Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 90
ELISSA LYONS IS SOMEONE who puts forth extra effort in carrying out her duties as a deputy district attorney. One of her recent annual office performance evaluations describes her as “the consummate professional” who “does not shy away from a challenge.” She excels at what she does and gives every indication of having the capacity to serve admirably as a judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court.
Lyons is, however, not the only contestant for Office No. 90 who has demonstrated such potential. Another member of her office also draws high marks as prosecutor. And a deputy public defender is a lawyer who—well, we’ve heard nothing negative about him and he could probably do the job.
There’s also a private practitioner who’s running for the seat, who has run before, and is likeable, but is not, in our view, someone who belongs on the bench.
As to Lyons:
She is experienced, having been in the office for nearly 16 years. While she has handled no murder cases, she has tried 85 cases to verdict including prosecutions for attempted murder, child sexual abuse, rape and other sexual assaults, child pornography, kidnapping, and gang related violent crimes. Currently stationed in the Compton Courthouse, she is the deputy-in-charge of the Juvenile Division in the South Central District.
Her latest performance evaluation, for the period ending June 11, 2021, places her in the category of having “Exceeded Expectations (Very Good).” As of that time, she had not yet received her present supervisorial assignment and was in the Complex Litigation Division.
The rater commented:
“Ms. Lyons currently has the highest caseload in the Division and carries it without complaint. She does not seek the limelight, but has been assigned a number of very complex and challenging cases. She is a skilled, hardworking and dedicated advocate. She has excellent analytical skills and does not hesitate to seek guidance when needed. She has a way with words and is an excellent communicator and mentor.”
She is credited with possessing an “excellent work ethic” and being “tireless in her preparation of cases” and “very meticulous.”
Lyons is said to have “established herself as one of the go-to attorneys for any case, no matter how challenging.”
The performance evaluation for the previous year also hails her as having “Exceeded Expectations.” The rater said:
“Ms. Lyons is a skilled litigator and a valued member of the Sex Crimes Division. She has a keen legal mind and excellent analytical skills. She handles her cases with the utmost professionalism and is unflappable even when confronted by an unreasonable party or demand. It is well-known that if a case, on its face, looks un-fileable Ms. Lyons will dig deeper and if there are strengths that were overlooked, she will uncover them. She will likewise stand firm if a matter needs to be dismissed or charges reduced knowing that her analysis and judgment can always be relied upon, she was selected to review a potentially hi[gh]-profile case that involved a suspect that was also being investigated for stalking the Mayor of Los Angeles.”
And the year before that, she also was found to have “Exceeded Expectations” and also garnered high praise.
A judge comments:
“I have reviewed Melissa Lyons written work and find her to be an exceptional writer.”
The jurist adds:
“She is a Grade IV in the DA’s Office and she is the real deal when it comes to community outreach. Last year, Ms. Lyons was awarded the 21st Annual Michael P. Noyes Humanitarian Award from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. The award recognizes employees who perform charitable and humanitarian work in the community and donate significant personal time, physical, financial or emotional support to help others. She was selected for this award based on her work as a coach for Loyola Law School’s trial advocacy team, as a mentor to college and law school students, as well as for her prior work doing free classes with the Summer Night Lights Program sponsored by the Los Angeles City’s Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development….”
Another judge terms her “hard working, a nice person and a good lawyer.”
A colleague says of her:
“She has been in the District Attorney’s office for many years, during which she has consistently handled high stress trial assignments. Throughout the years, she has always appeared to me to be extremely professional, polished and friendly, always with a smile on her face. She gets along well with her colleagues and seems to have a very even-keeled disposition and temperament, which is a great quality for a judicial officer.”
ESLIE GUITERREZ, TOO, IS a deputy district attorney with favorable office performance evaluations, viewed as having “Exceeded Expectations.” The reports portray her as diligent and ethical. She’s lauded—but not to the extent that Lyons is.
For example, this is said of Guiterrez (previously known as Leslie Bouvier):
“Ms. Bouvier is well-liked and respected by her colleagues, law enforcement, the judiciary and the defense bar. She is considerate of others and always treats everyone with Kindness and respect. She is compassionate in dealing with our victims and is able to put them at ease thereby making them more effective in their testimony. Ms. Bovier takes the time to personally inform them as to their case status and address their questions and concerns. She always maintains an attitude that promotes teamwork and cooperation. Ms. Bouvier is a pleasure to supervise.”
We do not doubt her capacity to serve as a Superior Court judge. However, her tenure in the D.A.’s Office—which she joined in 2012—is shorter than Lyon’s, the number of cases she has tried, 37, is fewer, and, what really counts beyond mere numbers, is that she simply does not attract the same level of plaudits as Lyons either within her office or outside of it. We have made inquires about the candidates among a sizeable number of lawyers and judges.
EVIN McGURK is a deputy public defender. One judge says that McGuirk “frequently appeared in my former court (preliminary hearings),” remarking:
“He was a pleasure to work with—strong oral advocacy skills, well-prepared, honest, and is possessed of model judicial temperament.”
He has mildly favorable office evaluations.
From all appearances, he is, at a minimum, “OK.”
ASER “NAS” KHOURY ALSO is running. This private practitioner ran unsuccessfully for an open seat in the 2016 primary. In making our endorsement in the race in which he competed, we commented:
“Khoury—who has a history of a reckless driving conviction, resulting in a private State Bar reproval, tax liens against his law partnership, and going into bankruptcy—does not display the judgment expected of a jurist. While his devotion to his religion is commendable, interjecting religion into a campaign for a secular office is, we would suggest, inappropriate.”
Nothing Khoury has done in the past six years warrants a higher assessment of him now. One Los Angeles Superior Court judge provides this comment:
“I have known Naser for 25 or 30 years, and he has NO business being on the bench. As in, none. He is a nice guy, and everyone agrees on that. But he simply lacks the intellectual abilities and the work ethic to be a judge. He comes across very well in social settings and maybe even in an interview as a smooth guy, but he was terrible as a prosecutor and is a low end criminal defense attorney who maybe handles some immigration cases too, but his is just not an ‘A’ level mind. Or even a ‘B’ or a ‘C.’ What he really wants here is validation—he wants to be admitted into the club, for his ego, or his family reputation, or his reputation in the community, or something. I doubt he really wants to do the job, and he would be an albatross to the court. This is in addition to the issues in his background….Nice guy, but he shouldn’t be a judge. No way, no how.”
Taking all into account, we view as inescapable that Melissa Lyons is the worthiest of the candidates for Los Angeles Office No. 90 and, unhesitatingly, endorse her.
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