Cole is credited in office evaluations with being a hard worker who is ethical and a team player.
Her qualifications for a judgeship are perhaps not as impressive as they would be if she had more seasoning as a lawyer—she’s been in practice for 13 years—but that has been true of many young prosecutors elected over the past several years.
Cole’s fitness for a judgeship cannot be doubted.
LSO NOT IN DOUBT IS THE UNSUITABILITY of her opponent. Born Michael Richard Cummins, he obtained a court order in 2017 changing his name to “Judge Mike Cummins.” It could be that he will win, with voters being tricked into thinking that he’s an incumbent of the Los Angeles Superior Court.
The electorate in San Luis Obispo County (where Cummins resides) was not taken in when Cummins ran in 2018 for district attorney, but that’s because it was a high visibility race and there was a general awareness, in light of broad news coverage, that Cummins—who resigned from the Stanislaus Superior Court in 2006—was not presently a judge.
Close attention by voters to Los Angeles Superior Court judicial contests is not to be anticipated.
UMMINS’S FIRST NAME, IT IS TRUE, is “Judge.” Yet, the manifest purpose of the name-change was to fool voters. It is regrettable—actually, disgusting—that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant, ruling on a writ petition, failed to exercise inherent powers to require that Cummins be listed on the ballot as “J. Mike Cummins” or in some other way that would preclude voters from being hoodwinked.
Cole is an attorney with attributes a judge should have. Cummins is a deceiver, unworthy of any position of trust.
Accordingly, we urge strongly the election of Cole.
David A. Berger
Los Angeles Superior Court
Office No. 80
Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney David A. Berger looms as the outstanding contender in this race.
He is highly articulate, skilled at analysis, composed, decisive, and knows what he’s doing.
Another member of his office, Nick C. Rini, is also running. Rini boasts of 35 years as a prosecutor, contrasted with Berger’s 24 years. While the respective length and breadth of candidates’ job experiences is meaningful, the mere fact of seniority of one over the other in a particular office cannot reasonably be construed, as Rini portrays, as establishing superior skills.
Rini, a journeyman prosecutor, possibly could handle the job of a judge. But, his performance would fall short of Berger’s.
HERE ARE MIXED REVIEWS of Rini. He has favorable office evaluations. One judge terms him a “very competent and conscientious lawyer,” while another advises:
“Nick Rini has a difficult personality, to be charitable. He is quick to anger, slow to cool off, and can be vindictive towards criminal defense attorneys. He appears to enjoy controlling others, keeping attorneys unnecessarily waiting for his attention. His advocacy/legal skills are questionable, rarely researching the law, and relying more on bombast and repetition than calm, sound legal reasoning.”
From what we have been able to ascertain, Berger enjoys respect among deputies in the Public Defender’s Office, being seen as fair, courteous, reasonable and ethical, while Rini is viewed as dishonest, unpleasant, lazy, and hot-headed.
LINT JAMES MCKAY IS THE THIRD CONTESTANT. He does have judicial experience—of sorts. McCay is an administrative law judge for the California Department of Social Services. He is a delightful gentleman, and no doubt sincere. But among the three contestants, he’s a distant third.
It is natural that an ALJ in Sacramento, handling Affordable Care Act appeals, would, offhand, lack savvy in election law and not know much about Los Angeles races for Superior Court posts. However, it might well be expected that someone who enters a race for such a post would do some boning up.
McKay’s gaffes in 2018—when, for a brief spell, he ran against a randomly targeted incumbent because he didn’t know there were 10 open seats that year—and his blunders this year, including filing papers for an office for which he was not eligible, demonstrate that he is simply not careful.
So sloppy is he that he even states on his campaign website that he is seeking “appointment,” rather than election to the Superior Court.
If he is not careful in pursuing his own interests, can it be supposed that he would display adequate attentiveness to matters, often of vital consequence to parties, that would come before him if he were a Superior Court judge?
We wholeheartedly endorse Berger.
Scott Andrew Yang
Los Angeles Superior Court
Office No. 162
Scott Yang is the best among those aspiring for election to Office No. 162.
Caree Harper is the worst seeking that or any of the judicial offices on the March 3 ballot.
Yang is a deputy district attorney. One Los Angeles Superior Court judge says Yang is “not ready for the bench,” adding:
“His intelligence is average, he is friendly and nice and liked by opposing counsel and colleagues, but NOT respected as a legal scholar, strong advocate or skilled lawyer.”
Deputy public defenders, we’re advised, do find him friendly and nice—also ethical and respectful—but perceive him as immature.
Yet, he has received favorable office evaluations.
ARPER, A CIVIL RIGHTS LAWYER, is a successful advocate. While suited for that role, she could not function as a neutral arbiter. She is lacking in objectivity, fairness, and judgment. Moreover, we question whether she possesses the emotional stability a jurist must have.
These conclusions are independent of her conduct at a 2015 hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Otis Wright II of the Central District of California at which Harper was adjudicated to be in civil contempt. She was trapped and bullied by a judge who—although concerned, legitimately, that Harper was taking too great a chunk of a $1.5 million settlement in favor of a woman senselessly beaten by a California Highway Patrol officer, without doing any appreciable work on the case—behaved unconscionably. Most egregiously, Wright ordered her jailing for civil contempt—that is, for a supposedly coercive purpose—at a point where she had expressed a willingness to provide the information he sought.
Putting that aside, examining various matters of public record that were detailed in this newspaper’s candidate profiles on Harper, we cannot but conclude that by any objective assessment, she is unfit for judicial office.
N LIGHT OF WHAT IS IN THE PUBLIC RECORD—including the imposition by U.S. District Court Chief Judge Virginia Phillips of the Central District of California of a $3,000 sanction on Harper, in July, based on “willful and reckless” misconduct—we are at a loss to understand why the third candidate in the race, criminal defense attorney David D. Diamond, assails Harper based on rumors.
Certain rumors he offers for public dissemination are consistent with known propensities of his rival, but are unsubstantiated, and we have not related the allegations.
We criticized Diamond when he ran two years ago, principally in connection with the ballot designation he claimed of “Attorney/Police Commissioner.” The last two words related to his part-time, volunteer work as a member of a Burbank advisory body which met for a couple of hours or so once a month. A Superior Court judge, in granting a writ disallowing the designation, held that, even if the time Diamond spent in those meetings were combined with hours spent reading reports and preparing for the meetings, the activity would not constitute a “principal” pursuit, as statutorily required to support such a designation.
Diamond now points to his reliance at the time on advice from two lawyers who handle election law cases. While clients whose positions are found meritless may generally succeed in disavowing personal fault by proclaiming dependence on advice of counsel, that excuse, we submit, is not available to a candidate for a judgeship who, by running for such a position, impliedly represents: “I know—or can readily ascertain—the law.”
IAMOND, WHO NOW TEACHES part-time on legal topics at an undergraduate school as well as continuing his practice, does possess ideal judicial temperament. Prosecutors find him easy to deal with; he’s pleasant and affable.
It is clear that he wants, fervently, to become a judge. Perhaps, at some future time, his fitness for judicial office will not be in doubt.
For now, we can say that if Diamond is in a run-off with Harper, we will endorse him readily.
With respect to choosing sides in connection with the March 3 primary, we recommend the election of Yang.
Copyright 2020, Metropolitan News Company