Thursday, February 23, 2017

Ex LA City Attorney Trutanich Under Fire From State Bar

The LA Times broke the news late Wednesday night that former LA City Attorney Carmen 'Nuch' Trutanich is facing charges of Prosecutorial Misconduct brought by the State Bar.

According to The Times, the charges arise from a case Trutanich prosecuted in the 1980's where he either negligently or deliberately failed to provide the defense with the true name of an eye witness to a gangland drive-by slaying, and allowed a witness to testify falsely.

The case itself formed the centerpiece of Trutanich's 2009 campaign when he was elected as City Attorney, and it was at the core of his failed 2012 bid to become District Attorney. Trutanich claimed that while he was investigating that case, he was the victim of an assassination attempt at Green Meadows Park in South Central LA.

The Dragnet led the charge that showed Trutanich's claims were false.

Trutanich had claimed to have come under fire from gang members, and was only saved by the fortuitous intervention of a DA Investigator, who claimed he had heard a "Shots Fired!" emergency broadcast and came to Trutanich's rescue.

While little doubt remains that the Green Meadows Park assassination attempt was a a political stunt, it was not known that Trutanich could face State Bar discipline for his prosecution of the underlying case. The LA Times has revealed that if the State Bar charges are proven to be true, "Trutanich could face disbarment, suspension and other sanctions, depending on what the State Bar Court recommends" The LA Times said. This time, it seems, Trutanich really is under fire.


Monday, February 20, 2017

Met News Blasts Appellate Court Justice Elwood Lui For Hacking Judicial Election

The Los Angeles Metropolitan News-Enterprise delivered a Valentines Day massacre to Associate Appellate Court Justice Elwood Lui in its April 14, 2017 Perspectives column.

The Met News makes a compelling case for believing that Lui authored his August 31, 2016 opinion in People v. Jin (B267638) to interfere with, or 'hack,' a judicial election. It's a startling allegation, yet the Met News' Perspective appears to fully support that conclusion.

Lui's opinion overturned a jury's verdict that James Jin had not been restored to sanity. That verdict came at the conclusion of a civil trial. Deputy District Attorney David Berger, then a candidate for Judge of the Superior Court, had opposed the restoration of sanity petition brought by Jin. In overturning the jury's verdict, Lui ordered that Berger be investigated by the State Bar for  'Prosecutorial Misconduct,' notwithstanding that the trial was neither a prosecution, nor a criminal trial. The State Bar has written to Berger stating that it will take no such action, and considers the matter closed.

Lui (76), has not responded to requests from the Met News to explain not only the basis of his opinion, but perhaps more importantly, to explain the timing of it, coming as it did only weeks before the election. While the merits of Lui's opinion struggles to pass the strait-face test, the timing of it clearly does not: The Met News had little or no doubt that Lui timed his opinion to impact a judicial election in favor of Berger's opponent; then Deputy Attorney General, now Superior Court Judge Kim L. Nguyen who, like Lui is a Democrat and fellow Asian-American. 

The merits, or lack thereof, of Lui's opinion are discussed further below. Suffice it to say that Lui saw fit to overturn a jury's verdict and report Nguyen's rival runoff candidate to the State Bar for "prosecutorial misconduct." The case in question was a civil jury trial in which a paranoid schizophrenic sought a declaration that he had been restored to sanity. The alleged prosecutorial misconduct was a single question alluding to Jin's right to apply for restoration of sanity every 12 months, an area of questioning previously alluded to not once but twice by Jin's own attorney.

Lui's opinion and it's finding of prosecutorial misconduct, served no useful purpose to Jin whatsoever. There was no urgency as Jin was not incarcerated and so far as Lui was aware, remained in an out patient mental health program following the jury's verdict. Lui could easily have deferred delivering opinion until the day after the November election so as to avoid the potential of impacting the election in favor of Nguyen. Equally, there was no earth-shattering legal precedent contained in Lui's opinion – it is unpublished and cannot be cited in other cases.  And rightly so.

The sole question that formed the basis for a Lui's reversal of the jury's verdict and a finding of prosecutorial misconduct was asked of Jin at the conclusion of his cross-examination, "And you'll be back in another year if they don't allow you to be restored?" It was what most would agree at its worst to be simply a harmless error given the overwhelming weight of evidence showed Jin had not been restored to sanity. At best, it was no error at all, and simply an exercise of the right to fully cross-examine Jin on an area that had already been raised by his own attorney. Further, that same jury had already learned of Jin's prior attempt at restoration of sanity. Nevertheless, Lui claimed it was prosecutorial misconduct because it told the jury that "a finding of no restoration would not be the end of the road for Jin." Lui said that was prosecutorial misconduct.

Established examples of what actually constitutes prosecutorial misconduct include:
To label as prosecutorial misconduct the asking of single question, in a civil trial, in cross-examination of a topic first raised by the opposing party, where the overwhelming weight of evidence supported the jury's verdict, could not only be viewed as intellectually dishonest, but depreciative and trivializing of the term.

In the light of the above, the Met News' belief that the only useful purpose behind Lui's opinion was to interfere in the election not only appears to be valid, but one raising serious questions about Lui. 

As to the timing of Lui's opinion, just weeks before the election, the Met News opined that Lui had "misuse[d] his position" by "improperly interjecting himself into a political contest" and "created the appearance of impropriety." The Met News analogized Lui's opinion to the statements of retired LA Superior Court Judge David Yaffe when he "launched into a tirade from the bench against then- District Attorney Gil Garcetti just three weeks before the 1996 primary election."

The Met News has called for a "disciplinary investigation" into Lui's conduct by the Commission on Judicial Performance. That investigation could well impact Lui's own judicial aspirations – he's in line for elevation to the post of presiding justice of Div. Two.  The Met News, however, believes that Lui will nevertheless be confirmed. Such appears to be the sorry state of partisanship in California.

No Innocent Explanation:
That Lui has not responded to requests for comment from the Met News, perhaps speaks louder than any comment or observation in the Valentines Day Perspective. Lui cannot claim to have been unaware of the upcoming judicial election nor the identity of a fellow Asian-American Democrat as a candidate. According to the Met News, Lui is known for his "political astuteness" and that his opinion would assist Ms. Nguyen's electoral chances. Lui has had the chance to explain his opinion, and no legal impediment appears to prevent him from doing so as the decision in the case is final. That he has chosen to remain silent appears to support the Met News' Perspective.

Appearance of Impropriety:
That Lui appears unconcerned over any suggestion that the timing of his opinion would raise concerns as to the appearance of impropriety, Lui equally does not appear concerned that any possible nexus between himself and Ngyuen would also cast doubt on his impartiality. Lui and Nguyen shared more than just political beliefs and demographics; they also shared the same building – 300 S. Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles is not only home to the Second District Court of Appeals where Lui sits, but it was also home to Attorney General's Office where Nguyen worked. Furthermore, prior to Nguyen working at the Attorney General's Office, Nguyen was a Writs Attorney for the Court of Appeal, although it is unknown whether that assignment was also in the same building. If the above does not set off alarm bells as to the appearance of impropriety, it's hard to tell what would. While Nguyen has claimed not to know Lui personally, Lui has neither confirmed nor denied any knowledge of Ngyuen or her candidacy. All of the above could be mere coincidence, however, there's only room for so many coincidences before one begins to see that the Met News' Perspective appears to be on the money.

The Merits of the Case:
As for the merits of the case, Lui's opinion chose to ignore any argument that jury had heard ample, convincing, and compelling evidence that Jin remained mentally ill and a danger to himself and others if not required to continue receiving mental health treatment in a court-ordered out patient program.

The evidence presented at the restoration of sanity trial was that Jin had a long history of mental health illness. The jury heard that Jin had been diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic. Expert witnesses for Jin agreed that this is a condition for which there is no cure. It is a condition that can only be controlled by medication.  The jury also heard, however, that Jin had a long history of failing to take his medication when unsupervised.

The jury heard that when Jin stopped taking his medication he becomes violent. They heard of the first time Jin stopped taking his medication and started having delusions. Those delusions led him to believe he was entitled to a job at an office building. After entering that building and finding no such job, Jin set fire to a trash container in the mens' room and a Christmas tree in the lobby. After spending 13 months in the State Hospital before being found mentally competent, Jin was convicted of Arson and sentenced to 3 years of probation where he was ordered to receive mental health services at the Asian Pacific Center as a condition of probation.

As soon as Jin's probation ended, Jin stopped attending the Center, and stopped taking his medication. Predictably, Jin started experiencing delusions again. This time Jin believed he was entitled to inherit his late father's home.

Those delusions took Jin to a Beverly Hills real estate office where he believed someone was wrongfully withholding the deeds to his late father's house. After entering the office and demanding to see the manager, Jin became impatient, pacing back and forth in the reception area. Jin walked behind the receptionist's desk, picked up a large glass vase and said to the receptionist "Nice bucket." The receptionist replied, "It's not a bucket, it's a vase," at which point Jin smashed the vase over the receptionist's head, severing off a portion of her ear. The receptionist fell to the floor, and Jin then stamped his feet on her head screaming "Give me my fucking deeds, bitch!" before being forcibly restrained by office workers and a security guard.

The jury heard that Jin was found not guilty of the crimes of mayhem and assault with a deadly weapon, by reason of insanity. Jin was sent to the State Hospital where he remained until he was found suitable for placement in a closely monitored out patient program. The jury heard that Jin had not performed well in the out patient program, resisting therapy and being fixated on there being causes for his conduct other than any mental illness. The jury heard that Jin had to be removed from the out patient program and returned to the State Hospital for a period to be stabilized.

The jury heard of the four levels of progress in the out patient program necessary to be attained before Jin could be considered restored to sanity. They heard that Jin was still at the first level having at one time advanced to the second level, but regressed back to level one.

The jury heard, thanks to his own attorney's questions, that Jin had the right to apply for restoration of sanity after 12 months in the out patient program, and that this was not his first application, an earlier application having been withdrawn.

The jury heard that essential to the success of any restoration of sanity is a plan for life after leaving the out patient program. A typical plan includes a place to live, a place to continue to receive medication and therapy, a friend or family member who could be of support in times of need, and a means of income. The jury heard that Jin's plan was flawed, relying on returning to the Asian Pacific Center and on support from his brother. On cross-examination it was revealed that Jin's brother had relocated to Northern California and did not want Jin to reside with him.

If the jury had already heard more than enough to convince themselves that Jin was not ready to be restored to sanity, perhaps the most compelling such evidence came from Jin himself.

People's Exhibit One, a two-page rambling handwritten letter authored by Jin and sent to the trial judge during the pendency of the proceedings, produced a jaw-dropping response from the jury.


In the letter, Jin talks of his "achievements" such as his "flight record" – the 100+ hours of time spent as a passenger on various flights where he "gets up to 40,000 feet into Ozone." Jin also counted several shorter flights, circling "night flights" for special attention. Jin also listed his work record, noting the number of elevator rides he had to take to do his job "rode the elevator 1,200 times up and down to 28th floor, 1991-1992" and "2,400 times lobby to 8th floor 1992-1993," and "600 times up and down to 20th floor 1994." Jin also drove "Super Shuttle van service" covering "300 miles every day" noting that some of the vans were "propane powered."

Jin's letter ends "Truly I am lucky to be still alive. Without the help of my nation, the United States, I could not have accomplished my record. I truly hope that the United States win and that it will continue to stand as the only super power of the world. Win U.S.A. win!"

Jin's letter is described and displayed here not to ridicule Jin, but display the workings of a very troubled mind in exactly the same way as was displayed to the jury. Exhibit 1 went into the jury room when they commenced their deliberations, and it was available to Lui when he penned his opinion. It is hard to look at Exhibit and not conclude (as the jury undoubtedly did) that Jin remained a long way from being restored to sanity.

It is, perhaps, equally hard not to look at Lui's opinion in the light of all the evidence presented in the trial, and conclude (as the Met News did) that Lui's opinion was calculated to serve only one purpose, to hack an election. Bravo, Appellate Justice Lui.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

2016 Judicial Elections - Recap of Candidates, Endorsements, Media Coverage

Two days to go before the November 8, 2016 General Election, and the Los Angeles Dragnet breaks its self-imposed moratorium on judicial election coverage to provide a review of the candidates and their endorsements.

Eight candidates are vying for four open seats on the Los Angeles County Superior Court. Six of the candidates are Deputy District Attorneys, one is a Civil Litigator for the Attorney General's Office, the other is an immigration attorney. 

Los Angeles Times

Perhaps the Holy Grail of endorsements for any candidate, the LA Times endorsements are even more important for candidates in 'down ballot' races where most voters would otherwise have little or no other information to guide their decisions.

The LA Times picks the best choices for Judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court.
The LA Times endorsed Steven Schreiner for Office 11, Efrain Aceves for Office 42, Susan Jung Townsend for Office 84, and David Berger for Office 158.

The Times' endorsements for Schreiner, Townsend, and Berger were first published ahead of the Primary Election which saw all three win places in the upcoming runoff in November 8, 2016 General Election.

The Times has not changed its position on all three. The Time's endorsement of Aceves did not occur until after the Primary election when the Times' original pick for Office 42 failed to garner enough votes for the runoff.

Metropolitan News-Enterprise

Just as the LA Times has a wide readership among the general public, the Met News is widely read among the legal community and provides the most in-depth analysis of the candidates.

The Metropolitan News-Enterprise Judicial Endorsements, November 3, 2016.
The Met News summary of its Judicial Endorsements was published on November 3, 2016, and drew on its extensive research and analysis. Their endorsements appear below:

Office No. 11: Steven Schreiner

Office No. 42: Efrain Aceves

Office No. 84: Susan Jung Townsend

Office No. 158: David A. Berger

KPCC "Meet the Judges"

In contrast to the LA Times and the Met News, KPCC's mid-morning "Take Two" show did not endorse or recommend any particular candidate. Instead KPCC broadcast a series of recordings made by each candidate in response to off air questions.

KPCC's Take Two program broadcast short audio segments on each candidate without editorial comment.
Each of the candidates' responses to the off air questions can be found on the KPCC website on their "Meet the Judges" page. Direct links to the candidates appear below:

Office No. 11
Steven Schreiner
Debra Archuleta

Office No. 42
Efrain Aceves
Alicia Molina

Office No. 84
Susan Jung Townsend
Javier Perez

Office No. 158
David Berger
Kim Nguyen

Charter Communications - Local Edition

Brad Pomerance, host of Charter Local Edition, conducted a series of interviews with the candidates broadcast on Charter's cable tv network.

Office 11: Steven Schreiner & Debra Archuleta

 Office 42: Efrain Aceves (candidate Alicia Molina did not participate)

Office 84: Susan Jung Townsend & Javier Perez

Office 158: David Berger & Kim Nguyen

Election Results

While the nation will be focused on the Presidential Election, those interested in the Judicial Election will be able to obtain information from the LA County Registrar-Recorder's website:

Polls close at 8PM and typically, within 10 or 20 minutes, the first results of the vote by mail ballots will be released.

The Registrar Recorder appears to have a new 'Live Election Night Video Stream' not seen before, so it's unclear how this will operate.

Text based live results should also be available from: 

In the interests of full disclosure, the Los Angeles Dragnet is edited by David Berger, candidate for Superior Court Judge, Office No. 158. Any and all opinions expressed here are personal and are not reflective of any opinion, position or view of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

2016 Judicial Elections - Some Sexy Ballot Titles Suffer Electile Dysfunction

Six days before the Primary Election, the LA Times published an article on the thorny topic of ballot designations - “Campaigning for a judge's seat? A sexier title could get you elected — or sued.” The article addressed one of the less seemly aspects of the ballot title bonanza; that some who aspire to be judges, a position that surely demands the epitome of honesty, integrity and candor, may be attempting to mislead voters with their ballot titles.

Rather than re-hash the LA Times’ observations on the propriety of some candidates’ apparent willingness to stretch their credibility, we look instead at how well those much-prized ballot designations performed in the Primary Election, and ask the question; which is the best ballot title in 2016, and which failed to rise in the election?

Our analysis is based on the number of votes cast for candidates who used ‘non job title’ ballot designations which have proven to be more attractive to voters than simple job titles such as “Deputy District Attorney.” Where several candidates used the same ballot title, the total number of votes has been divided by the number of candidates to achieve an average vote for ease of comparison.

#1 Violent Crimes Prosecutor 562,995 votes
Deputy District Attorneys Debra Archuleta and David Berger clearly had the voters’ attention with a time-proven ballot title which garnered a total 1,125,989 votes - the only ballot title to score above a million votes. The popularity of this ballot title is likely a result of voter concern about the staggering increase in violent crime in the past 2 years. Vastly eclipsing the more crime-specific ballot titles like “Child Molestation Prosecutor” and “Gang Homicide Prosecutor,” it is probable that voters see themselves more likely to be victims of generic crimes of violence than specific crimes involving gang members and sex offenders.

#2 Criminal Fraud Prosecutor 531,349 votes

Deputy District Attorney Susan Jung Townsend’s ballot title’s second place may also signal that voters are more concerned about the kind of crime that potentially could affect them directly. In a world where there are few who have not experienced some kind of fraud, such as identity theft and credit card fraud, voters perhaps saw this ballot title as more worthy of their support than the “specific crimes” candidates in this race.

#3 Domestic Violence Attorney 488,289 votes
Immigration law attorney Alicia Molina shocked experts by emerging in first place in the hard fought battle for Office No. 42. It is highly likely that voters viewed Molina as a prosecutor given the first two words of her title, much in the same way that Andrew Stein achieved success in the 2014 primary using “Gang Homicide Attorney.” Stein subsequently lost the runoff when his ballot title was challenged ahead of the runoff. Molina’s runoff opponent, Efrain Aceves (see #5 below) did not challenge Molina’s creative use of this ballot title in the primary election, however, he may well do so now. 

#4 Supervising Criminal Prosecutor 455,403 votes
Deputy District Attorney Javier Perez may be thanking his lucky stars that he was forced to use this ballot title after a court ruled that he could not use “Supervising Gang Prosecutor.” Gang-related ballot titles appear to have lost much of their former potency (see #6 below) and while Perez’s supervisory ballot title left him with a shot at the runoff, it does not have much of a track record. In 2014 it did not serve well; the Hon. Judge Songhai “Sunny” Miguda-Armstead, then a Deputy City Attorney ran using that ballot title, but lost the election. She did, however, succeed in capturing Governor Brown’s attention and was appointed to the bench in 2015. 

#5 Child Molestation Prosecutor 355,716 votes
Deputy District Attorneys Efrain Aceves and Fred Mesropi were likely as stunned as the rest of the experts when what was once considered the Holy Grail of ballot titles spectacularly failed to perform on election night. The title that handily carried the Hon. Judge Carole Rose into office in 2014, couldn't get the vote up in 2016, leaving Aceves in second place to Molina in Office No. 42, and eliminating Mesropi altogether in Office No. 158. In both cases it appears that voters felt a greater connection to more generic forms of crimes of violence.

#6 Gang Homicide Prosecutor 293,233 votes
Deputy District Attorneys Steven Schreiner, Paul Kim and Hubert Yun all ran with either "Gang Homicide Prosecutor" or "Gang Murder Prosecutor." Another sacred cow of ballot titles, so highly prized that it even prompted Kim to challenge Schreiner’s use of the title, resulting in a head-scratching ruling that Schreiner could not run as a Gang Murder Prosecutor, but he could run as a Gang Homicide Prosecutor - a Pyrrhic victory for Kim if ever there was one. When the votes were counted, it mattered little to voters.

In Office No. 11, where last minute entrant Kim undoubtedly split the vote between himself and Schreiner, Kim lost to Scheiner and was eliminated from the race. Tellingly, their combined vote of 40.97% was eclipsed by rival Archuleta’s staggering 47.33%. In Office No. 84, Yun’s late entry fared no better than Kim’s and left him a distant third placed loser.

Opinions differ as to why gang-related ballot tittles appear to be suffering the most from electile dysfunction. Part of the reason may be that Kim and Yun were both late entrants, lacked effective campaigns, and appeared to be substantially relying on the potency of their ballot titles. However, the same cannot be said of Schreiner, who did mount a well funded campaign long before Kim and Yun likely even thought about running.

Another possible reason for gang-related ballot titles’ flaccid performance in this election cycle may be due to voters perception that gang crimes have been overshadowed by violent crime in general, and that voters now seem themselves most at risk from generic violent and fraudulent crime.

#7 Prosecutor 118,619 votes

Deputy City Attorney Onica Valle Cole’s decision to use the single word “Prosecutor” rather than using her job title netted her last place in the race for Office No. 158. Cole may well have fared better had she used her job title, as “Prosecutor,” without any reference to the kind of crimes prosecuted, may have been too generic and failed to wow. Cole may be hoping that her candidacy nevertheless attracts the attention of the Governor with a view to an appointment.

Whether the potency, or lack thereof, of certain ballot titles carries through to the November 8, 2016 runoff, is far from certain. The runoff will be a different election and many expect a higher voter turnout. A high voter turnout may well be the cure for electile dysfunction as a greater proportion of the electorate will not have received the slate mailers that influence high-propensity voters, and cast their ballots based solely on the candidate's name and ballot title.

As for the 'job title' ballot designations, unsurprisingly "Superior Court Judge" topped the list with an overall vote of 1,066,068,  "Deputy Attorney General" came in second at 515,020, "Superior Court Commissioner" was third at 405,233,  and varied permutations of "Attorney" came in last at 230,819.

In the interests of full disclosure, the Los Angeles Dragnet is edited by David Berger, candidate for Superior Court Judge, Office No. 158. Any and all opinions expressed here are personal and are not reflective of any opinion, position or view of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. 


Monday, June 27, 2016

Results of Judicial Elections Remain Unchanged as Ballots Continue to be Counted

Although the results of the 2016 Primary Election were declared on June 8, 2016, there remained a large number of ballots yet to be counted. Those ballots were either vote by mail ballots received past the deadline, provisional ballots issued at polling stations and subject to verification, or damaged/unclear ballots where, for example, a voter had written 'X' instead of filling the bubble.

KPCC reported that, as of Friday, June 24, 2016 about 605,800 ballots remain to be counted statewide, and the Los Angeles County Registrar Recorder issued a bulletin stating that approximately 175,000 ballots remain to be counted in LA County.

Despite the seemingly high number of uncounted ballots, there is no likelihood that the remaining ballots will change the outcome of the election. As the uncounted ballots are counted (there have been 5 counts or canvases since June 8) the results remain more or less the same. Thus far, approximately 325,000 previously uncounted ballots have been tabulated, and no significant changes have resulted. The remaining 175,000 uncounted ballots cannot, statistically, change this trend.

The only one of the Judicial races where there was some hope of a change was in Seat 42 where Superior Court Commissioner Cyndy Zuzga missed a place in the runoff by 1.5%. However, as the results of the canvases were released, it became clear that there would be no change in that race, indeed, Zuzga's margin increased to approx 1.75%.

The LA County Registrar Recorder has until July 1, 2016 to complete the count and certify the election, at which time detailed results will be available indicating where the various candidates scored the most votes.

As of Friday June 24, 2016, 1,889,065 votes had been counted, representing a turnout of 39.3% of eligible LA County voters.


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

2016 Judicial Elections; Primary Postmortem - Incumbents Win Handily, Upsets/Surprises Abound in Open Seats

The preliminary results of the 2016 Primary Elections yielded a mixed bag of relief, surprise and disappointment. In the relief department, all three sitting judges demolished their opponents with crushing defeats. Judges Kaddo, Santana and Solorzano were all returned to office for six-year terms.
There had been concerns among LA County Superior Court bench officers that the surprise 2014 defeat of incumbent Judge James B. Pierce had made them vulnerable to challenge. However the results of the June 2016 primary will not only have restored confidence in the power of incumbency, but will also have deterred long-shot challengers like Baghadassarian and Ibisi.

In the four open seats, the results provided as much surprise as inevitable disappointment. As expected there were no outright winners in these races; the likelihood of any single candidate achieving the necessary 50% plus one vote was slim to none in all four races. The top two vote-getters in each race will face off in the November 8, 2016 General Election.

And so to the races:

Runoff: Archuleta v. Schreiner - Violent Crimes Prosecutor v. Gang Homicide Prosecutor

Although a runoff between bitter rivals Deputy District Attorneys Debra Archuleta and Steven Schreiner was widely expected, the big surprise here was the 21 point lead that Archuleta netted over Schreiner. Indeed, equally unexpected was that Archuleta came within 2.5% of winning the race outright.

While the result must be a disappointment to Schreiner, he can take some solace from the fact that his vote was split by the presence of late entrant Deputy DA Paul Kim on the ballot. Both Schreiner and Kim had virtually identical ballot titles, and undoubtedly, Kim split Schreiner's vote. Had Kim stayed out of the race Schreiner could have been expected to have netted 40.96%, however that still leaves him 8 points behind Archuleta.

Many experts attribute Archuleta's success to her having what appears to be three essential attributes in this year's election cycle; Gender, Occupation, and Race. First, the prospect of electing a female President is clearly engaging female voters who, unsurprisingly, are also favoring female candidates in other races. Second, voters' historic support of prosecutors in judicial elections seems to be holding true, and third, the Latino community are increasingly more engaged in the electoral process. Thus a female, Latino prosecutor makes for a formidable candidate in this election cycle.

Baring some major upset, Archuleta looks certain to benefit from the dynamics of the Presidential election in November.

Runoff: Molina v. Aceves - Domestic Violence Attorney v. Child Molestation Prosecutor

There were big surprises and upsets in this race.

First, perhaps, is that Deputy District Attorney Efrain Matthew Aceves, running with the historically powerful ballot designation "Child Molestation Prosecutor," has ended up in second place.

Second is that Alicia Molina, previously not considered to be a serious threat to a likely Aceves-Zuzga runoff, has ended up in first place.

Third, was that Superior Commissioner Cyndy Zuzga was eliminated from the runoff.

Molina's surprise success looks like being due to her having the same combination of factors as seen with Debra Archuleta; she is female, Latino, and also has a ballot title that sounds prosecutorial - "Domestic Violence Attorney."

Molina also enjoys support from MABA-PAC, the Mexican American Bar Association's Political Action Committee, which will likely redouble it's efforts in support of Molina in the runoff. Although there has been some criticism of Molina's ballot title being misleading (she is more properly associated with immigration law than domestic violence), the reality is that there might be little to be gained in a costly legal challenge, as Molina will likely fare just as well as an "Immigration Attorney" ballot title given the dynamics of the runoff.

All in all, Molina looks set to present a formidable challenge in November, and a race that once seemed certain to favor Aceves, now looks hard to call.

Runoff: Townsend v. Perez - Criminal Fraud Prosecutor v. Supervising Criminal Prosecutor

No big surprises here, nor any huge disappointments. Deputy District Attorneys Susan Jung Townsend and Javier Perez were expected to be in the runoff, and they are. It was equally certain that late entrant and lackadaisical candidate Hubert Yun would be eliminated, as he was. However, Yun's candidacy has caused many to wonder the true nature of Yun's campaign. He does not appear to have been actively campaigning having missed all candidate forums, and aside from having a few randomly placed yard signs, did little to dispel the belief that he was nothing more than a name on the ballot. So was he campaigning to be a winner, or was he simply on the ballot to be a spoiler?

If Yun intended to be a spoiler, he certainly succeed in that regard. He succeeded in spiting the pro-prosecutor vote thereby denying both Townsend and Perez votes. However, he also split the Asian vote, hurting Townsend more than Perez. The unanswered question is why?

The sole GOP candidate in this race, Aaron Weissman, is probably disappointed that Republicans appeared to stay home on election day. As a result Weissman placed last, albeit with a respectable 14.71% of the vote. 

The November runoff looks certain to favor female prosecutors, suggesting that Townsend will likely maintain the narrow lead she has over Perez.

OFFICE No. 158
Runoff: Berger v. Nguyen - Violent Crimes Prosecutor v. Deputy Attorney General

Described by experts as the hardest of the races to predict, most nevertheless agreed that Deputy District Attorney David Berger (the editor of this Blog) would be in the runoff. If there was a surprise here, it is that Deputy Attorney General Kim Nguyen emerged as the challenger in the runoff, rather than late entrant and fellow Deputy DA Fred Mesropi. The once prized and highly rated 'Child Molestation Prosecutor' ballot title had promised to place Mesropi high in the rankings, perhaps even in first place. However, in this election cycle it failed to deliver,  just as it did for Aceves in Office No. 42.

Although Nguyen netted at 34.49% of the vote, six points ahead of Berger, that lead is somewhat illusory given that Mesropi clearly split Berger's vote. Indeed, if Mesropi's 17.25% is added to Berger's 28.14%, the resultant 45.39% perhaps represents a more accurate picture of this race; it is not unreasonable to expect voters attracted by Mesropi's ballot title to be easy converts to Berger, who ran with the ballot title 'Violent Crimes Prosecutor.'

As to the 12.21% garnered by Naser Khoury, the sole GOP candidate in this race, those votes seem more likely to go towards a candidate with a prosecutorial ballot title if historical data holds true. Deputy City Attorney Onica Valle Cole, another late entrant, garnered almost 8% of the vote, attributable as much to her gender as her ballot title, 'Prosecutor,' suggesting that her vote will split evenly between the runoff candidates.

Unlike the three other judicial races in the November runoff, this is the only one featuring a prosecutor against a non prosecutor. Although prosecutors generally do better than their opponents in the high-voter turnout General Election, Nguyen could benefit from being the only non-prosecutor on the ballot. With that said, however, data from the primary suggests voters still favor prosecutors in judicial elections.


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Election Day is Finally Here

The LA Times repeated its endorsements over the weekend, as did the Metropolitan News-Enterprise on Monday, ahead of Tuesdays' elections.

The full text of all the Met News endorsements can be read here.

The press have done their bit, now do yours and get out and vote!