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.



Anonymous said...

Office No. 22: Pamala Matsumoto for Judge

The Los Angeles Times endorsed Pamala Matsumoto by saying - "the edge goes to Matsumoto for the 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 — an on-call bench officer doing much of the work of a full-time judge." Matsumoto is also endorsed by the Los Angeles County Democrats, the San Fernando Valley Democrats, and many others. Ms. Matsumoto also received a higher rating (well qualified) from the Los Angeles County Bar. Pamala gets my vote... See more

Anonymous said...

You, unlike the Metnewsletter, were wise not to be fooled by Lewis in race 61 - if she's so qualified why hasn't the Governor appointed her (afterall she recently joined the Democratic Party). Is it because she's not an active member of the bar?! Or is it because she's never tried a case?! Or is it that her representation to have presided over 10,000 trials is laughable as it would have required her to try 3-4 cases a day (everyone knows who has sat in jury selection that it takes a least a day to pick a jury in a real trial).

Anonymous said...

The only thing that makes these races worth watching is seeing who gets to do the Trutanich victory march Tuesday night. Griego and Otis B Felder, a pair of no-hopers, should be the first to be eliminated. Chuck Calderon is finished before he starts. Pam Matsumoto will be a litigation attorney for the rest of her career, and the retired court referee will stay that way.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Trutanich is really crying making now twice as much as he did as city attorney.

Anonymous said...

The night Nuch lost his whole world fell apart. He was crying like a baby and couldn't even face his supporters, never mind the media. I doubt he is making twice as much as the $250k he got at the City. He is not employed by the firm that answers the phone for him, he's only "of counsel" which means he only gets paid if he brings in a client. Who wants to hire LA's biggest loser? Even Donald Sterling isn't that stupid.

Anonymous said...

Andrew Cooper has not been with the LA County DA's office for 16 years. He hasn't even been an attorney that long! Don't think he's even got 10 yrs with the DA's office. Just letting you know the error.