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Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday's Free For All

Judicial Election Ballot Title Wars - Stein to Appeal Stripped Ballot Title


The Los Angeles Metropolitan News-Enterprise reports that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge candidate Andrew Stein, front-runner in the primary election, will appeal a ruling by Judge Joanne O'Donnell stripping him of his chosen ballot title; 'Gang Homicide Attorney.'

Stein, an accomplished and respected criminal trial attorney, faces Deputy City Attorney Thomas 'Tom' Griego, former Chief of Staff to disgraced ex-City Councilmember Mike Hernandez, in the November runoff for Office No. 87. Griego, will appear on the ballot as a 'Criminal Gang Prosecutor,' a title that is likely the source of equal quantities of mirth and derision, based on Griego's track record of using misleading titles to present himself as something other than a pretender.

In 2010 Griego failed in his did to be elected Judge. Griego then used the ballot title 'Criminal Prosecutor,' a title that the Met News described as a "falsehood." Griego had requested a transfer from his obscure and lackluster duties in the Civil Division of the City Attorneys Office, to "The Pit," a trial unit in the Criminal Division.  It was a transfer that likely would and should have been declined, based on Griego's lack of experience and clear self-serving motives. However, then City Attorney Carmen Trutanich apparently approved the transfer in the full knowledge that Griego only wanted the transfer to get a better ballot title. Trutanich, himself no stranger to using false and misleading ballot titles, was seemingly unconcerned at the fact that the only activity Griego had undertaken in fulfillment of his 'criminal prosecutor' duties was to read a manual; he had not tried a single criminal case.

After Griego crashed and burned in his first misleading election bid, Trutanich elevated Griego to the City Attorney's Gang Unit - a move not based on any apparent achievement in The Pit, but more likely based on Griego's political connections; something Trutanich may well have felt would help in his own (doomed) bid to become District Attorney.

That the Griego campaign has the hallmark and stench of Trutanich's warped and distorted sense of truthfulness is hard to deny; he is only able to claim his ballot title thanks to the questionable motives of his former boss, and is otherwise utterly unqualified to sit as a judge.

Hopefully, Stein will succeed in his appeal, after all, in her ruling Judge O'Donnell had to concede that "...the designation ‘Gang/Homicide Attorney’ is undoubtedly literally accurate - [Stein] is an attorney who handles gang and homicide trials," however in stripping Stein of the title, O'Donnell felt that the title would mislead voters into thinking Stein is a prosecutor as the title is too similar to those used successfully by prosecutors. It also appears that under current election law, Stein is unable to select another ballot title and is stuck with "Trial Attorney."

In the race for Office No. 87, the Dragnet has no hesitation whatsoever in joining former District Attorney Steve Cooley and the Hon. David Wesley, Presiding Judge of the Los Angeles County Superior Court, in endorsing Andrew Stein for Judge.

&tc.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Governor Brown Dismisses DDA Ban as "Pure Fiction"

In response to our report, Monday, that Governor Brown has issued a ban on judicial appointments of LA County Deputy District Attorneys in response to the election of 13 DDAs to the bench in the June primary elections, a spokesman for the Governor stated the claim was “pure fiction” and “factually challenged.”

In support of the Governor’s claims, the Dragnet was contacted by a DDA who also disputed the existence of any ban. “I have the utmost confidence in the appointment process, and do not believe there is any ban,” the DDA said. “It is a long selection process and there are many qualified candidates.” The DDA further referred the Dragnet to the recent appointment of deputy district attorneys in other counties.

In the light of those comments we wish to make it clear that the comments attributed to the LA County DDA cited on July 21, 2014 regarding the Governor's judicial appointment process are fully retracted. The comments were based on inaccurate and incorrect information from a third party. Attributing such comments to that DDA was a mistake and inconsistent with her/his temperament and character. This reporter apologizes for not having looked into the alleged comments more carefully.

On July 16, 2014, the Governor appointed 10 lawyers to Superior Court judgeships in Orange, San Diego, Santa Clara and Contra Costa. Of the 10 appointees, 4 were Deputy District Attorneys in those counties. 9 appointees were Democrats.

The next round of judicial appointments will give the Governor the opportunity to prove that there is no ban on appointing LA County DDAs to judgeships. Watch this space.

&tc.

Monday, July 21, 2014

More Stimulating Cooley - Former DA Hosts 3 Hour Talk Show on KFI

Former Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley may have retired from public service, but not from the public eye, or ear to be more precise.


On Friday night Cooley filled in for  KFI AM640 talk show host Tim Conway Jr., promising no 'ding-dongs' and no 'what the hell did Jesse Jackson say' segments. Instead, Cooley promised a 'more classy operation' including guests Madame District Attorney Jackie Lacey, Long Beach Police Chief and LA County Sheriff front runner Jim McDonnell, former Mayoral candidate, talk show host and current President of the LA City Board of Works Kevin James, and Los Angeles Police Protective League President Tyler Izen.

During the first hour of the show DA Jackie Lacey discussed the challenges facing prosecutors under AB109, the so-called 'Realignment.' Cooley was critical of the way Governor Brown's realignment has filled the already overcrowded jails with prison convicts, and Lacey confirmed that an unforeseen consequence of Brown's bill has been the exceptionally early release of those convicted misdemeanor crimes. Lacey stated that despite the problem posed by realignment, the DA's office is responding by encouraging the use of split sentences, thereby reducing the jail population and placing convicts in the community under supervision.

Next up was Jim McDonnell who won first place the primary election for LA County Sheriff, coming within six tenths of a percentage point of winning the election outright. McDonnell faces second placed Paul Tanaka in the November runoff, and given that McDonnell garnered three times as many votes as Tanaka, Cooley believes that McDonnell will win the runoff handily. McDonnell stated that, if elected, his first priority will be to rebuild the public's trust in the scandal-ridden department, and then restore moral amongst the rank and file.

KFI news reporter Steve Gregory joined Cooley to discuss the debunking of the Obama administration's claim that the recent surge of illegal immigrants was due to a flight from crime in Latin American countries. However, a recently leaked report from the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) shows that 95% of the unaccompanied minors crossing the boarder illegally have come in search of 'permisos,' a term used to describe what they believed was Obama's promise to fast-track immigration. Crime in their native countries, was not a concern.

EPIC also provided crime statistics showing that contrary to the Obama administration's claims, crime has actually fallen in Latin American countries. Cooley believed that it was just as important for the Obama administration to enforce immigration law as it was to better communicate with Latin America so as not to perpetuate the "false promise" that has caused so many young people to put their lives at risk by illegally entering America.

Gregory pointed out that it was "remarkable" that EPIC, a government agency, was contradicting the official line of the Obama administration. Gregory said that the claims of flight from rape, mayhem and torture touted by the Obama administration is not supported by the Federal agencies who interviewed the illegal immigrants. Gregory also announced that he would be hosting a three-hour show on the topic of the boarder crisis illegal immigration next Friday, July 25, from 10am to 1pm.

During the second hour of Cooley's entree to the talk show world, he was joined in studio by Kevin James. In what Cooley described as a reversal of roles, Cooley interviewed the former talk show host about his current duties as President of the Los Angeles City Board of Works, as well as the work of the Board itself. Cooley did not give James and easy time, probing James for an explanation as to why the streets of the City of Los Angeles are so bad when compared to the streets of surrounding cities such as Burbank and Beverly Hills.

The final hour of the show pitched Cooley with KFI's Aron Bender and his popular segment on controversial news stories, and gave Cooley some time to air his views on news in general and the criminal justice system.  

Interspersed between his guests, Cooley also gave his own views on the criminal justice system, top of the list was his excoriating condemnation of Proposition 47, the so-called 'Californians for Safe Neighborhoods and Schools' Act, described by Cooley as a "complete fraud" and something that "is going to endanger public safety" notwithstanding its title. Prop 47 would change the categorization of several felonies to misdemeanors, which thanks to AB109 carry no real risk of jail time. It would also allow convicted felons serving time in jail, to petition courts to re-sentence them as misdemeanor offenders, thereby releasing them into the community without any supervision.

A real stinker in Prop 47 is a presumption in favor of re-sentencing, such that it would be virtually impossible for a court to deny re-sentencing. How then, does going soft on crime benefit neighborhoods and communities? According proponents, the money saved by releasing felons into the community, would be given to schools and neighborhoods. In other words, the check's in the mail. Cooley concluded that Prop 47 is "The next great fraud to be perpetrated by the initiative process," and that "Idiotic is too nice a word to use for this initiative." Although he did not say as much, expect Cooley to be a leading light in the fight against Proposition 47.

To hear Steve Cooley standing in for Tim Conway Jr., listen to the podcasts provided by KFI:

Hour 1 - Guests Jackie Lacey, Jim McDonnel and Steve Gregory.

Hour 2 - Guest Kevin James

Hour 3 - The News Bender and surprise call-in guest Tyler Izen President of the Los Angeles Police Protective League.



Brown Bans Deputy District Attorneys from Judicial Appointments

The Dragnet has learned that California Governor Jerry Brown has banned the appointment of any Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorneys to become judges of the Superior Court.


The move from the septuagenarian Democrat is believed to be a 'tit for tat' backlash reaction to the results of the June primary election where almost all Deputy District Attorneys running for Los Angeles County Superior Court were democratically elected; 13 Deputy District Attorneys will become Judges in January as a result of the voter's choices, a 14th faces a run-off in November.

Brown, who despite appearances is only 76, was said to have descended into an apoplectic rage upon learning that judges had deliberately announced their retirements during the period when the electorate decides replacements, thus denying the aged Governor appointment power. Many judges are believed to have been not only disappointed with some of the senescent Governor's prior 'partisan' appointments, but also outraged by his callous cuts to the Superior Court budget.


Brown's ban on appointing prosecutors as judges has so far failed to attract the attention of the mainstream media. However, Governor Moonbeam's apparent disapproval of, and lack of faith in, the electoral process could upset his hopes for reelection in November. Many fear that the soon to be octogenarian is hell bent on paying back Californian voters for 1986 when voters ousted Supreme Court Justice Rose Bird - one of Brown's proudest judicial appointments. Brown, it seems, is determined to leave a legacy of liberal, light-on-crime activist judges as the light fades on the Moonbeam.

&tc.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

McDonnell's Runoff Kickoff "Impressive" while Tanka Campaign Tanks

Although hopes have faded that the final tally of uncounted votes would push Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell's campaign past 50% plus one vote to win the primary outright, McDonnell kicked off his runoff campaign in an impressive way with a "thank you" reception at the Beverly Hills home of billionaire business magnet Ron Burkle.


More impressive than the setting for the reception was the turnout, with valet parkers hard pushed to keep pace with the numbers of McDonnell supporters who arrived eager to join in the celebration of McDonnell's crushing victory over distant second place finisher Paul Tanaka. It was a standing room only event as the crowd who had gathered to hear from McDonnell made the palatial home seem cramped. Out of respect for the host's wishes, the Dragnet will not publish photographs of the event, suffice it to say that there is only one word for the sheer size and quality of those supporting McDonnell; impressive. Law Enforcement, political, civic and business leaders from across the political spectrum were united in their support for LA's next Sheriff.


McDonnell's candidacy has soared as leading law enforcement groups united in their support of McDonnell; ALADS, the representative body of over 10,000 rank and file Deputy Sheriffs, announced their endorsement of McDonnell for Sheriff on Tuesday. Joining ALADS were:

  • Professional Peace Officers Association
  • Los Angeles Police Protective League
  • Long Beach Police Officers Association
  • Probation Supervisors Association
  • Los Angeles County Deputy Probation Officers Association (AFSCME Local 685)
  • Los Angeles Airport Police Officers Association
  • Los Angeles School Police Association
  • Los Angeles School Police Management Association
  • Baldwin Park Police Association
  • San Marino Police Association
  • Torrance Police Officers Association
  • Glendale Police Officers Association
With McDonnell poised to mount a robust campaign for the November 4, 2014 runoff election, the same cannot be said for rival Paul Tanaka, who remains mired in the scandals at the Sheriff's Dept. that occurred on his watch as Undersheriff.

Sources inform the Dragnet that Tanaka has not decided whether or not to run a campaign for the runoff, and has asked his inner circle to "take some time" to reflect on whether the devastatingly low number of votes cast for him in the primary might raise serious and embarrassing challenges to  fundraising. Tanaka out-raised McDonnell, yet received a drubbing on election night. It's an experience he is unlikely to want repeated, and withdrawing from the election might salvage what's left of his career in local politics.

Informed observers see Tanaka's predicament as somewhat similar to that facing former District Attorney Ira Reiner, who finished second to rival Gil Garcetti in the 1992 primary election. Reiner ultimately withdrew from the race, resulting in Garcetti winning the runoff with 82% of the vote. For an excellent and well researched analysis of the Reiner-Garcetti race, please read the Metropolitan News-Enterprise Perspectives column "Reiner, His Support Dwindling, Quits the Race."

Regardless of whether or when Tanaka quits the race, the reality for McDonnell is that he has to mount a campaign. He has to leverage the support he now enjoys not only from those who supported him in the primary, but that too of his challengers, nearly all of whom have pledged their support for McDonnell over Tanaka.

A potential problem for McDonnell may be convincing supporters to dip into their pockets and raise the kind of money it takes to run a countywide campaign. Some supporters may feel that with the size of McDonnell's victory in the primary, the runoff is a foregone conclusion and he doesn't need money. It may well be a foregone conclusion, but only if McDonnell can reach the voters in November in the same way that he did in June. And that takes money.

If the level of support McDonnell enjoyed at his reception Wednesday night can translate into a well-funded campaign, then expect history to repeat itself; McDonnell wins by 82% over Tanaka.

&tc.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Time for Reform of Judicial Elections?

While we eagerly await the release of the third update to the results of the June 3, 2014 primary election to see if the latest count of votes puts LA County Sheriff candidate Jim McDonnell over  50% plus 1 vote to win the election outright, our thoughts turn to the results of the judicial elections.

There were 15 Judicial Offices, or "seats," on the ballot, 3 of which were uncontested meaning easy wins for 3 Deputy District Attorneys. Of the remaining 12 seats, 11 were "open" meaning there was no incumbent. 24 candidates vied for those seats; 12 were Deputy District Attorneys, 3 were Superior Court Commissioners, 3 had been Superior Court Referees at some point in time, 2 were Deputy City Attorneys, and 2 were attorneys.

The results of two seats will not be known until November when runoffs will take place. However, of the 9 open seats where there were only two candidates, in all cases a Deputy District Attorney was elected. In the one seat that did feature an incumbent, Judge James B. Pierce, challenger Deputy District Attorney Carol Najera surprisingly emerged as the victor.

With Deputy District Attorneys sweeping the board in the elections, it is no surprise that some have expressed concern with the voters' choice.

   
Leading the charge against the voters is the LA Times. In an OpEd piece asking whether the voters should be ousted, columnist Robert Greene concluded that judicial elections should not be ended, but suggested more news coverage and candidate forums might cure any perceived shortcomings with the current judicial election process.  The Times, it will be recalled, endorsed only 4 Deputy DAs in the election. The Times clearly did not have the voters' pulse, much to the relief of several Deputy DAs who really should have gained the endorsement, but failed to do so for reasons previously discussed.

Although the Times had its nose bloodied with their woeful endorsements, they did not suggest any other meaningful reform to judicial elections, short of ousting the voters altogether.

But not so the Los Angeles Metropolitan New-Enterprise.

 
In a remarkably prescient editorial, published five weeks before the election, the Met News opined that the current electoral system would result in some unqualified candidates being elected, and some very well qualified candidates being excluded.

"As we have in the past, we observe that our present elective system makes no sense, and that all candidates for Superior Court open seats should run as a pack—a system used fleetingly in the early 1900s. There are 11 contests this year for open seats. There are 24 candidates for open seats. The names of all 24, with accurate, current, job titles under the names, should be listed on the ballot with no office numbers, and with those 11 drawing the highest number of votes being elected." The Met News said.

It's an intriguing idea, electing the overall top vote-getters. But we wondered whether the outcome would be any different? In order to attempt to answer that question, we analyzed the latest numbers released by the LA County Registrar-Recorder to find the top 12 vote-getters to see who would be judge under this system.

Interestingly, the same 10 Deputy DAs would have been elected, but Judge Pierce would have held on to his seat, and former Superior Court Referee Pamela Matsumoto would also have been elected. Of course this is not a very scientific or statistically accurate forecast of how the "top 12" approach would have worked, as two of the seats now headed to runoff featured 6 candidates, so the vote there was somewhat diluted. But overall the outcome does seem remarkably similar to the results of the primary election.

Some things, of course, do not change. Three of the biggest losers would remain unelected; Part-time filing Deputy DA Helen Kim, who blew at least a half a million dollars to try to buy the seat, still sucks. And so does B Otis Felder, the man who was stupid enough to run with a hybrid of Carmen Trutanich's disastrous ballot designation, "Los Angeles Prosecutor."  Reassuringly, we note that Deputy City Attorney Songhai 'Sunny' Armstead's race-baiting campaign would also have failed.

Seems whichever way you count the votes, some rotten apples will still be outed.

&tc.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

McDonnell Close to Outright Victory in Updated Election Results

Long Beach Police Chief and leading LA County Sheriff candidate Jim McDonnell is getting closer to claiming outright victory in the June 3, 2014 primary election. McDonnell now has 49.73% of the vote, up from election night's figure of 49.15%.


The LA County Registrar-Recorder released the results of the second update as previously uncounted votes were verified and tabulated. Of the 160,000 such votes, 114,753 were found to be valid, according to today's news release. A further update is scheduled for Friday June 13, 2104, and will probably occur towards the end of the day. The Registrar-Recorder's News Room can be accessed by clicking here.

Of the 114,753 votes now validated, 108,948 included votes for Sheriff. The actual figures, taken from the election results website are:


Significantly, McDonnell polled 57,273 votes of the 108,948 votes counted in the second update, and that equates to 52.57% of second update votes going to McDonnell. If that trend continues in the remaining 50,000 or so votes to be verified, McDonnell will win the primary outright.

Even if Friday's third update does not put McDonnell over the 50% plus one vote victory line, the results of the primary makes the result of a runoff a foregone conclusion; one that is so overwhelming that it will likely cause the distant second place finisher Paul Tanaka to withdraw from the runoff.

In other news...

The updated election results also appear to confirm the trend in two of the closer races for Judge of the Superior Court. In Office No. 117, Deputy DA Carol Najera has increased her lead in the surprise defeat of sitting Superior Court Judge James B. Pierce. Najera now has 50.43% of the vote. In Office No. 107, Deputy DA Joan Chrostek remains in the lead with 51.71%.

&tc.