Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2000
Beverly Hills Municipal Court
Four Battle for Judicial Post, With One Clearly Out Front
By ROGER M. GRACE, Editor
Mitchell Dawson has one big plus going for him in his race for an open seat on the Beverly Hills Municipal Court. He's been running for the post for more than seven months, locking up endorsements and gaining voter attention.
Running hard to catch up are Hugh Bobys, 58, a commissioner of the court, and Deputy District Attorney Richard Stone, 43. Also in the race, but straggling, is private practitioner John Khoury, 55.
Dawson, 52, got in the race last year, expecting to challenge incumbent Judith Stein, who had incurred negative newspaper coverage. As it turned out, Stein, who is experiencing back problems and whose husband is in ill health, decided not to seek re-election.
"In good part," Dawson boasts, "I think I'm the reason she chose not to run."
Campaign consultant Joseph R. Cerrell, whose firm Cerrell Associates Inc. is managing Bobys' campaign, acknowledges:
"Dawson is formidable."
"Dawson is, from my understanding, running full time. He walks the precincts,
"If I have a run-off, I wouldn't be surprised if it would be against him."
The commissioner describes Dawson as one of the "insiders" in Beverly Hills.
"He's got the connections here," Bobys says. "He's on the Planning Commission."
Stone, also, acknowledges Dawson's strengths, conceding that he has "considerable endorsements" and a "substantial amount of support." He says that Dawson "has been in Beverly Hills for a longer time, knows a number of people."
Despite Dawson's acknowledged lead, Bobys and Stone are staging determined campaigns. Whoever wins the race in the Beverly Hills Judicial District will, under trial court unification, acquire a Superior Court judgeship.
While Bobys has Cerrell's firm working for him, Stone has engaged the services of Fred Huebscher. Dawson is represented by Rick Taylor.
As of the campaign reporting period that ended Dec. 31, Bobys and his wife, Carole, collectively, have lent the campaign $103,500. "My wife and I want that job," Bobys says with determination.
Stone, whose statement has not yet been filed, says he has raised "close to $80,000," with $30,000 coming out of his own pocket. He says he intends to raise $150,000.
Dawson has a warchest with nearly $50,000 in it, with $38,500 coming from loans from himself and his wife, Bobbe Joy.
Khoury says he has raised about $50,000, half of which came from his own funds.
Dawson, Stone and Bobys all have candidate statements. Khoury does not.
In their statements, Stone and Bobys both refer to the court they are running for as the "Beverly Hills/West Hollywood Municipal Court." Although the judicial district does encompass the City of West Hollywood, its name, according to Government Code provisions, is the Beverly Hills Municipal Court.
Bobys explains that some voters in West Hollywood do not realize they are in the Beverly Hills Judicial District and might be prone not to vote on the office if they were not caused to identify with it.
Stone, likewise, explains: "I wanted the people in West Hollywood to know that's the court that serves their community."
Dawson says that in campaigning, he also has referred to the "Beverly Hills/West Hollywood Municipal Court," commenting: "West Hollywood has been the stepchild of this courthouse for too long."
Stone and Bobys each communicates in his candidate statement that he's Jewish. Stone mentions membership in the Stephen S. Wise Temple and Bobys tells of being a founding member of the Justice Lodge of B'nai Brith, a member of Hillel, and a supporter of the Jewish National Fund.
As Stone explains it, "A judge brings to the table all of the experiences he's had." Part of his own experience is the teaching of his parents as to the value of public service, he says, adding: "That's part of my faith."
Bobys says he indicated that he's Jewish because "Beverly Hills is a Jewish community." A person's religion, he acknowledges, "has absolutely nothing to do with your ability to be a judge." However, the commissioner continues, the "sad thing about it is: this is a political race." He spells out:
"You want votes, I think you have to appeal to voters....You have to appeal to voters on more than one level."
A candidate's religion "should not be relevant" to voters, he opines, but adds:
"Is it? Probably it is."
Dawson sees it differently. He notes that he's Jewish and says he's "proud of being a Jew," but asserts that it is inappropriate to make religion a campaign issue. He declares:
"Do I think it's an issue? No. Do I think it has anything to do with being a judge? No."
Khoury has not made religion a campaign issue—nor has he made anything else an issue, having mounted no visible campaign. He did, however, claim during an interview that he has the support of the "Catholic Church." The Catholic Church has not previously taken up sides in judicial races. Under questioning, he acknowledged that he was referring to private organizations of Catholics.
Khoury was admitted to practice in July, 1986. He has an undergraduate degree from California State University at Fullerton and a law degree from Southwestern.
The lawyer, who has an office in Westwood, warns that there's "a lot of deception going on" in the race. Under questioning, however, he is able to point to only one instance of possible deception. He says it is his "understanding" that Stone had told someone he had been a lawyer for 20 years. Stone was admitted to practice in 1986.
Khoury says he would "anticipate" that there will be "exaggerations" in the campaign "from Mr. Stone and to a certain extent from Mr. Dawson, but not from Mr. Bobys." He admits, however, he can point to nothing untruthful said by Dawson.
He complains that Stone's parents have been "running around" the judicial district "talking about their son." Stone's father, Khoury notes, is a former mayor of Beverly Hills and, he asserts, the Stone camp is "going to use that to their utmost advantage."
The candidate concedes there is nothing improper about that.
Khoury says he has not applied for an appointment because Gov. Gray Davis is "looking for people with military service," which he lacks. Questioned as to whether it is not community service the governor is looking for, Khoury acknowledges, "I'm confused as to what his requirements are."
The other aspirants for the office do not appear to regard Khoury as a threat. Bobys terms him "an unknown, a total unknown." Stone remarks:
"I've never met him. I haven't met anybody who does know him."
While Bobys and Stone each pegs Dawson as his chief opponent, Dawson says he's unsure whether Bobys or Stone is his strongest rival. Some people "talk about Hugh Bobys being my biggest opponent and some say Rich Stone," he relates.
Stone, he allows, is a "very well respected prosecutor." Bobys, he says, is not "particularly well known," but has Cerrell in his corner, whom Dawson terms a "formidable campaign manager."
Dawson, who has been practicing for 27 years, has an AV rating from Martindale Hubbell. He holds an undergraduate degree from UCLA and a JD from Loyola.
The lawyer, a 21-year resident of Beverly Hills, brags that he is the only candidate in the race who can vote for himself, the others living outside the judicial district. Although the victor will take office as a Superior Court judge, he says the electorate remains the voters in Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, so that residency is "still an issue."
Bobys also seeks to make residency an issue. He derides Stone's candidacy by saying: "He doesn't live in Beverly Hills." However, Bobys doesn't mention that his own residence is in Brentwood, in the Los Angeles Judicial District.
Bobys says of Dawson:
"Mitch Dawson may be a nice guy. I don't think he has the qualifications to be a judge in Beverly Hills or any other court."
He slams Dawson for his ballot designation as "City Commissioner/Attorney." (The Registrar-Recorder's Office initially challenged the designation, but ultimately decided to accept it.) Bobys asserts the designation is "very misleading" because it implies that Dawson is a court commissioner. He adds: "I think it's intended to imply court commissioner."
Bobys also questions the veracity of Dawson's claim in his candidate statement that he "serves as a Judge Pro Tempore of the Los Angeles Municipal Court." He says that someone in Cerrell's office telephoned the Municipal Court for the Los Angeles Judicial District and was told that Dawson is not on the list of pro tems. Dawson responds that while he knows that there are separate judicial districts within the county, he was intending to refer to the districts collectively as the "Los Angeles Municipal Court," intending "Los Angeles" to connote "Los Angeles County." He has done pro tem stints recently in Santa Monica and Huntington Park and, in October or November, attended the recertification program in downtown Los Angeles, Dawson explains, complaining that the Bobys camp is raising a "hair splitting issue."
Bobys has the longest tenure in law of the four candidates. He was admitted to practice in December, 1966. The commissioner has an undergraduate degree from USC and a law degree from UCLA. He served as a deputy Los Angeles city attorney from 1967-70, a deputy Los Angeles County district attorney from 1970-90, and a commissioner since 1990.
The judicial officer expresses discomfort over having to campaign. "I don't like politics," he declares.
He notes, however, that in the past he's "raised large sums of money for the Democratic Party." His wife, on the other hand, has been "fairly active" as a Republican, Bobys says.
When he was courting her, Bobys recounts, he did not know of their differing political views, elaborating:
"In those days, who knew from party? All I knew was how she looked in a bathing suit."
Stone has no criticism of either Bobys or Dawson. Of Bobys, he says:
"He's a nice guy."
Of Dawson, he remarks:
"He seems like a nice guy, too."
Stone—who has an undergraduate degree from Colgate University in New York and a law degree from the University of California at Davis—mentions that while he now lives in Van Nuys, he was brought up in Beverly Hills, and also resided for a few years in West Hollywood.
The lawyer is designated on the ballot as "Prosecutor/University Instructor." He teaches a class for paralegals once a week at UCLA. Dawson scoffs that for three years, he too, taught at UCLA's paralegal extension school and would "not call that" being "on the faculty of a university." Stone says of the designation of him as "university instructor":
"It accurately describes me. I don't know if it helps me."
While telephone campaigning is nothing new, Stone is trying out a variation on it. He's asking voters to call him. His candidate statement says: "Please give me a call at (310) 274-6485 to talk with me personally."
Whether the candidate will be inundated with phone calls or whether voter apathy about judicial races will result in a mere trickle of calls is anybody's guess.
Copyright Metropolitan News Company, 2000