Metropolitan News-Enterprise
March 1 , 2000
Page 10

Commissioner Slawson Reconsiders
His Stance on Canons

This column has been critical of Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner John Slawson, a candidate for a post listed on the ballot as "Los Angeles Municipal Court Office No. 1."

Slawson has insisted that judicial canons preclude a discussion by him of his opponents and identifies himself in his candidate statement as a "law professor." In fact, no canons preclude judicial candidates from discussing their opponents and Slawson is not a law professor, but an instructor at a two-year "junior" college, teaching paralegals and law enforcement officers.

To his credit, Slawson has given further thought to his positions. The following e-mail from him was received Monday:

This letter is being written in response to your column of February 23, 2000. I know that you did not ask for a response, however, there were points raised in the column to which I would like to respond.

One of your points was summarized by the comment: "Judges should be possessed of intellectual honesty, willing to acknowledge when they have erred. The right of a litigant to move for reconsideration, upon a proper showing, has no meaning where the judge is incapable of recognizing that he or she is not infallible. Slawson's rationalization of the erroneous statement he made during the interview is sadly reflective of qualities one would hope not to find in a judicial officer."

During my career as an attorney I appeared before well over 100 judges and commissioners. I agree with you that there are some jurists that will not change their decision, even if proven to be wrong, some judges who appear to be insulted by the simple filing of a request for reconsideration, and others who faithfully and thoughtfully reevaluate their decisions keeping in mind that no one is infallible.

I would be the first person to admit that I am not infallible. I am not offended if someone disagrees with my decision, and if I were convinced that my original decision was wrong, I would not hesitate to change it. This is not to say that I continually "flip flop" or reverse decisions simply because someone asks for a reconsideration, because to do so would indicate that sufficient deliberation was not given to the first decision.

If after a careful and complete reconsideration of the issues the original decision was wrong, a judge should not become a victim of pride or embarrassment and refuse to change the originally erroneous decision.

Those comments having been made, I have reconsidered the original comments that I made to you at our meeting of December 17, 1999 and my previous e-mail message to you.

1. Canons of Ethics:

I don't recall if your question regarding my opponents was asking for general comments or whether you were asking for any derogatory information that I may have about them. In either event, it was my hope prior to the interview that we would not even discuss my opponents, and I was certain that I would not say anything negative about them.

I agree with the statement in your February 23, 2000 article wherein you said, " ... While this might be, as expressed in the final paragraph quoted above, his preference, that's a different matter from being under a supposed legal mandate."

It is true that regardless of how the Judicial Canons of ethics and the election law are interpreted I was not going to conduct myself in such a way as to make negative comments about my opponents. In retrospect, I simply should have informed you of that fact and moved on rather than quoting from the Canons of Ethics until I had thoroughly reviewed them so that I could support my position based on the law.

I agree that Election Code Sections 13307 and 13308 would not prohibit one judicial candidate from making negative comments about another during the course of an endorsement board interview. Also, you are probably correct that on their face, or through the application of the First Amendment, the Canons do not prohibit a judicial candidate from making negative comments about an opponent to an editorial board. However, as I should have told you in the first place, it is immaterial to me since I do not want to campaign in that manner.

2. Law Professor Discussion

I have continued to think about this issue and evaluate my choice of words in my ballot statement. Even though it is not an appellate decision, the case involving Katherine Mader and Douglas Carnahan involved the same Professor designation issue. Irrespective of that decision, your articles, research, and perspective have been one of the reasons for the further reflection on the issue.

In our oral discussions and in my previous letter to you I have thoroughly discussed this issue and the reasons for the wording of my ballot statement and therefore it will not be repeated in this letter.

In my campaign brochure which has been given to thousands of voters, a sample of which may be found at my website of "", I describe my teaching position as "Law Instructor for 5 years currently teaching evening law classes at El Camino College." There is nothing I can do to change the March ballot statement, however, in the event that there is a run-off election and I am one of the candidates involved, I will change the ballot statement to reflect language on my teaching position to that of a college law instructor. I know that my specific job title with El Camino is that of "Lecturer" but for the reasons stated in my previous e-mail, I do not believe that I would mislead voters with the amended description.

While your editorials and columns have not been favorable to my campaign, I would at least like to thank you for publishing accurate excerpts of my previous letter to you. Even though you disagree with many of the points that I raised in that letter you at least let me present them to your readers.

Copyright, 2000, Metropolitan News Company. All rights reserved.