Wednesday, February 27, 2002
Recommendations in Races for Los Angeles Superior Court Open Seats
Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 2
There are two outstanding candidates for Office No. 2: private practitioner Joseph Deering Jr. and Deputy District Attorney Hank Goldberg.
Deering has been an attorney for nearly 30 years. He has an “AV” rating from Martindale-Hubbell, indicating “very high to preeminent legal ability and very high ethical standards as established by confidential opinions from members of the Bar.” He is one of only two candidates in this year’s judicial elections who has that rating.
The lawyer has served as president of the Santa Monica Bar Assn., as a Los Angeles County Bar Assn. trustee, and as president of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Hastings Alumni Association.
He has handled about 150 trials, approximately 20 of them being jury trials.
Deering also has credentials as an educator, having served as a business law instructor at Loyola Marymount University and assistant professor in business law at Cal State Los Angeles. He presently teaches law courses aimed at seniors at Santa Monica College.
We believe he would be a patient and conscientious judge, able to handle cases involving major litigation.
Goldberg has been an attorney for more than 16 years, working during that time for the Office of District Attorney, except for a brief foray into complex civil litigation during a stint with Pettit & Martin in 1988-89.
He graduated from undergraduate school at UCLA, magna cum laude, in only two years, and was in the top 11 percent of his class at Loyola Law School.
Goldberg, who was a member of the team that prosecuted accused slayer O.J. Simpson, has received consistently glowing evaluations from higher-ups in the District Attorney’s Office. A March 3, 2000 evaluation of Goldberg set forth that he is “recognized office-wide as a legal scholar,” “has consistently shown outstanding legal skills and judgment,” and has an “ability to take on difficult, complex situations.” The report, drafted by then-Head Deputy Richard Burns, added: “Mr. Goldberg blends a scholarly knowledge of the law and a substantial jury trial background with a creative problem-solving approach.”
He is bright, talented, and industrious, presaging an ability to serve in a judicial capacity with distinction.
A third candidate in the race, Workers’ Compensation Administrative Law Judge Donald Renetzky, has up-to-date knowledge only of workers’ compensation law, which would not be of much benefit to him if he were elected to the office he seeks. Renetzky has a marked propensity for rambling. We do not believe he has the capacity to handle a trial court calendar.
We also view with concern Renetzky’s refusal to discuss the extent of the injury he is claiming in a spate of workers’ compensation actions he has filed. In seeking public office, he cannot reasonably withhold information as to the degree of any incapacitation.
As between Deering and Goldberg, the choice is a difficult one. While there are some races with no candidate qualified for a judgeship, there are in this race two highly qualified aspirants.
Our recommendation is Goldberg. In weighing the relative strengths of the two candidates, we believe the scales tilt slightly in his favor. We endorse him.
Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 39
Once upon a time, there were municipal courts. Attorneys who wanted to be judges but were not yet ready for the “big time”—that is, service on the Superior Court—could, if they won favor with the governor or the electorate, get their starts in judicial service at the lower trial court level. Municipal courts were training grounds and audition stages.
The three candidates for Office No. 39—Deputy District Attorneys Richard Naranjo and Craig Renetzky and law professor Larry H. Layton—are persons who, in past years, would not have been out of place in elections for municipal court seats, but would not have been taken seriously as contenders for the upper trial bench.
But, alas, municipal courts are no more.
Naranjo, Renetzky and Layton are qualified for Superior Court service only if it assumed that the victor in the contest would be assigned to those duties previously performed in municipal courts.
Renetzky and Naranjo were both admitted to practice on Dec. 16, 1991, and both have spent their entire legal careers in the District Attorney’s Office.
Layton, who was admitted 16 years earlier, runs a law school with seven students. He seldom appears in court, though he did have a more active practice in his younger days, and frequently served as a judge pro tem. He made five unsuccessful tries for election to the Antelope Municipal Court, including the time he waged a write-in campaign in a race against a sitting judge. Though his current ballot designation is “Law School Professor,” he has in past elections included such descriptions as “evangelist” and “actor.” In his candidate statement two years ago, he listed acting credits, but not achievements in the legal field.
The ebullient Renetzky vows that he would be a conscientious judge. We don’t doubt his sincerity. We do doubt his ability to focus on issues. In responding to questions, he embarks on extraneous discourses. We do not believe he has the present ability to keep a court proceeding on track.
Naranjo declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 1996. He explains that he and his wife incurred debts commensurate with their ability to pay, but that unexpected complications from pregnancy caused his wife to stop working earlier than anticipated, causing their income to plummet.
While none of the three is an ideal candidate, our choice would be Naranjo. We believe that Naranjo, 49, has greater maturity than the 34-year-old Renetzky, and perhaps somewhat better judgment than the 59-year-old Layton. We recommend that he be chosen over his rivals.
Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 53
Head Deputy District Attorney Lauren Weis is our choice.
She is skilled, energetic, and committed to the goal of serving with excellence as a Superior Court judge.
Weis has been with the District Attorney’s Office since 1979, and spent a year before that working for the Office of Attorney General. She is a respected prosecutor, and was named Prosecutor of the Year in 1999 by the Century City Bar Assn. Few prosecutors are rated by Martindale Hubbell; Weis is, and is labelled “AV.”
Attorney Richard Espinoza’s performance as a Los Angeles Superior Court commissioner was so faulty that he was given a golden handshake by the court; he was paid $59,633.99 to just go. While he insists that he is ready for a Superior Court judgeship, we believe voters would be foolhardy to take a chance on him.
Private practitioners Hurschell Don Christian (running as “H. Don Christian”) and Robert Harrison might also have the capacity to do the job, but Weis stands out as the candidate with the most potential. We endorse her for Office No. 53.
Paul A. Bacigalupo
Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 67
There are four candidates for Office No. 67. In our opinion, three of them—State Bar Court Judge Paul A. Bacigalupo, Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Steven Lubell, and Deputy District Attorney David Gelfound—are qualified to serve on the Los Angeles Superior Court.
Attorney David Crawford III is also a candidate.
Lubell’s judicial experience is a meaningful factor. He was hired as a commissioner by the judges of the Glendale Municipal Court, and assumed his duties on Feb. 1, 1999.
However, Bacigalupo also has been adjudicating cases, in his role as State Bar Court judge. Though he has been at his post only since November, 2000, he has demonstrated a judicial knack. Bacigalupo wins particularly high marks in the area of temperament.
Based on his maturity and prowess, we endorse Bacigalupo.
Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 100
The three candidates are private practitioner Thomas H. Warden, Workers’ Compensation Judge John C. Gutierrez, and Deputy District Attorney Richard F. Walmark. We cannot endorse any of them.
Warden was rated “not qualified” by the Los Angeles County Bar Assn., citing his lack of integrity. The County Bar does not substantiate, let alone explain, its bottom-line conclusions, but we have ascertained that Warden provided that organization with duplicitous answers on its questionnaire.
One question was: “Has a tax lien or other collection procedure ever been instituted against you by federal, state or local authorities? If so give particulars, including the nature of the procedure, the identity of the entity instituting it, the ultimate disposition, and the nature of any punishment imposed.”
His response was: “No, except reimbursement of property tax overpayment[.] Repaid principal; interest waived by the County—No punishment[.]”
Public records disclose a 2001 Riverside County tax lien against Warden in the amount of $1,447 and a 1997 Los Angeles County tax lien in the amount of $1,240.
Another question sought a listing of malpractice actions against the candidate. Warden listed four. He omitted one filed Feb. 3, 1999, and settled with a judge’s participation on Aug. 14, 2000.
Under non-malpractice actions, Warden listed the three actions he filed for dissolution of marriage (in 1976, 1982 and 1984) and two actions against him as a registered owner of a car that was in an accident, but he failed to mention a lawsuit against him and his law firm over a lease.
Irresponsibly, he failed to file campaign financial reports.
Gutierrez, like Donald Renetzky, has not kept up on California law outside of the area of workers’ compensation. He protests that this would not impede his performance as a Superior Court judge because he could look up the law as the occasion arose. “I can read the law just as good as anybody else could,” he insists. We do not believe he is qualified for the post he seeks.
Walmark refused to meet with this newspaper’s editorial board. That’s his prerogative, of course. On the other hand, his stand-offishness and skirting of scrutiny give rise to doubts that he would be a judge with a sense of accountability. Inquiries concerning him did not produce such glowing praise as to prompt an endorsement even without having been granted an audience by the candidate.
We have no recommendation for Office No. 100.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company