Thursday, November 15, 2001
Late Judicial Entrants Say Campaigns Are in Motion
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The two candidates who entered the race for open seats on the Los Angeles Superior Court on the last day of filing said yesterday they were talking to campaign professionals and putting their bids in motion.
Covina sole practitioner H. Don Christian and Superior Court Commissioner Steven K. Lubell, who sits in Glendale, said they were undaunted by the crowded fields in the races they entered on Tuesday.
Christian is one of six candidates seeking the seat being vacated by Judge Michael Kanner. His opponents are Deputy District Attorney Lauren Weis Birnstein, former Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Richard Espinoza, mid-Wilshire civil practitioner Robert S. Harrison, State Bar Court Judge Michael D. Marcus, and Encino attorney Thomas H. Warden. [See page 3 for complete list of the county’s judicial candidates.]
Christian acknowledged that with that many candidates, a runoff—and the expense that goes with it—was likely. The size of his campaign budget, he said, was “being debated at this time.”
He added that he was “starting [to meet] with the people who encouraged me to do this.”
Christian has been in practice in Monterey Park, West Covina, and Covina for 30 years. Sources said he is well-regarded in the San Gabriel Valley and would probably be able to raise money from lawyers there.
The candidate said he would match his experience against that of his opponents. He said he had “practiced in almost every field” of law, including family law, criminal defense, probate, and general civil work.
While he currently works alone, Christian noted, he has practiced over the years with a number of lawyers, three of whom—including current Superior Court Judge Dan Oki—have gone on to the bench.
One of his opponents, Warden, was a late entrant into the contest for the Kanner seat. He originally filed a declaration of intent to run for the seat of Judge Reginald Dunn, who waited until the last possible day to file for reelection.
Warden yesterday reiterated what he had previously told the MetNews, that he will not run against Dunn under any circumstances. But if the incumbent doesn’t return nomination papers by the Dec. 7 deadline, Warden said, he will consider returning his own papers for Dunn’s seat, rather than Kanner’s.
A judicial candidate may file declarations of intent to run for any number of seats. But he or she may only file nomination documents for one seat, and there is no way to change races once those documents are filed.
Warden—who does family law and general civil work, and is a former deputy county counsel—said he has been planning to run for the bench for about 20 years. His mentor in that regard, he said, was his father-in-law, the late Superior Court Judge Alfred Paonessa.
Lubell is making his second bid for election. In 1994—he was a sole practitioner at the time—he lost a Glendale Municipal Court race to James Simpson. He was subsequently appointed a commissioner of that court, of which Simpson was presiding judge at the time.
This time, he is running countywide for the seat being vacated by Judge David Finkel. Also in the race are Deputy District Attorney David Gelfound, Pasadena civil litigator David Crawford III, and State Bar Court Judge Paul Bacigalupo.
“It was a very different election the first time,” he commented yesterday. “I was relatively unknown, but I enjoyed the whole process.”
Lubell, who said he would announce his consultant in the next week or two, commented that he probably would not have been appointed a commissioner if he hadn’t run the last time. While he intends “to do what I can to be competitive” in the election, he said, he is also hopeful that he will be appointed to a vacancy if he doesn’t win.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company