LACBA Says Five 'Not Qualified' for Bench; Candidate's Bid to Enjoin Release of Rating Rejected
By a Staff Writer
Five candidates for county judicial office were rated "not qualified" yesterday, the same day that a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge rejected an attempt by one of them to enjoin the dissemination of her rating.
The temporary restraining order was sought by Vicki M. Roberts, a Los Angeles attorney who is among six candidates seeking an open seat in the former Los Angeles Municipal Court District. Such an order, Judge David Yaffe ruled, would be an impermissible prior restraint on free speech.
Rated not qualified, besides Roberts, were Beverly Hills attorney John Khoury, running for an open seat in the Beverly Hills district; Downey attorney Kirt Hopson, challenging Judge Jesus "Jesse" Rodriguez in the Downey district; Los Angeles attorney Ronald Silverton, running in the same race as Roberts; and Bernita "Susan" Borges, who is challenging Judge Richard Rico, formerly of the Los Angeles Municipal Court.
Of the nine judicial contests on the county ballot, one is countywide and the others are being run in former Municipal Court districts because the courts unified after the filing process began.
Those races will be listed on the ballot, both at the March primary and at any November runoffs, as Municipal Court contests. All winners, however, will be sworn in as Superior Court judges in January of next year.
The County Bar's Committee on Judicial Elections Evaluation, in its report issued yesterday, said that Roberts, Khoury, Hopson, and Silverton lacked "judicial temperament." It also said that Khoury and Borges lacked the requisite legal skills and experience.
In seeking to enjoin the dissemination of her rating, Roberts said she was treated unfairly by the committee. She accused members of the subcommittee which conducted her initial interview of failing to give her advance notice of anonymous criticisms and of conducting an interview that "had all the attributes of an ambush."
While the rules governing the committee have substantial due process procedures built in, LACBA attorney Rex Heinke said after the hearing, there is nothing in the law that requires a private association like the County Bar to adhere to any particular standard of fairness.
The evaluation is simply the organization's opinion of the candidate's fitness to serve, and is constitutionally protected as such, Heinke said.
Roberts' attorney, Richard G. Sherman, implored the judge to act, saying it was "very difficult to complain about an execution after the guillotine has fallen." But Yaffe told Sherman that even if there was something wrong with the process, the plaintiff had no authority for the proposition that the First Amendment allows an injunction against the issuance of the rating.
Roberts vowed to continue her lawsuit. While other candidates with "not qualified" ratings have criticized the organization's procedures, she said, "I'm the person who is going to do something about it."
The attorney, who had earlier predicted she would be elected March 7, said she was "not confident" of a first-round victory in light of the bar group's "damning allegation."
She expressed hope that voters would be "sensitive to the issue of the failure of a person to get the fair hearing to which every person is entitled" and would give her enough support to make a runoff with one of her five opponents.
The other candidates in the race, besides Silverton, are Deputy District Attorney David Mintz and Superior Court Commissioners John Slawson and John Ladner, all rated well-qualified, and Deputy District Attorney David Stuart, rated qualified.
Besides those seeking the open Los Angeles Municipal Court seat, candidates on the March 7 ballot and their ratings are:
•Los Angeles Superior Court: Superior Court Commissioner Douglas Carnahan, Deputy District Attorney Katherine Mader, and Superior Court Referee Jeffrey Marckese, all well qualified.
•Alhambra Municipal Court: attorney Llewellyn Chin, qualified; Judge John Martinez, well qualified, and attorney Maria Vargas-Rodriguez, qualified.
•Antelope Municipal Court, Office, No. 1: attorney David Bianchi and Deputy District Attorney Christopher Estes, both qualified.
•Antelope Municipal Court, Office No. 2: Judge Pamela Rogers and attorneys William Clark and Larry Layton, all qualified.
•Beverly Hills Municipal Court: Superior Court Commissioner Hugh Bobys, attorney Mitchell Dawson, and Deputy District Attorney Richard Stone, all well qualified, and Khoury, not qualified.
•Downey Municipal Court: Hopson, not qualified, and Rodriguez, qualified.
•Inglewood Municipal Court: Superior Court Commissioner Deborah Christian, well qualified, and Deputy District Attorney Patricia Titus, qualified.
•Los Angeles Municipal Court, Office No. 44: Borges, not qualified, and Judge Richard Rico, well qualified.
Copyright Metropolitan News Company, 2000