Friday, December 7, 2001
C. Robert Simpson
Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 90
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge C. Robert Simpson is the sort of judge who would seem to be the least apt to draw an election challenge.
Simpson has been at his post for 13 years. In looking into the matter of what sort of judge he is, we find a plethora of positives, and can discern no negatives. This is a diligent judge who knows the law, applies it faithfully, and is capable of incisive reasoning.
Patient, courteous, and pleasant, he possesses exemplary judicial demeanor, rendering his courtroom one in which lawyers desire to practice. In 1993, the Southeast Bar Association named Simpson “Judge of the Year.” It is our understanding that Simpson, who sits in Norwalk, will have solid support from the lawyers in that vicinage.
Simpson has presided over a predominantly civil calendar during the past seven years. One of his colleagues in the Norwalk Courthouse notes, however, that Simpson is “fully functional” as a judge, able to handle both civil and criminal cases. Although he is not known as a light sentencer, Simpson is far from a puppet of the prosecution. Respected by lawyers on all sides, Simpson has, in his 13 years on the bench, drawn only about half a dozen challenges under Code of Civil Procedure §170.6, and no challenges for cause under §170.3.
His background is solid. Simpson has been an attorney with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, house counsel for Southern California Edison, state labor commissioner, and chief deputy director of the California Department of Industrial Relations. He earned his law degree at Cornell.
How is it possible that an uncontroversial judge who excels at his job would be challenged in the March 5 primary election? You would have to ask Kenneth E. Wright, an obscure Glendale lawyer who for some reason or other has filed against Simpson. We have no idea what the reason is. Efforts by this newspaper to reach Wright for comment have been unsuccessful.
Although the election is still in a preliminary cycle—the period for filing nominating papers ends today—we have no difficulty in determining at this early juncture which candidate warrants an endorsement.
We have interviewed the judge, reviewed the published appellate decisions passing on his judgments, read a published opinion he penned as a pro tem on this district’s Court of Appeal, and considered the perception of him by lawyers who have appeared in his courtroom. There can be no doubt that Simpson is exceptionally well suited for judicial service and has, by virtue of his admirable performance, earned reelection.
There is no need to consider the aptitude vel non of Wright for judicial service. We would reach that issue only if we detected faultiness in the performance of Simpson, and most certainly do not.
Even assuming that Wright has the wherewithal to be a judge (a proposition that is doubtful, but assumed for sake of argument), we would fault his candidacy. It strikes us as callous and unconscionable for any attorney to mount a challenge to a jurist of Simpson’s caliber. Yes, Wright has the right to do so; that’s undeniable. Any lawyer who has had a bar card for 10 years has a right under the state Constitution to run for any Superior Court seat that’s up for election. But there are instances where the exercise of a right is, in an ethical context, unpardonable. Based on Wright entering the race, whether on a whim or for whatever reason, Simpson has been forced to marshal financial resources—that is, monies earned by him through his labors—to defend his judgeship. Politically inastute, he has seen the need to hire the top campaign consulting firm, Cerrell Associates, Inc. The price tag is $25,000. He will have other expenses. While contributions will go toward paying back some of the monies the candidate lends his campaign, the norm in judicial campaigns is that the candidate is not paid back anywhere near all of the funds advanced. Here is a judge who has done an exemplary job, and yet, to hold onto that job, must engage in a fight, costing him (and his wife) money and loss of sleep.
We wholeheartedly endorse C. Robert Simpson for reelection as a judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company