Monday, July 8, 1996
Terry Friedman Is
This letter is written in response to an editorial critical of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Terry Friedman and the California Judges Association for inviting Judge Friedman to contribute an article to The California Bench regarding the recent judicial election primary.
As you may be aware, Judge Friedman's article was not his first contribution to CJA's quarterly journal. Last Fall, CJA initiated a program to enhance understanding between the Legislature and judiciary and to develop relationships between individual judges and local legislators. Judge Friedman played an instrumental role in establishing the program. Because of his role and his own extensive legislative experience, Judge Friedman was invited to contribute an article analyzing the perceptions that legislators and judges have of each other and the fundamentally different decision-making processes in which they engage. The article, published two issues ago, was widely-read and well-received by judges, and was reprinted in other publications.
Based upon the success of the first article, Judge Friedman was asked to analyze the March primary elections in several contested judicial races. The California Democratic Party v. Lungren decision permitting political party endorsements in judicial races, the controversy surrounding proposed Canon 5 of the Code of Judicial Conduct prohibiting judicial endorsements in races, the proposals to significantly change judicial election campaign financing, and the Judicial Council's forthcoming conference on the judicial selection process made an analysis of the March primary election particularly timely.
Judge Friedman's article not only provided a thoughtful analysis of several key judicial races, but discussed issues involving judicial appointments, election and retention that concern every jurist. Measured by the positive reaction, Judge Friedman's article contributed significantly to judicial dialogue on issues that directly bear on the justice system.
The MetNews editorial criticism of Judge Friedman is based on a highly contentious and unusually expensive 1994 election contest between him and attorney John Moriarity for an open seat on the Los Angeles Superior Court. As I recall, the publication strongly supported Mr. Moriarity in the race. After Judge Friedman prevailed in the election, he sought assignment to the dependency court. No judicial assignment on the Superior Court is more demanding or stressful, and no assignment challenges a judge's character and dedication as quickly and consistently.
CJA invited, and will continue to invite, Judge Friedman to contribute articles to The California Bench because of his thoughtfulness on a broad range of issues affecting the judiciary and his outstanding reputation as a jurist. From the moment he took the oath of office, Judge Friedman has enjoyed the respect of both the judicial and legal community. Judges praise his intelligence, work ethic and integrity. Lawyers laud his knowledge of the law, thorough case preparation, calendar management style, decisiveness, fairness, courtesy and commitment to justice. The judges of the Superior Court regard themselves as enormously fortunate to have Judge Friedman as a colleague.
May I respectfully encourage the MetNews to evaluate Judge Friedman's tenure on the bench. If you have an opportunity to do so, I am confident that the publication will conclude, as my colleagues and I have, that he is a jurist who brings extraordinary ability, diligence and integrity to the bench. CJA is proud to have him as a member and a contributor to our publication.
Thank you for considering these comments.
Paul Boland is a judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court and is president of the California Judges Assn. He also edits the CJA's newsletter, The California Bench.
Boland does not address himself to the main point of the editorial: that it was sheer hypocrisy for Friedman, in his article for the CJA publication, to observe that judicial elections were being conducted like partisan political contests, and to query:
"Is this an appropriate or wise way to select judges? Is the democratic process of electing judges compatible with maintaining respect for an independent and non-political judiciary?"
This was hypocrisy because, as the editorial noted, then-Assemblyman Friedman's campaign reeked of partisan politics, being largely financed with surplus funds from campaigns of various Democratic candidates. More significantly, it was a campaign destined to be ruinous to "respect for an independent and non-political judiciary" because it was founded on blatant truth-bending and outright lies.
Boland purports to come to the defense of Friedman, but, tellingly, he has conjured up no refutation of the branding of Friedman as a liar. He hasn't done so, and cannot do so. The falsity of Friedman's campaign representations is objectively discernible, and has been judicially established in the court on which Boland sits.
Not only was falsity established, but also the intent to deceive.
Then-Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John Zebrowski (now a justice of Div. Two of this district's Court of Appeal) struck from Friedman's ballot statement the false assertions that he was a "victim's rights specialist" and that he "co-authored Three Strikes You're Out."
He also disallowed Friedman's description of himself as an "Appointed Deputy District Attorney" and as a "prosecutor." What Friedman did was to help out in one case, in the East Los Angeles Municipal Court, under the supervision of an actual deputy district attorney. Zebrowski permitted use of the designation "temporary volunteer Deputy District Attorney."
(Zebrowski did not strike Friedman's boast that he was "LAW ENFORCEMENT'S CHOICE FOR JUDGE," even though law enforcement groups were lined solidly behind the liberal legislator's rival, attorney John Moriarity. He permitted Friedman's representation that he had extensive courtroom experience, though finding that he had never tried a case in the Superior Court.)
In a subsequent proceeding, pressed by Friedman's lawyer for an explanation of his reasoning, Zebrowski made a finding that Friedman's deception was "deliberate," questioned whether Friedman was "qualified to be a Superior Court judge trying fraud cases," and scoffed that "you'd have to have an IQ of 60 not to see that this was misleading."
Even though a court of law had found and declared that Friedman was not, in fact, co-author of the three-strikes law, the legislator persisted in uttering that claim in slate mailers. And he billed himself as a "law professor" though he had never held a professorship, merely having taught classes at night in past years.
Boland asserts that "[f]rom the moment he took the oath of office, Judge Friedman has enjoyed the respect of both the judicial and legal community." That's a broad statement, and uttered hastily. Surely Boland cannot suppose that there were not both judges and lawyers who observed Friedman's campaign, were appalled by it, and came to think ill of Friedman as a result.
Zebrowski, in the subsequent proceeding, said this:
"I might add here, after this was over I was approached by a lot of my colleagues in this court just outraged at what Mr. Friedman had done. And they saw it as a deliberate and cynical political effort to feed false information to the voters. They were really outraged by it and a lot of them were people who told me they had a good opinion of Mr. Friedman before all this happened. And, I think that their attitudes and evaluations of what happened is quite accurate."
Boland maintains that judges praise Friedman for his "integrity." He does not tell us how many judges he's heard so praise Friedman, but we must assume that Boland has heard comments to that effect. But can he truly contend that any such perception is accurate in light of Friedman's persistent pervarication in the course of the 1994 campaign?
Our editorial remarked that "[f]or the California Judges Assn. to publish an article by Terry Friedman on drawbacks of the elective system for judges reflects curious judgment." Boland says the article was solicited because a previous article by Friedman was a hit, the issue of judicial elections is timely, Friedman possesses thoughtfulness and is an outstanding jurist on whom lawyers and judges heap praise. Assuming, arguendo, that all of that is so, it remains that Terry Friedman's background in judicial campaigns is that of campaigner slapped down by a Superior Court judge for his intentional deception. He is not the logical person to ask to write on the subject of judicial campaigns except for a confessions magazine.
Boland's statement that Friedman "brings...integrity to the bench" cannot be squared with the facts--judicially established facts. In his campaign for the Superior Court, Terry Friedman lied repeatedly. It is axiomatic that a liar does not possess integrity.
If Friedman is performing well as a judge, that's fine. But that does not negate the fact that he attained his post through a campaign marked by dishonesty, and that a considerable number of lawyers and judges know that and hold him in disrepute on account of that.
Copyright Metropolitan News Company, 1996-2001