Monday, May 2, 2016

Met News Endorses Susan Jung Townsend for Judge - Office No. 84

Friday, April 29, 2016, the Los Angeles Metropolitan News-Enterprise made, perhaps, the hardest choice of any of the races, endorsing Deputy District Attorney Susan Jung Townsend for Judge of the Superior Court, Office No. 84.

The Met News said all four candidates in this race are "worthy," but found Susan Jung Townsend to be "Poised, intelligent, skilled in communicating her thoughts with precision, we believe she would excel as a judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court. We discern definite potential on her part for higher judicial office."

In what might be considered a 'split endorsement,' the Met News also taped Deputy District Attorney Javier Perez and Attorney Aaron Weissman for appointment saying "While we endorse Susan Jung Townsend for election to the Los Angeles Superior Court, we endorse Weissman and Perez for appointment by the governor." Townsend's endorsement followed the Met News' in-depth reportage of all the candidates.

For Townsend, the Met News endorsement caps a successful week in her campaign, having secured the LA Times endorsement the previous day.


Friday, April 29, 2016

LA Times Judicial Endorsements 2016

The Los Angeles Times this week delivered its verdicts on those they found most suitable in the 2016 race for robes.

On Wednesday, April 27, 2016, the Times considered the three sitting Judges who have drawn challenges and found Judge James Kaddo, Judge Ray Santana* and Judge Kathryn Solorzano all more than worthy of reelection.

On Thursday, April 28, 2016, the Times reviewed the 17 candidates for the 4 open seats in this years' election cycle, finding as follows:

Office No. 11 Deputy District Attorney Steven Schreiner “has the most experience,” “with the calm demeanor that a judge must have,” and is “a candidate who would likely make a model judge.”

Office No. 42 Superior Court Commissioner Cyndy Zuzga is “already is doing much of a judge’s work. And by all accounts, she is doing it well.”

Office No. 84 Deputy District Attorney Susan Jung Townsend has “17 years on the job” and “possesses the most integrity and the best judgment.”

Office No. 158 Deputy District Attorney David Berger “was never shy about expressing his opinion, including about his rivals. He has a long and successful record as a prosecutor” adding “Berger is the best choice.

The primary election is on June 7, 2016, and the 'down ticket' nature of judicial elections means that for the vast majority of voters the LA Times is the only source of information and makes their endorsement a most valuable asset. Our hearty congratulations to the 2016 LA Times Judicial Endorsees.

*Judge Ray Santana is not pictured above as he has not yet established a campaign website and we are unable to locate a suitable photograph.

In the interests of full disclosure, the Los Angeles Dragnet is edited by David Berger. Any and all opinions expressed here are personal and are not reflective of any opinion of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Metropolitan News-Enterprise Endorses David Berger for Judge

Of the four 'open' seats in the upcoming June 7, 2016 Judicial Election, no race is more crowded that that for Office No. 158 where five candidates are vying to replace retiring Judge Elden S. Fox. On Friday, April 22, 2016,  Los Angeles' leading legal newspaper, the Metropolitan News-Enterprise, gave veteran prosecutor Deputy District Attorney David Berger its highly-prized endorsement.

"One candidate in this race stands out: Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney David Berger." the Met News said. "Composed, articulate and knowledgeable, he would run a court in a steady and effective manner. Berger has a quick mind, and would render reasoned decisions without long pondering." The Met News concluded "... it is clear that David Berger possesses credential far exceeding those of any of his rivals. We endorse his candidacy." The full text of the editorial endorsement can be seen here.

The editorial came after the Met News had published in-depth reviews of all the candidates, with "complex and controversial" David Berger having been profiled on Tuesday April 19, 2016. The Met News noted Berger's British background, his authorship of this blog, crime-fighting efforts, and his robust support from former Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley (2000-2012) who said of Berger "He is very smart, principled, and sees the dynamics of complex situations. He is also courageous." The Met News reported.

Deputy City Attorney Onica Valle Cole and Criminal Defense Attorney Naser "Nas" Khoury were profiled on Wednesday, April 20, 2016, and Deputy District Attorney Fred Mesropi and Deputy Attorney General Kim Nguyen were profiled on Thursday, April 21, 2016.

The Metropolitan News-Enterprise is widely read in Los Angeles' legal community, and while the endorsement is of considerable significance among legal professionals, the 115 year old journal is the source of information for others who follow the judicial races and value the in-depth coverage afforded by no other source.

Thus far the Met News has endorsed Superior Court Judge Kathryn Solorzano for Office No. 165, Deputy District Attorney Steven Schreiner for Office No. 11, and Superior Court Judge James Kaddo for Office No. 60.


Monday, April 11, 2016

Former DA Garcetti "I never wanted Marcia Clark on OJ trial"

The FX mini series 'The People v O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story" has reopened debate on many of the missteps taken leading to Simpson's acquittal over 25 years ago. Former District Attorney Gil Garcetti has now weighed in with his perspective in this exclusive New York Post interview.

Among Garcetti's observations; "She wasn't my choice - I didn't pick her" he said of lead prosecutor Marcia Clark, adding "she didn't heed the advice of our trial consultant" Garcetti told the New York Post.

Garcetti blames the 1994 earthquake for the need to hold the trial of the century in downtown Los Angeles rather than in Santa Monica, claiming the aged Santa Monica Courthouse was "wrecked by the earthquake," although many recall 'security concerns' as being the stated reason at the time.

For more of Garcetti's revelations, read the full article here.


Monday, April 4, 2016

2016 Judicial Elections - Ballot Positions Announced

The LA County Registrar/Recorder has announced the ballot positions for all candidates in the June 7, 2016 Primary Election. The order of names is drawn at random, largely because it is generally thought that those appearing at the top of the ballot may fare better than those in lower positions. That is, perhaps, especially true in the judicial races where many voters have little or no prior knowledge of the candidates and the first attractive name, with a good ballot designation can score vital points.

Although the ballot positions have been finalized, certain ballot designations have been contested and appear subject to final rulings set to take place this week.

We list the four open seats first:

Office No. 11

Office No. 42

Office No. 84

Office No. 158

In the contested seats ballot position is of far less importance that the power of incumbency - it is notoriously difficult to unseat a sitting judge who is actively campaigning for reelection:

Office No. 60

Office No. 120

Office No. 165

In case you missed the link at the top of the page, the link to the final list of qualified candidates appearing on the ballot for the June 7, 2016 Presidential Primary is:


Sunday, April 3, 2016

Met News Endorses Steven Schreiner for Judge of the Superior Court

Thursday, March 31, 2016. The Los Angeles Metropolitan News-Enterprise delivered a powerful boost to Deputy District Attorney Steven Schreiner's bid to become Judge of the Superior Court endorsing the veteran prosecutor's candidacy.

The endorsement follows two lengthy articles on the four candidates for Office Number 11, with the Met News outlining Deputy District Attorney Debra Archuleta's candidacy on March 29, 2016, and those of Schreiner, fellow DDA Paul Kim, and private practitioner Jonathan Malek on March 30, 2016.

Archuleta, it seems, failed to impress the Met News quite comprehensively. Having told the Met News that she would be '“shocked” if she did not receive the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s highest rating for judicial candidates of “exceptionally well qualified,”' Archuleta is likely less than pleased at the Met New's opinion of her candidacy. Fellow DDA Paul Kim fared better than Archuleta and was considered a "worthy candidate" by the Met News. Despite the appellation, Kim nonetheless lost out to Schreiner's "greater wisdom and insights," the Met News said. Malek received praise for his candor in admitting to virtually no trial experience, but simply lacked the experience and knowledge to be ready for a judgeship, according to the Met News.

The Met News endorsements are widely read and valued among the legal community as well as other publications, organizations and civic leaders engaged in the endorsement process. For Schreiner, the endorsement will likely add gravitas to his candidacy as he seeks the endorsement and support of other influential groups.

There is, regrettably, something of a Ballot Designation Battle underway between some of the candidates for Office Number 11. On March 23, 2016 the Met News reported that Schreiner has challenged Archuleta's use of "Violent Crimes Prosecutor" as her ballot designation on the basis that she has been assigned to the prosecution of White Collar Crimes for the past two years. Those crimes are rarely, if ever, crimes of violence. It appears that Archuleta's claim to the designation arises from a domestic violence case she tried in December 2014 while in her previous assignment. That case is awaiting re-trial following a hung jury, the Met News reported.

Kim has challenged Schreiner's use of "Gang Murder Prosecutor," saying that "Murder Prosecutor" is more appropriate. The essence of Kim's claim appears to be that he believes Schreiner prosecutes murderers who are gang members but do not commit a gang crime, rather than gang members who commit murders in the furtherance of criminal gang activity within the meaning of Penal Code §186.22(b). Kim declared that a 186.22 allegation is “what makes it a gang case.”' he told the Met News.

Both ballot designation battles will be decided by reference to pertinent portions of the Elections Code; §13107(a)(3) requires a ballot designation to be "No more than three words designating either the current principal professions, vocations, or occupations of the candidate, or the principal professions, vocations, or occupations of the candidate during the calendar year immediately preceding the filing of nomination documents." Election Code §13107(b)(1) prohibits a ballot designation that could be misleading to voters. Given that the LA County Registrar/Recorder has to print the ballots well in advance of the June 7, 2016 election, a decision on these challenges is likely imminent.


Sunday, March 13, 2016

2016 Judicial Elections - The Race For Robes Takes Shape

Filings in the Los Angeles County Superior Court elections, the 'Race for Robes,' closed at 5pm Friday, March 11, with 16 candidates vying for 4 open seats, and 3 candidates challenging sitting judges.

The race for open seats has a field of 1 Superior Court Commissioner, 8 Deputy District Attorneys, 1 Deputy Attorney General, and 6 attorneys. Those open seats result from the impending retirements of Judges Michelle Rosenblatt, Alan Rosenfield, Kathleen Diesman, and Elden Fox, all of whom were not minded to allow Governor Brown to appoint their replacements.

So here's a first look at the 2016 race for robes:

Office Number 11 
(L-R: Deputy District Attorneys Debra Archuleta, Paul Kim and Steven Schriener face each other, in the race for Office 11
along with largely unknown candidate Jonathan Malek

Deputy District Attorney Steven Schreiner, who ran unsuccessfully in 2014, faces fellow DDAs Debra Archuleta and Paul Kim. Schreiner started his campaign shortly after his 2014 defeat, with Archuleta beginning her campaign early in 2015. Kim was a late and unexpected entrant to this race, along with attorney Jonathan Malek. With Schreiner and Archuleta being the frontrunners in terms of campaign strength, warchests and ballot titles, a November runoff between the two is virtually guaranteed.

Candidate Information:
DDA Debra Archuleta
Ballot Title: Violent Crimes Prosecutor

DDA Paul Kim
Ballot Title: Gang Murder Prosecutor

Jonathan Malek
Ballot Title: Civil Litigator
No website or Facebook page can be located at this time.

DDA Steven Schreiner
Ballot Title: Gang Homicide Prosecutor

Office Number 42
(L to R: Deputy District Attorney Efrain Aceves, attorneys Alicia Molina,
and Superior Court Commissioner Cyndy Zuzga

Deputy District Attorney Efrain Aceves, who ran in 2014 before withdrawing his candidacy, is pitched against Superior Court Commissioner Cynthia Zuzga, and attorneys Alicia Molina and Michael Ribons.  Aceves and Zuzga have been campaigning since 2015, while Molina and Ribons are late entrants. Aceves and Zuzga have the strongest ballot titles and campaign warchests, and will likely face each other in a November runoff.

Candidate Information:
DDA Efrain Aceves
Ballot Title: Child Molestation Prosecutor

Alicia Molina
Ballot Title: Domestic Violence Attorney

Michael Ribons
Ballot Title: Arbitrator/Attorney
No website or Facebook page can be located at this time.

Cyndy Zuzga
Ballot Title: Superior Court Commissioner

Office Number 84
(L-R: Deputy District Attorneys Javier Perez, Susan Jung Townsend, attorney Aaron Weissman, and Hubert Yun)

Deputy District Attorney Susan Jung Townsend started her campaign early in 2015, around the same time as attorney Aaron Weissman. They are pitched against DDAs Javier Perez and Hubert Yun who was a late entrant to this race. Townsend leads the field in ballot title and campaign warchest strength, but Perez enjoys substantial backing from MABA-PAC (the Mexican American Bar Association's Political Action Committee) and currently has a strong ballot title. Wesiman is understood to be actively playing catch-up in the fundraising department, while little is known of Yun's campaign or his resources. The frontrunners here are Townsend and Perez, both seem likely to face each other in a November runoff.

Candidate Information:
DDA Javier Perez
Ballot Title: Supervising Gang Prosecutor

DDA Susan Jung Townsend
Ballot Title: Criminal Fraud Prosecutor

Aaron Weissman
Ballot Title: Small Business Attorney

DDA Hubert Yun
No website or Facebook page can be located at this time.

Office Number 158
(L-R: Deputy District Attorney David Berger, attorneys Susan Jerich, Naser Khoury,
and Deputy Attorney General Kim Nguyen

Deputy District Attorney David Berger started his campaign for Office 158 early in 2015, and did so with the blessing of it's current holder, Judge Elden S. Fox, who delayed announcing his retirement until the close of filing in a valiant display of support his for Berger. Berger is currently challenged by Deputy Attorney General Kim Nguyen. Attorneys Naser Khoury and Susan Jerich have also filed papers to run, potentially making this into a four-way race with a November runoff between to two highest vote-getters in the June election.
Susan Jerich has decided to withdraw her candidacy at this time and plans to run in 2018. Late entries have been filed by Deputy District Attorney Fred Mesropi and Deputy City Attorney Onica Valle Cole

Candidate Information:
DDA David Berger*
Ballot Title: Violent Crimes Prosecutor

Onica Valle Cole
Ballot Title: Prosecutor
Website: Unnown
Facebook: Not Found

Naser Khoury
Ballot Title: Law Professor/Attorney

Fred Mesropi
Ballot Title: Child Molestation Prosecutor
Facebook: Not Found

Kim Nguyen
Ballot Title: Deputy Attorney General
Facebook: Not found.

As for the contested races;

Sitting Judges James Kaddo, Ray Santana, and Kathryn Solorzano all face challengers in this election cycle. The last time a sitting Judge was defeated was in 2014 when Judge James Pierce was unseated. The defeat shocked many on the bench who believed that the challenge could have easily been overcome had Judge Pierce done more than simply assume his incumbency would win the day.

Factions within the Superior Court are believed to have contingency plans in place to ensure that there will not be a repeat of 2014. Those plans are said to include traditional fundraising for those incumbents who actively campaign, as well as a Political Action Committee that could finance Independent Expenditures in support of an incumbent who tries to follow the Judge Pierce approach.

Add to the mix is the willingness of MABA-PAC to support of Latino jurists who come under attack. It's without doubt that MABA-PAC's $200k pledge to support Judge Gus Sztraicher was instrumental in deterring attorney Michael Ribons from pursuing his ill-feted campaign for Judge Sztraicher's seat, and it seems likely that MABA-PAC will similarly step up to the plate for Judges Solorzano and Santana.

It will not be a huge surprise, therefore, to see all three incumbents reelected in June.

[*In the interests of full disclosure, for readers who don't already know it, Joe Friday is David Berger, editor of this blog.]