Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday's Free For All - In Brief; McDonnell scores major media endorsement; DDA Candidates rated by LACBA

LA County Sheriff candidate Jim McDonnell scores first major media endorsement

The newspaper paper group with the second largest readership in LA County has endorsed Long Breach Police Chief Jim McDonnell for Sheriff in the June 3, 2014 primary election. In their editorial page, the Los Angeles Daily News said "When Lee Baca resigned unexpectedly in January after 15 years as sheriff, he left behind investigations and indictments related to jail beatings and other abuses, and created an opening for a new leader to clean up what some call a culture of corruption". 

"That new leader must be someone with experience running a law-enforcement agency, a clear eye for problems and the credibility to fix them."

"Of the seven men running, one has that combination of qualities: Jim McDonnell."

McDonnell now leads the field of seven candidates in terms of fundraising, community leader and law enforcement endorsements, and now media endorsements.

DDA Judicial Candidates Rated by LACBA

The Los Angeles Metropolitan News Enterprise reported that the LA County Bar Association's ratings as to the qualifications of those running for Judge of the Superior Court in the June 3, primary election are slowly becoming known.

Tuesday, the Met News reported that Commissioner Lewis had received the highest possible rating "exceptionally well qualified" in her three way fight with DDA Dayan Mathai ("well qualified") and wannabe jurist Otis B. Felder who "could not be reached for comment," but likely drew a "not qualified" rating given the deceptive nature of his candidacy.

Wednesday, the Met News reported that DDAs Shannon Knight and Alison Matsumoto-Estrada drew "well qualified" ratings.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Calerdon says Democrat Party's Endorsement Process is 'Rigged'

File this one in the 'couldn't happen to a nicer guy' category.

Charles Caleron, the former Democratic leader in both the Senate and Assembly running to become a Judge Los Angeles Superior Court in Office No. 48 told the Los Angeles Metropolitan News-Enterprise that his failure to garner the endorsement of the Los Angeles County Democratic Central Committee was due to a "rigged" process.

Calderon, whose brothers Ronald and Thomas are under federal indictment for alleged corruption, and who himself was the subject of negative publicity arising from a $40,000.00 campaign "payment" to his son for services in a an uncontested election, lashed out at veteran campaign strategist David Gould for "working hard on getting his buddies in." Gould handles the campaigns of several judicial candidates, including DDA Carol Rose who opposes Calderon in the race for Office No. 48.

The fact that Calderon failed to garner enough votes from his own party is surely the most telling sign that the days of the Calderon's family's political power are over. The LA Times recently opined that the "Calderon name may lose its luster in state politics" as a result of all the scandals associated with the family. That his own party has deserted him is likely the strongest indication of how Calderon will fare in the June 3, 2014 primary election; if the party cannot stomach electing Calderon, then the electorate will almost certainly reject him.

Calderon has tried desperately to distance himself from his indicted brothers. "What can I say except we're different?", he asked rhetorically. "I can't control what [my brothers] do. What  they do they're responsible for, what I do I'm responsible for." Perhaps he should have thought more carefully about his ballot title "Retired Lawmaker/Assembymember," and used "Am I my brothers' keeper"?

The Met News also provided this useful rundown on how the other judicial candidates fared in their quests for the endorsement of the Los Angeles County Democratic Central Committee (Party rules require that a candidate receive 60 percent of the vote in order to be endorsed, and only registered Democrats are eligible):
  • Office No. 22, civil litigator Pamala F. Matsumoto was endorsed over Deputy District Attorney Amy Carter.
  • Office No. 54, Superior Court Commissioner Debra L. Losnick was endorsed over Deputy District Attorney Shannon L. Knight for the seat now held by Judge Lance Ito.
  • Office No. 61, Superior Court Commissioner Jacqueline H. Lewis was endorsed over Deputy District Attorney Dayan Mathai and former volunteer prosecutor B. Otis Felder for the seat now held by Judge Michael Nash.
  • Office No. 76, Deputy District Attorney Helen Kim was endorsed in her race with fellow prosecutor Alison Matsumoto Estrada for the seat now held by Judge Harvey Giss. Daar said his committee recommended no endorsement, but Kim, the only Democrat in the race, received the necessary supermajority of the full committee.
  • Office No. 87, criminal defense attorney Andrew M. Stein was endorsed over prosecutors Tom Griego and Steven P. Schreiner for the seat now held by Judge Rex Heeseman.
  • Office No. 97, no endorsement between Deputy District Attorney Teresa Pineda Magno and Deputy City Attorney Songhai Miguda-Armstead for the seat formerly held by Judge David Milton, who retired in February. Gould, who represents Miguda-Armstead, said his candidate received about 53 percent of the vote, whereas the committee endorsed her opponent.
  • Office No. 107, Superior Court Commissioner Emma Castro was endorsed. Her opponent for the seat now held by Judge Bob S. Bowers Jr. is Deputy District Attorney Joan M. Chrostek.
  • Office No. 113, no endorsement between Superior Court Referee Steven Klaif and Deputy District Attorney Stacy Wiese for the seat now held by Judge R. Bruce Minto, who retired last month.
  • Office No. 117, no endorsement between Deputy District Attorney Carol Najera and Judge James B. Pierce.
  • Office No. 138, no endorsement between attorney Marc A. Gibbons and Deputy District Attorney Donna Hollingsworth Armstrong for the seat now held by Judge Carlos Uranga.Office No. 157, no endorsement between Deputy District Attorney Andrew Cooper and retired Superior Court Referee Arnold William Mednick for the seat formerly held by Judge Jessica Perrin Silvers, who retired in February.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday's Free For All

McDonnell leads fundraising in race for LA County Sheriff

He may be a late entrant to the race to replace former LA County Sheriff Lee Baca, but Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell is ahead in fundraising, according to AM870. McDonnell raised over $307k in the short time before the reporting period a the end of March. McDonnell, the only viable outsider in what will be a closely watched primary, recently garnered the endorsement of California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who will co-host a fundraiser for McDonnell on April 15, 2014. Harris recently announced her engagement to Los Angeles lawyer Douglas Emhoff, and the fundraiser is likely to be well attended by those keen to support McDonnell, as well as those looking for a photo op with Harris and her fiance.

McDonnell is also slated to be participating in a debate co-sponsored by the ADDA on April 17, 2014.
The debate will be moderated by soon to be retired Judge Lance Ito with panelists Professor Laurie Levinson from Loyola Law School, Manny Medrano of Medrano & Carlton, and LA Times reporter Jack Leonard.

DDA Judicial Candidates Amy Carter and Shannon Knight join forces for fundraiser

DDAs Amy Carter and Shannon Knight have combined forces in their campaigns to become Superior Court Judges, and will hold joint fundraisers Friday, April 18 and Saturday April 19, 2014 in Manhattan Beach at the Neptunian Women's Club, 920 Highland Ave., Manhattan Beach, CA 90266. Friday's event is from 5pm to 8pm, Saturday from 2pm to 5pm.

DDA Judicial Candidate Steven Schreiner endorsed by former DA Steve Cooley  

In his race for Judge of the Superior Court, Office No. 87, DDA Steven Schreiner recently gained the endorsement of his former boss, retired District Attorney Steve Cooley.  Schreiner faces two opponents in the June 3, 2014 primary election; former Criminal Bar Association President Andrew Stein, and Deputy City Attorney Tom "I have never tried a serious felony" Griego. Cooley had endorsed Stein before Schreiner entered the race, decided to co-endorse Schreiner believing both to be well qualified.


Friday, April 4, 2014

Friday's Free For All

Ipsen Bombs as Union Lawyer

Disgraced fired Deputy District Attorney Steve Ipsen has apparently extended his private practice. This time it's not as a meddling so-called "victim's rights attorney," but rather as a failed "union lawyer."

The Dragnet recently reported that ALADS, the union representing LA County Deputy Sheriffs, had fired its President, Armando Macias. Although the stated reason was "problems with his attendance," rumors persist that it had more to do with a split over who ALADS should endorse for Sheriff. A recent vote by ALADS members shows Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell garnering the most votes, but not a clear majority.

The LA Times reported Tuesday, that the ousted ALADS President made a hasty $100,000 withdrawal from ALADS' political action committee in order to "pay the law firm backing their attempt to hold on to power." Not so fast, said the new ALADS leadership, who filed a lawsuit  describing the withdrawal as "wrongful, a breach of their fiduciary duty to ALADS, and without ALADS's authorization, permission, or knowledge."

Enter newly-reinvented "union lawyer" Steve Ipsen, described by the Times as "an attorney for the Macias side." Ipsen told the Times that his clients did take political action funds but are waiting for legal clarification on whether they can spend them. The withdrawal may have been a violation of the union's bylaws but was justified to "preserve their rights under the law in an emergency situation," Ipsen said.

Ipsen has some experience when it comes to violating union bylaws, ADDA members are still paying the legal fees bill from his last violation in Burke v. Ipsen reported at 189 Cal.App.4th 801. No surprise then, that the LA Times reported Thursday that Judge James Chalfant ordered Macias to return $100,000 he withdrew from the union's political fund to pay legal fees. Ipsen told the Times that "the money should have come from a different fund and his clients are willing to return it." In other words, they stole misappropriated union funds and have to give them back.

Of course, just as Ipsen has experience with violating bylaws, Judge Chalfant has quite some experience in dealing with Ipsen; it was Judge Chalfant who slapped the Ipsen era ADDA with a bill for over $100,000 in attorney fees arising from the lawsuit.

One has to wonder if Macias did his homework before hiring Ipsen?


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Schreiner responds to criticism over remarks to jury

Deputy District Attorney Steven Schreiner's campaign to become Judge of the Superior Court got off to a rocky start. After filing papers to run for the open seat in Office No. 87 created by the retirement of Judge Rex Heeseman, Schreiner found himself the target of an email campaign criticizing remarks he made to a jury.

The man taking aim at Schreiner was opponent, former Criminal Bar Association President Andrew Stein. In his email blast, Stein attached a portion of the transcript from People v. Orozco et al, NA090280, a death penalty case Schreiner had recently prosecuted.

Stein posed the question "Do you want this man sitting as a JUDGE?" presumably alluding to Schreiner's use of profanity in his argument to the jury, and suggested that the transcript shows Schreiner "doesn't have the judicial temperament to be a judge."

The Los Angeles Metropolitan News-Enterprise recently gave Schreiner the opportunity to explain the circumstances behind his remarks, as well as to take a few jabs at Stein.

The Met News reported that Schreiner "expresses regret over profanity in argument to jury." Schreiner told the Met News "In retrospect, I could have chosen words other than 'bullshit' and 'crap' at the point I used them. Other equally strong words could have been chosen to accomplish the goal of moving the jury from a deadlock position."

The case involved four defendants, two African American gang members and two Latino gang members (names of the gangs deliberately omitted here to deny the gangs the publicity they pathetically crave).  They set up a Long Beach drug dealer to be robbed and murdered. After six weeks of trial the jury commenced deliberations.

Those deliberations, however, unfortunately coincided with the controversial acquittal ten days earlier in the Trayvon Martin case. "In fact," Schreiner told the Met News, "a protest line was staged outside the Long Beach courthouse through which the jurors had to pass on their way to lunch." After jurors announced they had reached an impasse, Judge Tomson Ong directed them to put any questions they had in writing. Schreiner related that the questions concerned "the race of two of the defendants."

Schreiner was given just ten minutes of additional argument to address the questions posed by the jury. Commenting on the use of profanity, Schreiner said that "Nonetheless, my argument in that phase was made without objection from any of the parties or the court; this in a trial that had seen more than its share of defense objections."

He also explained: "In the brief period of time allotted, I attempted to respond to the juror questions and to persuade them to decide the case based on the evidence presented and not on outside issues. My goal was to convince the juror/jurors, who were bringing outside issues into the jury room, that doing so was a violation of their duty as jurors and simply wrong. I made this point as emphatically, passionately and honestly as I could. I pointed out to the jury that the detectives simply followed the evidence where it lead them and race was not an issue. The evidence was in the cell phone, cell site and wiretap evidence produced in trial."

Schreiner continued, "After seven more days of deliberation, the jury reached unanimous verdicts on each of the three murder defendants, finding each guilty of first degree murder with special circumstances."

When put in context Schreiner's remarks, while clearly inappropriate, are more understandable; anyone who has put in the amount of effort it takes to successfully prosecute a case only to see a juror or jurors failing to honor their oath to decide the case solely on the facts presented, or trying to right some perceived wrong by nullification,  has a right to be passionate. If an advocate is not passionate, does not appear to care about a case, why should the jury? True trial lawyers have been where Schreiner was, perhaps they were less colorful in their choice of language, but there cannot be anyone who hasn't secretly wanted to say what Schreiner said in those circumstances.

In the circumstances, was Stein right to suggest Schreiner "doesn't have the judicial temperament to be a judge"? Perhaps the Dragnet comments will answer that; they certainly hold nothing back in their use of colorful language.

DDA Steven Schreiner discusses his controversial remarks with refreshing candor
on his campaign website:
 One thing that does, perhaps, stand to Schreiner's credit, and separates him from certain other judicial candidates who feel free to play fast and loose with the truth, is what Schreiner himself says about the case on his campaign website: "Jury deliberations began just after the Trayvon Martin verdict. The jury announced it was hung after four days and gave a number of race based reasons for it. The court ordered a re-argument and seven days later, the jury reached verdicts as to all three murder defendants. Despite the First Degree Murder convictions with special circumstances, the court eventually granted a motion for new trial based on my misconduct." Such honesty and willingness to accept responsibility for a mistake, is a very very rare phenomenon in an election cycle, and that honesty should be applauded.

Schreiner takes aim at Stein

The Met News also allowed Schreiner to criticize Stein use of the transcript. "It is ironic that an attorney who claims to be qualified to be a Superior Court judge would illegally copy and distribute a transcript that is the property of Judge Ong’s court reporter. Either Mr. Stein did not know he was violating the law in doing so, or worse, he simply did not care." 

Schreiner also attacked Stein's past record with the State Bar "As a Deputy District Attorney for the past 27 years, I have been a passionate, honest advocate for the People. I have never been disciplined by the State Bar, nor cited by an Appellate Court for incompetence, something Mr. Stein cannot claim."

Finally, Schreiner questioned Stein's choice of ballot title, "Worse still, Mr. Stein has chosen the ballot designation of 'Gang Homicide Attorney' in another blatant attempt to mislead the public into thinking he is a prosecutor. Beyond that, Mr. Stein has no demonstrable specialty in defending gang murderers. Mr. Stein's business cards indicate he is a criminal defense attorney. If he was honest, his ballot designation would clearly reflect his occupation."
Schreiner is running with the ballot title "Gang Homicide Prosecutor." A third candidate, Tom Griego, running as "Criminal Gang Prosecutor," perhaps wisely did not respond to questions from the Met News. Griego has no experience prosecuting serious felonies, and appears to have precious little experience prosecuting anything of substance.

Stein responds

The Met News gave Stein the opportunity to respond to Schriener's remarks. The full text of Stein's response can be read on the Met News website.


Monday, March 31, 2014

Controversy continues over Felder's Bogus Ballot Title

Met News critical of Judge Lavin's Ruling; Questions Felder's use of Gay Card in Brief

Thanks to Roger M. Grace, the Editor and Co-Publisher of the Los Angeles Metropolitan News-Enterprise, some light has been shed on the surprising and disappointing ruling by Judge Luis Lavin allowing a former volunteer extern at the City Attorney's Office to use the blatantly bogus ballot title, 'Los Angeles Prosecutor,' in his bid to become a judge in the June 3, 2014 primary election for Office No. 61.

In his Friday, March 28, 2014 'Perspectives' column, Grace provides a detailed analysis as to why, in Grace's opinion, Judge Lavin was wrong to allow Felder to use any reference to his volunterism as a substitute for his real occupation; a maritime and admiralty lawyer. Even if Felder could refer to his externship in his ballot title, Grace argues that Lavin nonetheless allowed Felder to use a misleading ballot title; 'Los Angeles Prosecutor' suggests something rather different from a temporary volunteer extern, and surely would mislead voters as to the quality and permanence of his former occupation (Felder terminated his volunterism as soon as he filed papers to run for judge). Grace makes a compelling case that could, should Felder somehow win a place in the run off, provide his opponent with the basis of a further challenge. Hopefully no further challenge will be needed if voters learn the truth about Felder.

Did Felder play the Gay Card?

But perhaps the most controversial portion of Grace's analysis is contained at the end of his column, in a section labeled "Addendum."

"The sexual orientation of a candidate should never be a factor in gauging the person’s fitness for office—and surely is of no pertinence to the legal question of the appropriateness of a ballot designation. Yet, Felder made a point of his homosexuality in his opposition to the writ petition, giving rise to a suspicion as to his motivation. Why he would do this would seem explainable only by the fact that the case had been assigned to Lavin, and Lavin is openly gay." Grace said.

Grace argues that Felder's reference to his husband is either a deliberate attempt to signal to
a gay judge that he too is gay, or appallingly bad judgment.

Grace was referring to paragraph 5 of Felder's opposition brief, where, Felder states that "My husband, who is a Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff, suggested that I consider investigating other career opportunities if I wanted to pursue public service in criminal justice."

Grace argues that "Advice to Felder from his husband, Steve Johnson, which led him to join the Volunteer Attorneys Program, had no conceivable relevance to the issue of the validity of the ballot designation. Can it reasonably be supposed that Felder would have mentioned his having a husband if were not that Lavin has one also?"

Grace continues, "To attempt to win sympathy of the judge by interjecting a gratuitous reference to the party’s religion, knowing that the judge is a devout adherent to the same faith, or sneaking in any other factor that would communicate to the judge some sort of kinship, would be reprehensible." In essence, Grace is saying that Felder played the 'Gay Card' as there was no legally relevant reason for Felder to tell Judge Lavin that he gay. That Judge Lavin is openly gay is no secret; the LA Times reported that back when Lavin was appointed Judge of the Superior Court by Gov. Gray Davis in 2002. So was this a blatant attempt to curry favor with a judge?

Grace concludes by offering an alternate explanation; that Felder is a buffoon, "If Felder did not have the motivation that his conduct suggests, he still showed appallingly bad judgment in inserting an irrelevancy that would spark such a suspicion." Bad judgment could be seen by some as a gross understatement. What Felder has truly succeeded in doing is casting a dark cloud over the propriety of Judge Lavin's decision. People will forever wonder whether Judge Lavin was swayed towards ruling in Felder's favor simply because they are both gay. Whether Felder was playing the gay card or was simply a buffoon, he has established himself as unfit to be a judge. People expect fairness and impartiality from judges, and they may well wonder how a Judge Felder would rule if a party gratuitously, irrelevantly and intentionally mentions that they are gay?

In the light of Felder's faux pas, his campaign website seems particularly hypocritical proclaiming, as it does, that he believes in "equal justice for all Angelenos."

Felder also claims to have "fought for equality rights all my life." Strange then, that he did not chose to use "Civil Rights Attorney" as his ballot designation and that he makes no mention of his civil rights work on his law practice website.

If indeed, Felder succeeded in playing the gay card with Judge Lavin, it appears that he was not so successful in his effort to gain the endorsement of the Stonewall Democratic Club.

The Stonewall Democratic Club, according to their website, is "... the home for progressive Democrats in Los Angeles who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and straight allies of the LGBT community." They passed over Felder and instead endorsed one of his opponents, Superior Court Commissioner Jacqueline Lewis. Perhaps they know how unfit Felder is to be trusted with the responsibility of ruling fairly, openly and honestly. 

The choice for who should occupy Office No. 61 as Judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court should be between Gang Homicide Prosecutor Dayan Mathai and Superior Court Commissioner Jacqueline Lewis.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

B. Otis Felder allowed to use bogus ballot title in bid to become judge

In a surprising and disappointing ruling, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Luis A. Lavin ruled Tuesday that judicial candidate B. Otis Felder can use the ballot title 'Los Angeles Prosecutor' in the race for open Office No. 61.

Felder will face Deputy District Attorney Dayan Mathai, running as 'Gang Homicide Prosecutor' and Commissioner Jacqueline M. Lewis, running as 'Superior Court Commissioner.' Mathai had challenged Felder's use of the title as misleading because Felder was a temporary volunteer participant in the City Attorney's Office's Reserve Deputy Program, and was not an employee. Further, Felder had an established law practice in Admiralty and Maritime law. Judge Lavin, however, in giving his ruling cited provisions in "the Elections Code and regulations [that] specifically allow candidates to designate the title of their volunteer position as the proposed ballot designation. See Elections Code section 13107.5; see also 2 CCR 20714(a)(2)."

Despite the ruling, Felder still faces an uphill battle in the June 3, 2014 primary election. Many will still regard Felder as being less than honest and perhaps manipulative in his 'volunteerism'; the City Attorney's Reserve Deputy Program was designed to give unemployed newly-qualified attorneys work experience, rather than giving an attorney with eighteen years experience and who describes himself on his website as an "Admiralty and Maritime Law Certified Specialist," the opportunity to acquire a more attractive ballot title.

Felder does not appear to have registered his campaign with the Secretary of State and thus cannot engage in fundraising. Additionally, no campaign website can currently be found for him. Felder, it seems, is relying solely on his ballot title to attract voters, and in a three way fight, his ballot title looks certain to achieve the same third place as his former boss, Carmen Trutanich who came in third with the similar ballot title 'Los Angeles City Prosecutor' in his failed bid to become District Attorney. In that race, Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson, running as 'Gang Homicide Prosecutor' finished second, winning a place in the runoff.

Mathai, who was one of the first to throw his hat in the ring to become a judge, has raised over $113,000 towards his campaign, and will be able to reach high propensity voters through mail. His likely rival in the runoff will be Commissioner Lewis who, unlike Felder, has registered her campaign with the Secretary of State, but thus far has not engaged in any serious fundraising, reporting just $2,500.00 in her campaign. Lewis too, could be relying to a large extent on her ballot title to carry the day for her on June 3. However, David L. Gould, who runs a political consulting company and represents several candidates for Judge of the Superior Court, recently told the Los Angeles Metropolitan News-Enterprise that "commissioners, in general, do not necessarily do very well against D.A.s." 

All things considered, while Mathai no doubt would have preferred Judge Lavin to have prevented Felder from using a questionable ballot title, his campaign appears the strongest, his list of endorsements is impressive, and his established record as a prosecutor is peerless. Those are all factors that will not only connect with voters, but more importantly with editorial boards when they give their recommendations to readers.

UPDATED: We have since learned that Felder does indeed have a campaign website and has registered his campaign with the Secretary of State with the committee ID # 1364137.
Commissioner Lewis now has a campaign website: