Friday, May 30, 2014

Endorsements for Judge of the Superior Court, June 3, 2014 Primary Election

It must be a record of some sort; 15 Judicial Offices, or "seats," on the ballot. Of those 15, the outcome in the case of 3 seats is a forgone conclusion; Deputy District Attorneys Chris Frisco (Office No. 72), Ann Park (Office No. 82) and Serena Murillo (Office No. 90) are all unopposed and will win their elections by the casting of a single vote.

Of the remaining 12 seats, 11 are "open" because the judges who held those seats have decided to retire, and they did so at a time when their successor is chosen by voters rather than by appointment by the Governor. Some have opined that some judges may have timed the announcement of their retirements deliberately so as to deny Governor Brown the opportunity to appoint. Brown is no friend of the Superior Court having slashed their budget mercilessly, some would say recklessly. He has also made some questionable appointments, perhaps for political reasons. Indeed, the level of dissatisfaction with Brown's appointments may have prompted Judge Randolph M. Hammock to write an op-ed in the LA Times, in defense of giving voters the say as to who should be judge.

Only one incumbent, Judge James Price (Office No. 117), is challenged in this election. That challenge coming from Deputy DA Carol Najera. See our commentary on this race below.

And so to the endorsements:

Office No. 22: Amy Carter for Judge
Those who know Deputy District Attorney Amy Carter know her to be super-smart, well-prepared, and calm and respectful in her very effective prosecution of complex cases. All are qualities that will make Carter an excellent judge. Her opponent, litigation attorney Pamela Matsumoto, lost a legal challenge to her attempt to mislead voters with a false and misleading ballot title. Honesty and integrity are surely conditions precedent in the choice of a judge, and Matsumoto blotted her copybook with this cheap stunt. Carter wisely spent her own money to fund the legal challenge to Matsumoto's deception, and thereby preserve the integrity of the electoral process. Endorsed by the Los Angeles Metropolitan-News Enterprise, we too endorse Carter and urge our readers to vote Amy Carter for Judge.

Office No. 48: Carol Rose for Judge
The race for this seat pits Deputy District Attorney Carol Rose against career politician Charles Calderon, who long ago ceased trying cases in favor of his political career. If his lack of experience was not enough of a handicap, then the "Calderon" name may be a larger one; his brothers Ronald and Tom are both under indictment for corruption. Such is the stigma attached to the Calderon name that his own party declined to endorse him,  despite his years of water carrying service for the Democrat Party as Assemblyman and State Senator. Rose herself, is not without some thorns. According to the Metropolitan News-Enterprise, Rose has a reputation for being "scattered and ditsy" and that "her bungling approach is somehow endearing to jurors." Rose is perhaps, then, the Columbo in this race, Calerdon, perhaps the Clouseau?

Office No. 54: Shannon Knight for Judge
It's Deputy District Attorney Shannon Knight's second attempt to become elected to the Superior Court. In her 2012 campaign the LA Times said "we would not hesitate to endorse her if her opponent was also not of such high caliber." The Times said that "voters would be fortunate to see Knight on the bench ... either through a gubernatorial appointment or in a vote two years from now." The Times is right in their analysis of Knight; she is the right choice for Judge of the Superior Court. The Metropolitan-News Enterprise, like the LA Times, has urged Governor Brown to appoint Knight should she fail to win this election, but their wishes have about as much chance as a snowball in Sacramento, see comments below. Shannon Knight has the experience, temperament and integrity to make a fine Judge and we strongly urge readers to vote for her.

Office No. 61: Dayan Mathai for Judge
With 15 years of experience prosecuting complex cases and holding the highest of regard from judges, opposing counsel, and fellow prosecutors, Deputy District Attorney Dayan Mathai should be a natural choice for appointment by the Governor. Just as in the case of Shannon Knight the Metropolitan-News Enterprise has urged the Governor to appoint Mathai to the bench. However, the Governor seemingly has a bias against prosecutors when it comes to appointments, even those held in such high regard by those who know what it takes to be an excellent judge. So it falls to the wisdom of the electorate to do what the Governor cannot do, and elect Dayan Mathai as Judge of the Superior Court.

Office No. 76: Alison Matsumoto Estrada for Judge
Deputy District Attorney Alison Matsumoto Estrada has demonstrated that she has what it takes to be Judge of the Superior Court. She has 16 years experience as a prosecutor and is currently fully engaged in prosecuting fraud and corruption by public officials at the Public Integrity Division of the District Attorney's Office.

The same cannot be said of her opponent, Helen Kim is a part-time case filer. Kim had the audacity to try to deceive voters by claiming to be a "Violent Crimes Prosecutor." It took and order from a Superior Court Judge to prevent Kim from using that patently false and misleading ballot title, yet the Court's Order has not prevented Kim from attempting to mislead voters on the "Meet Helen Kim" portion of her campaign website where she falsely claims that "In my current position as a criminal prosecutor, the substantial majority of the cases I prosecute are violent and serious felonies such as murder, attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, arson, kidnapping, carjacking robbery, burglary, criminal threats and felonies with great bodily injuries." Not true, not even close. First of all, Kim does not "prosecute" anyone. For anything. Kim shows up for work just three days a week to review police reports in order to decide the appropriate charges. The vast majority of the cases she reviews are not serious or violent felonies, but likely low-level narcotics and theft cases. Kim never sees the inside of a courtroom, nor does she say a word to a jury. She is a desk-bound reviewer of police reports. She has as much to do with prosecution as a medical billing clerk has to do with brain surgery. Some might believe that based on her false campaign statements she is a liar. It is hard to disagree.   

We cannot do better than the Metropolitan-News Enterprise and the LA Times in their endorsements of Estrada, and we urge voters to cast their ballot in favor of Alison Matsumoto Estrada for Judge. 

Office No. 87: Split Endorsement 
Steven Schreiner and Andrew Stein
Simply put, there is little to differentiate the qualities that Deputy District Attorney Steven Schreiner and defense attorney Andrew Stein bring to the bench. Both are hard-charging, passionate and experienced. The Metropolitan-News Enterprise endorses Schreiner, while the LA Times endorses Stein. A third candidate in the race, Deputy City Attorney Tom Griego is hardly worthy of mention, save to say that his ballot title "Criminal Gang Prosecutor" is a gross distortion of his actual job. In this race, the only recommendation we make is to vote for either Schreiner or Stein, and we will revisit the matter in the runoff.

Office No. 97: Teresa Magno for Judge
Deputy District Attorney Teresa Magno has 15 years experience with 81 felony trials under her belt. She has run an honest and effective campaign to become Judge of the Superior Court. The same cannot be said of her opponent Songhai 'Sunny' Armstead who, according to the Metropolitan-News Enterprise, wants voters to elect her because she is an African American. "Speaking before a black congregation at a church in Gardena, Armstead asserted that non-black judges now on the Superior Court have no understanding of African Americans, and can’t empathize with them. Virtually pledging preferential treatment of blacks in her courtroom, she said: 'I'm a judge for you.'" the Met News reported. Some may find Armstead's remarks not only offensive, but racist and wholly improper for one who aspires to be a neutral magistrate. Others may say that Armstead is incredibly stupid for making such a desperate pitch, and perhaps possessed with the same kind of Donald Sterling-like  arrogance, for not realizing that her remarks could offend. She is not fit to be a judge. 

We cannot say it any better than the Met News in their endorsement of Magno: "[W]hat we find is an able lawyer who is articulate, intelligent, and has a sense of humor. She is a Grade 4 deputy who is described in her latest office evaluation as “skilled and hardworking,” displaying “excellent analysis and judgment,” who is “liked and respected by her colleagues and support staff.” A canon of ethics requires that a judge “be patient, dignified, and courteous.” For Magno, compliance would not be difficult; those qualities are part of her basic nature. In light of her experience and commitment, we urge the election of Teresa P. Magno to the Los Angeles Superior Court." The Met News said.

Office No. 107: Joan Chrostek for Judge
Of the two candidates in this race, Deputy District Attorney Joan Chrostek is simply the better qualified for the job. We urge readers to vote for her.

Office No. 113: Stacy Wiese for Judge
Deputy District Attorney Stacy Wiese has 14 years experience as a prosecutor, having conducted 63 trials, including 20 murders. She rightly is endorsed by both the Met News and the LA Times, and we strongly urge voters to elect Stacy Wiese as Judge of the Superior Court.

Office No. 117: Carol Najera for Judge
Deputy District Attorney Carol Najera says her reason for running against Judge James B. Price stems from dissatisfaction with his demeanor on the bench. Laudable though that motive may be, Najera unquestionably faces an uphill battle on election day; in county-wide elections sitting judges historically win reelection handily by 73% to 84% of the vote. Not only do they have the most powerful of ballot titles, but the ability of an opponent to inform voters as to the failings of any particular judge in a county-wide election would likely require notoriously egregious misconduct by the incumbent, a multi-million dollar campaign warchest to reach voters, and substantial media support. Notwithstanding our endorsement, we do not expect Najera to unseat Judge Price, but her challenge may persuade His Honor to mend his ways.

Office No. 138: Donna Hollingsworth Armstrong for Judge
Deputy District Attorney Donna Hollingsworth Armstrong is a 14 year veteran prosecutor, with over 100 trials to her credit, including 21 murders. She is endorsed by the Met News and the LA Times, and we strongly urge voters to elect Donna Hollingsworth Armstrong as Judge of the Superior Court.

Office No. 157: Andrew Cooper for Judge
Last on our list, last on the ballot, but by no means least, Deputy District Attorney Andrew Cooper is not only a 16 year veteran of the District Attorney's Office, but he is also a Reserve Deputy Sheriff. By no means undermining the credentials and qualifications of any of the candidates we have endorsed, Cooper is without doubt the most qualified to become a judge. Cooper was a "no brainer" when he scooped the endorsement of both the Met News and the LA Times, and we predict that he will win election by the largest of margins. We have no reservation in recommending voters to elect Andrew Cooper as Judge of the Superior Court.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Endorsements for the June 3, 2014 Primary Election

Voter turnout for the June 3, 2014 Primary Election may hit an all time low. FOX News poses the question "Will this upcoming election have the lowest voter turnout?" the San Diego Union-Tribune bemoans "Voter ennui as June 3 approaches," and Dan Walters at the Modesto Bee warns "Expect record-low voter turnout June 3." If the doom and gloom merchants are correct, then this post is directed to a very small group of people who will actually vote next week. For them we start today with our comments and recommendations for candidates in the races for Los Angeles County Sheriff and Los Angeles County Assessor. Our endorsements for Judge of the Superior Court will appear on Friday.

Endorsement: Jim McDonnell for LA County Sheriff

Former LA District Attorney Steve Cooley (left) and current LA District Attorney Jackie Lacey (right)
stand beside their choice for the next LA County Sheriff, Jim McDonnell.
The picture above summarizes one of the many reasons why Los Angelenos should cast their vote for Jim McDonnell for Sheriff; he is the choice of law enforcement and civic leaders throughout the county; just take a look at the number and quality of endorsements on his campaign website.

McDonnell, former number two to LAPD Chief Bill Bratton and currently Long Beach Police Chief, is the only viable outsider in a field of seven candidates, most of whom were uncomfortably close to the scandal ridden Sheriff's Dept. McDonnell has the experience necessary to address the breakdown in public confidence with leadership at the Sheriff's Dept.; he was a central figure in reforms at LAPD that resulted in the lifting of the Federal consent decree at LAPD, and he is widely respected in law enforcement. He is what Los Angelenos and the Sheriff's Dept. needs to bring an end to scandal after scandal at the Department and herald a new style of leadership. Perhaps for that reason he is also the choice of LA's leading newspapers; McDonnell has the endorsement of both the LA Times and the Los Angeles Daily News.

McDonnell's chief opponent Paul Tanaka is also a former number two; he served as Undersheriff to retired Sheriff Lee Baca and recently admitted to being "under investigation subject of inquiry" by the FBI an a Federal Grand Jury into "excessive force and corruption in the county's jails," the LA Times reported. Many have expressed surprise that Tanaka has continued to stay in the race given his close association with disturbing events in the jails. Tanaka recently testified as a defense witness in the case against Deputy James Sexton, one of twenty lower-level Sheriff's Dept. personnel currently charged in the Federal probe in to abuse in the county jail.

Some may believe that by staying in the race, Tanaka has possibly succeeded in delaying an indictment as prosecutors generally do not want to be seen as potentially interfering in an election by charging a candidate prior to an election. Support for the belief that an indictment could be in the pipeline for Tanaka following the election comes from comments made by Loyola Law Professor Laurie Levenson, a former Federal Prosecutor. Levenson  told the LA Times that Tanaka is a "subject" rather than a "target" of the investigation ... "a 'target' is someone who prosecutors have already decided they intend to indict, whereas a 'subject' is someone whose conduct is under investigation but for whom that determination has yet to be made." Levenson said (emphasis added).

Notwithstanding the many reasons why Los Angelenos should not vote for Tanaka, the LA Times reports that he has eclipsed McDonnell in fundraising by $140k. But before McDonnell supporters become overly concerned at Tanaka's shakedown fundraising ability let us not forget the recent election for Los Angeles District Attorney where the scandal-ridden Carmen Trutanich succeeded in out-raising opponents Jackie Lacey and Alan Jackson. Trutanich, it will be remembered, suffered a humiliating and well-deserved defeat in the primary election.

In a low turnout election, those who vote will generally be informed voters, and despite Tanaka's well-funded campaign, he may not be able to fool enough voters to even claim a place in the runoff and may suffer a worse fate than Trutanich.

On June 3, 2014, vote Jim McDonnell for Sheriff.

Endorsement: John Morris for LA County Assessor

Until former County Assessor John Noguez was arrested for fraud and corruption, few Los Angelenos had paid attention to the role of the County Assessor in what is generally considered to be a 'down ticket' item on the ballot. It was the perfect climate for the bribery scandal surrounding Noguez to fester and grow as he allegedly traded payoffs for lower property taxes while nobody was paying attention to what leading candidate for County Assessor John Morris calls "a little known position with a BIG impact on residents and businesses."

Morris, a Head Deputy District Attorney, has vowed to "restore ethics and integrity to the LA County Assessor's Office," and of the 12 candidates running for County Assessor, Morris is the only outsider with the ability to do that; he is a career prosecutor who parlayed his skill and ability in the courtroom to lead a division of the District Attorney's Office charged with prosecuting fraud and corruption.

There are many parallels between Morris for Assessor and McDonnell for Sheriff; both County Offices are ridden with scandals, and in both races, most of those running in this election come from the ranks of the offices where scandals abounded seemingly unchecked. The need for a qualified and experienced leader from the outside has never been greater at both the Sheriff's Dept. and the Assessor's Office. Like McDonnell, Morris too has the endorsement of both the LA Times and the Los Angeles Daily News.

Morris's main opponent is Jeffrey Prang, a career political aide who served former Sheriff Lee Baca in the now disbanded "Field Deputy" program, and more recently was appointed by Noguez as a "Special Assistant." Where, one might ask, was Prang while his boss was allegedly accepting bribes to lower property taxes? Equally one might wonder how could anyone hand picked by Noguez for his crucible of corruption, possibly be trusted with this "little known" position?

Shockingly, Prang does not even have the necessary qualification to be Assessor. According to the LA Times, he is not a licensed appraiser and would have to obtain a license if elected. The Times also reported that a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge ruled that Prang was not allowed to use a false and misleading ballot title in his bid to become assessor; he had tried to call himself a "Deputy Assessor" on the ballot, but because his real job was "public affairs manager" for Noguez, and he does not hold an appraiser license, he was prevented from using that title. Perhaps readers are now getting a sense of who Jeffrey Prang really is, and why he is literally unqualified for the position, and wholly unfit for public office. 

It is time to shut down corruption and deception in the Assessor's Office, and there is no doubt that John Morris is the right choice for this position. For that reason we urge readers to vote for John Morris for County Assessor.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Week Is A Long Time In Politics ...

With a week to go before the June 3, 2014 primary election, the campaigns are ramping up for what promises to be a record low turnout.

Yard signs are springing up countywide, with some candidates clearly relying on professional services to plant their signs, judging by the large numbers of signs in some cases.

In the race for Sheriff, Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell has dominated the airwaves with a radio advert featuring District Attorney Jackie Lacey urging voters to support McDonnell. The advert was paid for by an independent expenditure committee, unconnected with his campaign. McDonnell's main rival, Sheriff Baca's former number two - Paul Tanaka, briefly hit the airwaves with a radio advert, however, this appears to have been discontinued. Most observers expect a runoff in November between McDonnell and Tanaka, with McDonnell wining in November as more media attention turns to Tanaka's negatives.

The County Assessors Office looks like also being headed towards a runoff. Head Deputy District Attorney John Morris has swept the media endorsements, while his main rival, Jeffrey Prang appears to be relying on partisanship to carry the day - he is the choice of Democrats despite being right hand man to disgraced former County Assessor John Noguez. Given the low turnout by Democrats in this election cycle, and the high number of candidates in this race, a Morris Prang runoff is expected. Just as with the Sheriff's race, Morris has the advantage in November as media attention spotlights Prang's association with Noguez.

In the judicial races, those candidates with prosecutorial ballot designations look favorite to win. However, some experts are opining that as voters go down the ballot, their historical preference for prosecutors may wane as they reach the lower end of the ballot.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

LA Times Judicial Endorsements May Not Help Commissioners

Following our reportage, Monday, of the LA Times Judicial endorsements, comes this piece of news that may offer some comfort to those Deputy District Attorneys who were, perhaps, unjustly denied the Times endorsement in favor of Court Commissioners.

The Los Angeles Metropolitan News-Enterprise reported, Monday, that Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Mitchell Block is retiring next month. I'm sure we all thank Commissioner Block for his years of service, but that's not the story. Towards the end of the article, the Met News recounts that Block, a former DDA himself, was appointed as commissioner in 1988 and "sought election as a Superior Court judge in 1994. He was rated 'Well Qualified' by the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Judicial Elections Evaluation Committee, but lost the contest to Susan Bryant-Deason, then a deputy district attorney."

The phrase that comes to mind is that of campaign consultant David Gould, who recently told the Met News that "commissioners, in general, do not necessarily do very well against D.A.s." 

Gould's remarks, coupled with Block's experience should provide some comfort to DDA Judicial candidates Amy Carter, Shannon Knight, Dayan Mathai, and Joan Chrostek, all of whom were denied endorsement by the Times in favor of three court commissioners and a former court referee.

Our promised piece on the remaining four DDA Judicial candidates also denied endorsement by the Times will appear Thursday.


Monday, May 12, 2014

LA Times Endorses 4 Deputy DAs for Judge, Betrays 1, and Kowtows to Bench in others

In its Sunday Editorial pages, the Los Angeles Times gave its endorsements for the 12 contested races for Judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court in the June 3, 2014 primary election.

Four LA County Deputy District Attorneys were lucky enough to earn the prestigious endorsement of the Times; Andrew Cooper (Office No. 157), Donna Hollingsworth Armstrong (Office No. 138), Alison Matsumoto Estrada (Office No. 76) and Stacy Okun Weise (Office No. 113).

The use of the word 'lucky' is not intended to take anything away from these four candidates, all have the experience, temperament, and intellect to become excellent judges, and we urge voters to elect them. Rather, we use that word because the Deputy District Attorneys running in the remaining eight races were unlucky to be either betrayed by the Times Editorial Board, simply ignored in favor of a candidate with ties to the Superior Court, or simply sacrificed to an absurd self-imposed quota under which the Times felt they had to endorses SOTADDA; "Someone Other Than A Deputy Deputy District Attorney," regardless of  qualifications. It's an example of the worst type of bias on the part of the Times, and follows the disturbing trend displayed by LACBA in their endorsement process; kowtowing to those candidates with ties to the Bench and arbitrary quotas.

Deputy District Attorney Shannon Knight for Office No. 54
Betrayed By The Times

In the race for Office No. 54, DDA Knight is running for the second time in her career. In 2012 Knight ran for Office No. 65 and was defeated by then DDA Andrea C. Thompson. In their 2012 endorsement process, the Times said of Knight "we would not hesitate to endorse her if her opponent [Thompson] was also not of such high caliber." The Times said that "voters would be fortunate to see Knight on the bench ... either through a gubernatorial appointment or in a vote two years from now."

Well, it's two years from now and Governor Brown has not appointed Knight and so, rightly, Knight should be top of the Times' list of judicial endorsements. She is not. Instead the Times simply said "bad luck" to Knight, you're running against "an opponent who is a better choice." That candidate is Debra Losnick, who happens to be a Court Commissioner who hears child custody cases and has limited if no criminal or complex litigation experience. Coincidentally, Losnick is one of three  Commissioners and that the Times gave the "thumbs up to" for no apparent reason other than their existing ties to the Bench.

If Knight feels betrayed by the Times, she is fully entitled to that view. Her career as a prosecutor has been as exemplary as her experience is stellar and the Times should have delivered on their word. We believe that Knight will win the race despite the Times craven stance, for the simple reason that she has the better ballot designation and has raised enough campaign cash to mount a strong campaign.

We strongly urge voters to elect Shannon Knight for Judge of the Superior Court, Office No 54.

Deputy District Attorney Amy Carter for Office No. 22
Ignored by The Times in kowtow to Bench

In the race for Office No. 22, DDA Carter is running against Litigation Attorney Pamela Matsumoto. Odd, you might think, that the Times would pick a Litigation Attorney over an accomplished trial attorney. Odder still when you consider that Matsumoto initially tried to mislead voters with a misleading ballot title "Administrative Law Judge." Yet the Times picked Matsumoto, saying "both candidates are competent and prepared to serve as judges. Amy Carter is well regarded as a trial lawyer and has 15 years of experience in the courtroom. Her current assignment is the difficult task of prosecuting sex offenders."

Nevertheless, the Times chose Matsumoto because of her self-professed "breadth of her experience and her time on the bench in the state attorney general's office, as an administrative law judge and as a Superior Court referee." Or was it simply their exercise of the "No more DDAs" quota? Or a kowtow to the Bench for a laid-off referee who cried "poor me" over not being allowed to use a misleading ballot title?

Carter should not be deterred or dismayed at the Times craven stance. She has the real credentials to win this election; a meaningful ballot title and an active campaign that will allow her to connect with voters.

We strongly urge voters to elect Amy Carter for Judge of the Superior Court, Office No. 22.

Deputy District Attorney Dayan Mathai for Office No. 61
Ignored by the Times in kowtow to Bench

In the race for Office No. 61 DDA Mathai is considered by all who know him as perhaps the most qualified of all to become a judge. Yet it seems Mathai is another victim of the Times quota and craven attitude towards sitting Commissioners. His principal opponent, Commissioner Jacqueline Lewis, apparently has a wealth of experience in dependency cases. A third candidate, B. Otis Felder, played the "gay card" to earn a bogus ballot designation.

Mathai was one of the first to declare his candidacy and has been campaigning hard throughout the county. His ballot title "Gang Homicide Prosecutor" is amongst the strongest and, together with his active campaign,  will likely win the day on June 3, or at a minimum, place him in a run off in November. We have no doubt that as much of a disappointment it must be to be a victim of the Times' quota and bias, he will make an excellent judge and a valuable addition to the Superior Court.

The Times choice of Lewis smacks of the same bias and arbitrary quota system seen in the races of Knight and Carter above; kowtowing to commissioners at the cost of a better qualified candidate. For those reasons we strongly urge voters to elect Dayan Mathai for Judge of the Superior Court, Office No. 61.

Deputy District Attorney Joan Chrostek for Office No. 107
Ignored by the Times in kowtow to Bench

In the race for Office No. 107, DDA Joan Chrostek faces Commissioner Emma Castro. I think you can guess the way the Times decided this race - Castro. Again an odd decision if you ignore the now apparent bias in favor of commissioners and their quota system. Odder still that the Times said of both candidates that neither is "ideal," said that both were rated "unqualified" by LACBA, and that Castro was found to be "not qualified" by the JNE commission when she applied for appointment by Governor Brown.

The Times nevertheless recommended Castro "because of her service and experience as a Superior Court commissioner." While it is true that Castro currently works as a commissioner at the Eastlake Juvenile Court, her service there has been called into question for unexplained absences. Many who have experienced hearings before her have questioned her preparedness and fitness for becoming a judge. The Times apparently had reservations about both candidates, and could have taken the high road (like the Metropolitan News-Enterprise) and declined to endorse either. But the Times, again, decided to award, and thereby depreciate, their endorsement to Commissioner Castro.

While it is true that Chrostek had a less than stellar career, we nevertheless believe that she will make an infinitely better judge than Castro, who at 62, appears to view a judgeship as perhaps a less burdensome occupation than her present assignment. If that is the case, then Castro is seriously misguided. The workload of a Superior Court Judge has never been heavier and the challenges never more burdensome. Chrostek, by contrast, has acquitted herself dutifully in her current assignment, and can be relied upon to fulfill the duties of Superior Court Judge professionally. For those reasons we strongly urge voters to elect Joan Chrostek for Judge of the Superior Court, Office No. 107.

Of the four remaining races where the Times opted for SOTADDA, we will have more to say tomorrow.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

LA Times endorses John Morris for Assessor, DDA Judicial candidates Downtown LA event

LA Times endorses John Morris for LA County Assessor

Head Deputy District Attorney John Morris' campaign to become LA County Assessor received a game-changing boost with the announcement, Tuesday, that he had received the endorsement of the LA Times.  Significantly, that endorsement comes the day after the all important vote by mail ballots went out, and although Morris' ballot designation alone was likely to make him the choice of many voters, the Times endorsement will put Morris in a very strong position in the June 3, 2014 primary.

A total of twelve candidates are vying for the Assessor's Office and it is unlikely that any candidate will garner the 50% plus one vote to secure the election in the primary. Morris' principal opponent is a career political aide, Jeffrey Prang a West Hollywood Councilmember, who most recently served as top-aide to the man who brought hitherto unprecedented shame and scandal to the Assessor's Office - disgraced County Assessor John Noguez who is currently facing a slew of criminal charges for accepting bribes, misappropriation by a public officer, conspiracy, perjury, grand theft and embezzlement.

Prang was Noguez's right hand man during the two year period when corruption and backroom deals robbed Los Angelenos of $10M in property tax revenue, yet he has garnered an impressive list of political endorsements. Those who have endorsed Prang are likely as ignorant of Prang's relationship with Noguez as they are uninformed that Prang is currently unqualified for the job; he is not a licensed appraiser, according to the LA Times. Prang, like Noguez, is openly gay and is doubtless counting on support from the LGBT community to carry the day for him.

But any hope Prang may have had for an easy win were soundly deflated with the LA Times endorsing Morris. Although the endorsement alone may not carry the day for Morris, it makes it highly likely that the result of the primary election will be a November run-off election between Morris and Prang. In that race, the reality of just how unsuitable Prang is to be handed the keys to the office held by his former boss, will likely persuade voters that John Morris is the right man for the job.

DDA Judicial Candidates to hold event at LA Athletic Club

Just a reminder, please come the the LA Athletic Club in Downtown Los Angeles, Thursday, May 8, 2014, 4:30pm to 8pm, to meet the Deputy District Attorney candidates for Judicial office in the June 3, primary election.

Note the address indicated in the image above is incorrect. It is 431 West 7th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90014. Parking is available at in the Club's garage at 646 South Olive Street Los Angeles, CA 90014.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

ADDA Endorses Jim McDonnell for Sheriff

The Association of Deputy District Attorneys has endorsed Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell to be LA County's next Sheriff.

This from the ADDA:

"As prosecutors who work within the criminal justice system, we interact closely with the Sheriff's Department," said Marc Debbaudt, President of the ADDA. "We are confident that Chief McDonnell will provide the integrity, strength, and leadership needed to bring transparency and honor to the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. We are delighted to throw our support behind his candidacy in this critical race." 

The ADDA also referenced Jim McDonnell’s long record of law enforcement accomplishments and exemplary career in public service. Under his leadership as the current Chief of Police for the City of Long Beach violent crime has hit an all-time low.

"I am honored to have received the endorsement of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys,” Jim McDonnell said in response to the news. "A positive partnership between LA County prosecutors and the Sheriff’s Department is integral to community safety and the development of smart justice approaches. This collaborative leadership will enable the LASD to implement the highest standards of constitutional policing that residents deserve."

- # - # - # -

Just as regular Dragnet readers may have been surprised yesterday to find the Dragnet disagreeing with the Los Angeles Metropolitan News-Enterprise, readers may similarly be surprised today to find the Dragnet agreeing with the ADDA.

The ADDA's decision to endorse McDonnell for Sheriff is a bold one and likely a testament to newly elected ADDA President Marc Debbaudt's leadership. Gone, it seems, are the days of hand wringing indecision and sheer stupidity that was the hallmark of the Steve Ipsen era.

The ADDA has made the right choice in endorsing McDonnell. Few would deny that a change in leadership is desperately needed at the Sheriff's Dept., and the choice of an outsider to bring a new style of leadership clearly has appeal to voters. But McDonnell is more than just a mere outsider. He has a depth of experience in law enforcement, and real leadership experience in bringing change to troubled police departments; McDonnell was LAPD Chief Bill Bratton's second in command as Bratton fought to reform the LAPD in the wake of woefully ineffective leadership.

McDonnell narrowly missed being appointed LAPD Chief when Bratton retired in 2009, and perhaps that was a blessing in disguise as he is now free to run for Sheriff. McDonnell has amassed an impressive list of endorsements including those of District Attorney Jackie Lacey, and former DAs Steve Cooley, Gil Garcetti, Robert H. Philibosian and John Van de Kamp.

As the June 3, 2014 primary election draws closer, it seems that McDonnell's campaign continues to maintain the momentum it started with, while that of his chief opponent, Paul Tanaka the former second in command at Sheriff's Dept. is stalled. McDonnell recently garnered the endorsement of the Los Angeles Daily News, and the Los Angeles Times shortly thereafter.

For all the right reasons, the Dragnet joins the long line of those who believe Jim McDonnell is the right choice for LA's next Sheriff.


Monday, May 5, 2014

Met News "No Recommendation" in Chrostek v Castro race for Judge

Leading Los Angeles legal newspaper, the Metropolian News-Enterprise, offered "No opinion" as which of the two candidates vying to become Judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court in the June 3, 2014 primary election should be the voters' choice.

The Metropolitan News-Enterprise lashed out at both candidates for
Office No. 107, declining to offer any endorsement.
In its April 29, 2014 editorial, the Met News blasted both candidates, with Superior Court Commissioner Emma Castro perhaps getting the most criticism. The Met News highlighted Castro's "not qualified" rating from the JNE Commission, labeling her "craven" for refusing to talk about the poor rating.

On April 28, 2014 the Met News profiled Castro finding fault with her for hiding behind a falsely claimed "confidentiality" relating to JNE ratings as her to her unqualified rating. In an email to the Met News, Castro said "I am sure you are aware of the strict Confidentiality requirements set forth in the Government Code and the State Bar of CA, JNE Rules regarding unauthorized release of JNE ratings of judicial applicants to the Governor’s Office.  I do not feel it is appropriate to violate these rules." But the Met News pointed out that the rule does not apply to candidates, "Rules of the State Bar, rule 7.20, mandating JNE confidentiality, specifies: '(C) This rule applies to the Board of Trustees, commissioners, and employees and agents of the State Bar but not to candidates.'" The Met News said.

Castro's misunderstanding of the rules, whether deliberate or simply due to her incompetence, perhaps best sums up the reason why the Met News does not consider Castro fit to be a judge. The Met News also challenged Castro over her criticism of her opponent, Deputy District Attorney Joan Chrostek, for using a misleading ballot designation; Major Narcotics Prosecutor. "Why didn't you challenge her ballot designation?" the Met News asked of Castro. Her response, initially, was the cost of hiring a lawyer. When it was pointed out that she (Castro) was a lawyer, Castro said she doesn't have the time for that. Finally, the Met News asked Castro whether she had contacted the Registrar-Recorder's Office to pose and objection, something requiring very little time and effort. Castro had no answer, perhaps that was an option she was unaware of?

The Met News also quoted the opinions of several judicial officers as to Castro's fitness or otherwise for the job. "One says she is 'absolutely unqualified to be a judge.' Another says she has a 'horrible demeanor,' 'doesn’t get her work done,' and is a 'poor calendar manager.'" The Met News reported, also quoting others with boilerplate praise for her.

Castro is currently assigned to hearing delinquency cases in Eastlake, a position she has held since the beginning of this year. Sources inform the Dragnet that Castro has called-in on several occasions requesting other bench officers to "hear her cases." It is not known whether the 62 year old had a medical reason for her absence from her duties, however, the suggestion was that she had something else to do.

DDA Joan Chrostek was profiled by the Met News on April 24, 2014. The essence of the Met New's criticism of Chrostek is twofold, a serious mistake made in 2008 that led to the death of a domestic violence victim, and her ballot designation.

As to the ballot designation "Major Narcotics Prosecutor," the Met News took issue with Chrostek as her current assignment is in asset forfeiture; seizing the ill-gotten gains of drug dealers. It is essentially a civil procedure rather than a criminal prosecution. In her defense, Chrostek pointed out that her efforts are part of the criminal proceeding.

As to the serious mistake, that occurred in 2008 when Chrostek was prosecuting Curtis Bernard Harris for domestic violence. Chrostek had negotiated a settlement of the case under which Harris pleaded guilty to false imprisonment of his estranged wife and illegal firearms possession, and was to have received a 16 month prison term. Chrostek was on vacation when Harris was to be sentenced, and in the absence of any notes in the file, there was no opposition the the defense attorney's request that Harris be released from custody for a short while to "get his affairs in order" prior to serving his prison term.

Tragically, while free from custody, Harris killed his wife before killing himself. The case attracted major media coverage and prompted a full and thorough investigation of all the circumstances surrounding the debacle. That investigation left no doubt that serious mistakes were made, and it is exceedingly unlikely that the set of facts leading to this tragedy will ever be repeated.

A tragic mistake then, and a ballot designation that pushes the envelope. Yet Chrostek is endorsed by former District Attorney Steve Cooley and current District Attorney Jackie Lacey. They must be convinced that Chrostek's error, as serious and devastating as any error can be, is a thing of the past. For that reason, we find ourselves in the somewhat unique situation of disagreeing with the Met News. While Chrostek made a mistake, there is nothing to suggest any repetition is likely. The same cannot be said of Commissioner Castro. Her evasiveness and  inability to explain why she was found to be unqualified for the position, coupled with the criticisms associated with her demeanor on the bench, leaves us in no doubt; Joan Chrostek should be elected to Judge of the Superior Court on June 3, 2014.