Monday, March 10, 2014

Frisco, Park & Murillo early winners in race for Judge of Superior Court

Friday's deadline for candidates for Judge of the Superior Court resulted in three of the sixteen Deputy District Attorney candidates being unopposed. DDA Chris Frisco is unopposed in Office No. 72, DDA Ann Park is unopposed in Office No. 82, and DDA Serena Murillo is unopposed in Office No. 90. All three therefore will be Judge Elect on June 3, 2014, become Judges on or before January 2015.

DDAs Chris Frisco (Office No. 72), Ann Park (Office No. 82), and Serena Murillo (Office No. 90)
are all unopposed in the June 3, 2014 primary election and will become Judges of the Superior Court

For Murillo, who narrowly lost her previous bid to join the judiciary, Friday's surprise result must be a huge relief as well as a vindication of her hard efforts and resilience in her current campaign. Murillo attended Sunday's scheduled fundraiser at the home mansion of former DDA Michael Kraut which was re-named a celebration, and was elated, saying that the news had not yet sunk in. Doubtless, Murillo's sentiments are shared by Frisco and Park. The Dragnet offer all three hearty congratulations.

For the 12 remaining contested seats, the candidates finally learned who their opponents will be, and perhaps, more importantly, what ballot designations will be used or abused. In a county-wide race where budgets for judicial seats typically preclude a battle of mailers, most voters will have little to go on other than a name that looks agreeable and a ballot designation that resonates with voters'  expectations of a judge. The breakdown is somewhat as predicted in our Friday morning review.

Office No 22
DDA Amy Carter, running with the ballot designation "Sex Crimes Prosecutor," will face former Superior Court Referee Pamela Matsumoto who has chosen "Administrative Law Judge" as her ballot designation. Carter may challenge that designation based on Matsumoto's assignment as ALJ being a temporary one which ended in August 2013. Matsumoto is currently working in insurance defense.

Office No 48
DDA Carol Rose, running with the ballot designation "Child Molestation Prosecutor," will face career politician Charles Calerdon who will appear on the ballot as "Retired Lawmaker Assemblymember," a ballot designation that will likely serve to remind voters that his principal claim to fame is that he is the brother of federally indicted Roland and Tom Calderon. His choice of ballot designation was made the same day that the latest scandal to tarnish the Calderon political family was reported in the Pasadena News-Star. Calderon apparently paid his son Ian $40k for 'consulting' in his uncontested reelection campaign in 2010. Calderon, like Tom Griego (see Office 87), is likely counting on partisan support from the Democrat Latino community to carry the day for him in a race where, like Griego, he is utterly unqualified to sit as a judge. 

Office No 54
DDA Shannon Knight, running with the ballot designation "Gang Homicide Prosecutor," will face Commissioner Debra Losnick  running with the ballot designation "Superior Court Commissioner." This is the second judicial campaign for Knight who, in 2012, lost to fellow DDA and now Hon. Judge Andrea C. Thompson. Observers believe that Knight's ballot designation, "Gang Homicide Prosecutor,"was trumped by Thompson's - "Child Molestation Prosecutor," which should provide DDA Carol Rose some comfort in her battle with Calderon.

Office No 61
DDA Dayan Mathai, running with the ballot designation "Gang Homicide Prosecutor," will face   Commissioner Jacqueline Lewis, running with the ballot designation "Superior Court Commissioner," and attorney B. Otis Felder, who has chosen to use the ballot designation "Deputy City Prosecutor." It remains to be seen whether either Mathai or Lewis will challenge Felder's ballot designation, he is no longer employed by the City Attorney's Office.

Office No 76
DDA Alison Matsumoto Estrada, running with the ballot designation "Government Corruption Prosecutor" finds herself in the awkward position of facing fellow DDA Helen Kim, who will appear on the ballot as "Violent Crime Prosecutor." it appears as to be a straight choice for voters; which to they dislike more; corrupt politicians or violent criminals? Given the on-going hype surrounding the recently indicted Calderons, Matsumoto Estrada may have the edge here. Kim may, however, be banking on partisanship to carry the day for her; she is understood to have recently switched her party allegiance from Republican to Democrat. 

Office No 87
DDA Steven Schreiner, running with the ballot designation "Gang Homicide Prosecutor," will face attorney Andrew Stein, running with the ballot designation "Gang Homicide Attorney," and Deputy City Attorney Tom Griego, running with the ballot designation "Criminal Gang Prosecutor."
Office No 87 is all about gangs apparently, and unless either Stein and Schreiner challenge Griego for using a misleading ballot designation, uninformed voters will likely have a hard time distinguishing the candidates. Stein, who is understood to be "all in" for his election bid, will likely bring that challenge.

Office No 97
DDA Teresa Pineda-Magno, running with the ballot designation "Gang Murder Prosecutor," will face Deputy City Attorney Songhai Miguda-Armsted, running with the ballot designation "Supervising Criminal Prosecutor." Magno may have the ballot designation edge here, voters seem to favor Gang Homicide/Murder Prosecutors over prosecutors who use their supervisory position; just ask Miguda-Armsted's former boss Carmen Trutanich who not only lost his bid to use "Los Angeles Chief  Prosecutor" in his spectacularly unsuccessful bid to become District Attorney, but also lost the election using "Los Angeles City Prosecutor."

Office No 107
DDA Joan Chrostek, running with the ballot designation "Major Narcotics Prosecutor," will face Commissioner Emma Castro, running with the ballot designation "Superior Court Commissioner." Chrostek has retained famed judge-maker David Gould as her consultant, and commenting on the race for Office No 107, Gould told the Metropolitan News-Enterprise that "commissioners, in general, do not necessarily do very well against D.A.s."

Office No 113
DDA Stacy Okun-Weise, running with the ballot designation "Criminal Homicide Prosecutor," will  face attorney Steven Klaif, running as "Superior Court Referee." Klaif's ballot designation could draw a challenge, apparently he is not a full-time Referee. His principal occupation appears to be that of "Mediator." Okun-Weise certainly appears to have the edge in terms of ballot designation, even without a challenge, the public have little idea what a 'Referee' is and may see it as somewhat inferior to either "Judge" or "Commissioner." (no offense intended to the fine work conducted by many Superior Court Referees).

Office No 117
DDA Carol Najera, running with the ballot designation "Violent Crimes Prosecutor," is the only candidate challenging a sitting Judge; the Hon. James B. Price, who will appear on the ballot as "Judge of the Superior Court." Incumbent judges are hard to unseat, and when asked what had persuaded her to challenge Pierce, Najera stated that both prosecutors and defense attorneys are often treated discourteously and demeaningly by Pierce. The final straw, she related, was a conversation she had with a friend who had been on a jury panel during voir dire conducted by Pierce. "My friend was disgusted with the way Judge Pierce treated a potential juror who could did not understand English." Najera did say that Pierce is often "good for the prosecution," indeed he has handed down some significant sentences in serious cases, but her concern was his demeanor. "Judges do not have the right to be reelected," she said, perhaps a indicative of a hope she holds that her challenge might bring some change to the way Judge Piece conducts himself.

Office No 138
DDA Donna Hollingsworth-Armstrong, running with the ballot designation "Gang Homicide Prosecutor," will face attorney Marc Gibbons who will appear on the ballot as "Trial Lawyer," rather than "Criminal Defense Attorney" for which he is known. Hollingsworth-Armstrong's ballot designation will likely win the day for her.

Office 157
DDA Andrew Cooper, running with the ballot designation "Gang Homicide Prosecutor," will face former Referee Arnold W. Mednick who has chosen to use"Administrative Law Judge" as his ballot designation. It is unclear what justification exists for Mednick's ballot designation, an internet search revealed Arnold Mednick working as an Administrative Law Judge for the Department of Social Services in 2013, earning $39,292, "which was 39% lower that the average" suggesting that Mednick's employment was not of a permanent nature. Mednick's current State Bar records suggest he is a sole practitioner, while his listing on suggests he is still a Referee at the Torrance Courthouse. Cooper, who was the first to launch his campaign, has indicated that he will likely challenge a misleading ballot designation, and had already conducted the necessary legal research.

The June 3, 2014 primary features an unprecedented number open seats and an equally unprecedented DDAs running for those seats. That so many judges chose the timing of the announcement of their retirements in such a way so as to preclude Governor Brown from making appointments, is seen by some, as disapproving of many (but not all) of the Governer's recent judicial appointments.

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