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.


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