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.



Anonymous said...

What, the Times should have endorsed all the DDAs running for judge? Gimme a break Dragnet. Chrostek dropped the ball big time when she went on vacation without leaving notes about the guy who ended up killing his wife. Worse, she took no personal responsibility for her dereliction of duties, and her ballot title stinks and everyone knows it. Agreed, Emma Castro may be a little workshy, but nobody died on her watch.

Anonymous said...

DDA Shannon Knight truly deserved the Times endorsement. The way the Times treated her, particularly, is blatantly shity. Her opponent is no big deal, doing an ok job which she will continue to do after Knight wins this race. The Times owes Knight an apology.