Thursday, February 14, 2002
LACBA Rates Court Candidates Stucker, Warden ‘Not Qualified’
By ROBERT GREENE, Staff Writer
The Los Angeles County Bar Association released its final judicial candidate evaluations yesterday, deeming attorneys Thomas Warden and Ross A. Stucker “not qualified” to be judges.
Nine candidates were rated “well qualified’ and 10 candidates “qualified” in the seven contests that will appear on the March 5 ballot.
Stucker, a Newhall attorney and former temporary judicial officer of the Newhall Municipal Court, is challenging Judge Floyd Baxter. LACBA’s evaluating panel said he lacks “the depth of professional experience indicative of fitness or superior fitness to perform the judicial function with a high degree of skill and effectiveness.”
Warden, an Encino civil attorney facing two opponents for an open seat, was given the lowest possible rating because “there are questions pertaining to his integrity and character, and he does not possess the depth and breadth of professional experience” that would make him a good judge, the panel said.
Stucker previously told the MetNews he had not checked his mail and didn’t know his rating. Warden did not return phone calls yesterday and has not returned calls since reporting two weeks ago that he had not received his tentative evaluation.
The association’s ratings of the 21 candidates seeking seven seats are as follows:
•Office No. 2, eldercare attorney Joseph Deering and prosecutor Hank Goldberg drew “well qualified” ratings against Administrative Law Judge Donald Renetzky’s final “qualified” rating. The contest is for an open seat vacated by retired Judge Michael Pirosh.
•Office No. 39, law school dean Larry H. Layton was rated “qualified” and prosecutors Craig Renetzky—Donald Renetzky’s son—and Richard Naranjo were rated qualified. The seat is being vacated by Judge Richard Spann.
•Office No. 40, Stucker was rated “not qualified” and Baxter “well qualified.”
•Office No. 53, West Covina lawyer H. Don Christian and Deputy District Attorney Lauren Weis were ranked “well qualified;” Mid-Wilshire attorney Robert Harrison and former court Commissioner Richard A. Espinoza were found “qualified.” The seat is being vacated by Judge Michael Kanner.
•Office No. 67, State Bar Court Judge Paul A. Bacigalupo and Superior Court Commissioner Steven Lubell each were rated “well qualified,” and prosecutor David Gelfound and San Fernando Valley attorney David Crawford were labeled “qualified.” The seat was that of Judge David Finkel, who recently retired.
•Office No. 90, in which Glendale lawyer Kenneth Wright is challenging Judge C. Robert Simpson Jr. Simpson was rated “well qualified” to Wright’s “qualified.”
•Office No. 100, Deputy District Attorney Richard F. Walmark was rated “well qualified,” Warden was declared “not qualified,” and Administrative Law Judge John Gutierrez was deemed “qualified.”
In its report presented to LACBA trustees last night, the association said it had considered appeals by nine candidates of their initial ratings. It did not identify them, but the MetNews has previously reported that four candidates—Craig Renetzky, Donald Renetzky, Naranjo, and Gelfound—were unsuccessful in their quests to have their ratings raised from “qualified” to “well qualified,” while Weis succeeded in having her tentative “qualified” rating upgraded to “well qualified.”
Los Angeles County Bar Association judicial candidate ratings in the past have been seen to carry clout with voters and newspaper editorial boards. A subpanel evaluates each candidate, and recommends ratings of “well qualified,” “qualified” or “not qualified.”
The full panel then votes on the ratings, but an initial rating of “qualified” or “not qualified” is considered tentative and may be appealed to the full committee.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company