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Sunday, November 6, 2016

2016 Judicial Elections - Recap of Candidates, Endorsements, Media Coverage

Two days to go before the November 8, 2016 General Election, and the Los Angeles Dragnet breaks its self-imposed moratorium on judicial election coverage to provide a review of the candidates and their endorsements.

Eight candidates are vying for four open seats on the Los Angeles County Superior Court. Six of the candidates are Deputy District Attorneys, one is a Civil Litigator for the Attorney General's Office, the other is an immigration attorney. 

Los Angeles Times

Perhaps the Holy Grail of endorsements for any candidate, the LA Times endorsements are even more important for candidates in 'down ballot' races where most voters would otherwise have little or no other information to guide their decisions.

The LA Times picks the best choices for Judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court.
The LA Times endorsed Steven Schreiner for Office 11, Efrain Aceves for Office 42, Susan Jung Townsend for Office 84, and David Berger for Office 158.

The Times' endorsements for Schreiner, Townsend, and Berger were first published ahead of the Primary Election which saw all three win places in the upcoming runoff in November 8, 2016 General Election.

The Times has not changed its position on all three. The Time's endorsement of Aceves did not occur until after the Primary election when the Times' original pick for Office 42 failed to garner enough votes for the runoff.

Metropolitan News-Enterprise

Just as the LA Times has a wide readership among the general public, the Met News is widely read among the legal community and provides the most in-depth analysis of the candidates.

The Metropolitan News-Enterprise Judicial Endorsements, November 3, 2016.
The Met News summary of its Judicial Endorsements was published on November 3, 2016, and drew on its extensive research and analysis. Their endorsements appear below:

Office No. 11: Steven Schreiner

Office No. 42: Efrain Aceves

Office No. 84: Susan Jung Townsend

Office No. 158: David A. Berger

KPCC "Meet the Judges"

In contrast to the LA Times and the Met News, KPCC's mid-morning "Take Two" show did not endorse or recommend any particular candidate. Instead KPCC broadcast a series of recordings made by each candidate in response to off air questions.

KPCC's Take Two program broadcast short audio segments on each candidate without editorial comment.
Each of the candidates' responses to the off air questions can be found on the KPCC website on their "Meet the Judges" page. Direct links to the candidates appear below:

Office No. 11
Steven Schreiner
Debra Archuleta

Office No. 42
Efrain Aceves
Alicia Molina

Office No. 84
Susan Jung Townsend
Javier Perez

Office No. 158
David Berger
Kim Nguyen


Charter Communications - Local Edition

Brad Pomerance, host of Charter Local Edition, conducted a series of interviews with the candidates broadcast on Charter's cable tv network.

Office 11: Steven Schreiner & Debra Archuleta


 Office 42: Efrain Aceves (candidate Alicia Molina did not participate)



Office 84: Susan Jung Townsend & Javier Perez



Office 158: David Berger & Kim Nguyen


Election Results


While the nation will be focused on the Presidential Election, those interested in the Judicial Election will be able to obtain information from the LA County Registrar-Recorder's website: www.LAVote.net

Polls close at 8PM and typically, within 10 or 20 minutes, the first results of the vote by mail ballots will be released.

The Registrar Recorder appears to have a new 'Live Election Night Video Stream' not seen before, so it's unclear how this will operate.

Text based live results should also be available from: http://rrcc.co.la.ca.us/elect/ 


In the interests of full disclosure, the Los Angeles Dragnet is edited by David Berger, candidate for Superior Court Judge, Office No. 158. Any and all opinions expressed here are personal and are not reflective of any opinion, position or view of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

&tc.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

2016 Judicial Elections - Some Sexy Ballot Titles Suffer Electile Dysfunction

Six days before the Primary Election, the LA Times published an article on the thorny topic of ballot designations - “Campaigning for a judge's seat? A sexier title could get you elected — or sued.” The article addressed one of the less seemly aspects of the ballot title bonanza; that some who aspire to be judges, a position that surely demands the epitome of honesty, integrity and candor, may be attempting to mislead voters with their ballot titles.

Rather than re-hash the LA Times’ observations on the propriety of some candidates’ apparent willingness to stretch their credibility, we look instead at how well those much-prized ballot designations performed in the Primary Election, and ask the question; which is the best ballot title in 2016, and which failed to rise in the election?

Our analysis is based on the number of votes cast for candidates who used ‘non job title’ ballot designations which have proven to be more attractive to voters than simple job titles such as “Deputy District Attorney.” Where several candidates used the same ballot title, the total number of votes has been divided by the number of candidates to achieve an average vote for ease of comparison.

#1 Violent Crimes Prosecutor 562,995 votes
Deputy District Attorneys Debra Archuleta and David Berger clearly had the voters’ attention with a time-proven ballot title which garnered a total 1,125,989 votes - the only ballot title to score above a million votes. The popularity of this ballot title is likely a result of voter concern about the staggering increase in violent crime in the past 2 years. Vastly eclipsing the more crime-specific ballot titles like “Child Molestation Prosecutor” and “Gang Homicide Prosecutor,” it is probable that voters see themselves more likely to be victims of generic crimes of violence than specific crimes involving gang members and sex offenders.

#2 Criminal Fraud Prosecutor 531,349 votes

Deputy District Attorney Susan Jung Townsend’s ballot title’s second place may also signal that voters are more concerned about the kind of crime that potentially could affect them directly. In a world where there are few who have not experienced some kind of fraud, such as identity theft and credit card fraud, voters perhaps saw this ballot title as more worthy of their support than the “specific crimes” candidates in this race.

#3 Domestic Violence Attorney 488,289 votes
Immigration law attorney Alicia Molina shocked experts by emerging in first place in the hard fought battle for Office No. 42. It is highly likely that voters viewed Molina as a prosecutor given the first two words of her title, much in the same way that Andrew Stein achieved success in the 2014 primary using “Gang Homicide Attorney.” Stein subsequently lost the runoff when his ballot title was challenged ahead of the runoff. Molina’s runoff opponent, Efrain Aceves (see #5 below) did not challenge Molina’s creative use of this ballot title in the primary election, however, he may well do so now. 

#4 Supervising Criminal Prosecutor 455,403 votes
Deputy District Attorney Javier Perez may be thanking his lucky stars that he was forced to use this ballot title after a court ruled that he could not use “Supervising Gang Prosecutor.” Gang-related ballot titles appear to have lost much of their former potency (see #6 below) and while Perez’s supervisory ballot title left him with a shot at the runoff, it does not have much of a track record. In 2014 it did not serve well; the Hon. Judge Songhai “Sunny” Miguda-Armstead, then a Deputy City Attorney ran using that ballot title, but lost the election. She did, however, succeed in capturing Governor Brown’s attention and was appointed to the bench in 2015. 

#5 Child Molestation Prosecutor 355,716 votes
Deputy District Attorneys Efrain Aceves and Fred Mesropi were likely as stunned as the rest of the experts when what was once considered the Holy Grail of ballot titles spectacularly failed to perform on election night. The title that handily carried the Hon. Judge Carole Rose into office in 2014, couldn't get the vote up in 2016, leaving Aceves in second place to Molina in Office No. 42, and eliminating Mesropi altogether in Office No. 158. In both cases it appears that voters felt a greater connection to more generic forms of crimes of violence.

#6 Gang Homicide Prosecutor 293,233 votes
Deputy District Attorneys Steven Schreiner, Paul Kim and Hubert Yun all ran with either "Gang Homicide Prosecutor" or "Gang Murder Prosecutor." Another sacred cow of ballot titles, so highly prized that it even prompted Kim to challenge Schreiner’s use of the title, resulting in a head-scratching ruling that Schreiner could not run as a Gang Murder Prosecutor, but he could run as a Gang Homicide Prosecutor - a Pyrrhic victory for Kim if ever there was one. When the votes were counted, it mattered little to voters.

In Office No. 11, where last minute entrant Kim undoubtedly split the vote between himself and Schreiner, Kim lost to Scheiner and was eliminated from the race. Tellingly, their combined vote of 40.97% was eclipsed by rival Archuleta’s staggering 47.33%. In Office No. 84, Yun’s late entry fared no better than Kim’s and left him a distant third placed loser.

Opinions differ as to why gang-related ballot tittles appear to be suffering the most from electile dysfunction. Part of the reason may be that Kim and Yun were both late entrants, lacked effective campaigns, and appeared to be substantially relying on the potency of their ballot titles. However, the same cannot be said of Schreiner, who did mount a well funded campaign long before Kim and Yun likely even thought about running.

Another possible reason for gang-related ballot titles’ flaccid performance in this election cycle may be due to voters perception that gang crimes have been overshadowed by violent crime in general, and that voters now seem themselves most at risk from generic violent and fraudulent crime.

#7 Prosecutor 118,619 votes

Deputy City Attorney Onica Valle Cole’s decision to use the single word “Prosecutor” rather than using her job title netted her last place in the race for Office No. 158. Cole may well have fared better had she used her job title, as “Prosecutor,” without any reference to the kind of crimes prosecuted, may have been too generic and failed to wow. Cole may be hoping that her candidacy nevertheless attracts the attention of the Governor with a view to an appointment.

Whether the potency, or lack thereof, of certain ballot titles carries through to the November 8, 2016 runoff, is far from certain. The runoff will be a different election and many expect a higher voter turnout. A high voter turnout may well be the cure for electile dysfunction as a greater proportion of the electorate will not have received the slate mailers that influence high-propensity voters, and cast their ballots based solely on the candidate's name and ballot title.

As for the 'job title' ballot designations, unsurprisingly "Superior Court Judge" topped the list with an overall vote of 1,066,068,  "Deputy Attorney General" came in second at 515,020, "Superior Court Commissioner" was third at 405,233,  and varied permutations of "Attorney" came in last at 230,819.

In the interests of full disclosure, the Los Angeles Dragnet is edited by David Berger, candidate for Superior Court Judge, Office No. 158. Any and all opinions expressed here are personal and are not reflective of any opinion, position or view of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. 

&tc.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Results of Judicial Elections Remain Unchanged as Ballots Continue to be Counted

Although the results of the 2016 Primary Election were declared on June 8, 2016, there remained a large number of ballots yet to be counted. Those ballots were either vote by mail ballots received past the deadline, provisional ballots issued at polling stations and subject to verification, or damaged/unclear ballots where, for example, a voter had written 'X' instead of filling the bubble.

KPCC reported that, as of Friday, June 24, 2016 about 605,800 ballots remain to be counted statewide, and the Los Angeles County Registrar Recorder issued a bulletin stating that approximately 175,000 ballots remain to be counted in LA County.

Despite the seemingly high number of uncounted ballots, there is no likelihood that the remaining ballots will change the outcome of the election. As the uncounted ballots are counted (there have been 5 counts or canvases since June 8) the results remain more or less the same. Thus far, approximately 325,000 previously uncounted ballots have been tabulated, and no significant changes have resulted. The remaining 175,000 uncounted ballots cannot, statistically, change this trend.

The only one of the Judicial races where there was some hope of a change was in Seat 42 where Superior Court Commissioner Cyndy Zuzga missed a place in the runoff by 1.5%. However, as the results of the canvases were released, it became clear that there would be no change in that race, indeed, Zuzga's margin increased to approx 1.75%.

The LA County Registrar Recorder has until July 1, 2016 to complete the count and certify the election, at which time detailed results will be available indicating where the various candidates scored the most votes.

As of Friday June 24, 2016, 1,889,065 votes had been counted, representing a turnout of 39.3% of eligible LA County voters.

&tc.


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

2016 Judicial Elections; Primary Postmortem - Incumbents Win Handily, Upsets/Surprises Abound in Open Seats

The preliminary results of the 2016 Primary Elections yielded a mixed bag of relief, surprise and disappointment. In the relief department, all three sitting judges demolished their opponents with crushing defeats. Judges Kaddo, Santana and Solorzano were all returned to office for six-year terms.
There had been concerns among LA County Superior Court bench officers that the surprise 2014 defeat of incumbent Judge James B. Pierce had made them vulnerable to challenge. However the results of the June 2016 primary will not only have restored confidence in the power of incumbency, but will also have deterred long-shot challengers like Baghadassarian and Ibisi.

In the four open seats, the results provided as much surprise as inevitable disappointment. As expected there were no outright winners in these races; the likelihood of any single candidate achieving the necessary 50% plus one vote was slim to none in all four races. The top two vote-getters in each race will face off in the November 8, 2016 General Election.

And so to the races:

OFFICE No. 11
Runoff: Archuleta v. Schreiner - Violent Crimes Prosecutor v. Gang Homicide Prosecutor


Although a runoff between bitter rivals Deputy District Attorneys Debra Archuleta and Steven Schreiner was widely expected, the big surprise here was the 21 point lead that Archuleta netted over Schreiner. Indeed, equally unexpected was that Archuleta came within 2.5% of winning the race outright.

While the result must be a disappointment to Schreiner, he can take some solace from the fact that his vote was split by the presence of late entrant Deputy DA Paul Kim on the ballot. Both Schreiner and Kim had virtually identical ballot titles, and undoubtedly, Kim split Schreiner's vote. Had Kim stayed out of the race Schreiner could have been expected to have netted 40.96%, however that still leaves him 8 points behind Archuleta.

Many experts attribute Archuleta's success to her having what appears to be three essential attributes in this year's election cycle; Gender, Occupation, and Race. First, the prospect of electing a female President is clearly engaging female voters who, unsurprisingly, are also favoring female candidates in other races. Second, voters' historic support of prosecutors in judicial elections seems to be holding true, and third, the Latino community are increasingly more engaged in the electoral process. Thus a female, Latino prosecutor makes for a formidable candidate in this election cycle.

Baring some major upset, Archuleta looks certain to benefit from the dynamics of the Presidential election in November.

OFFICE No. 42
Runoff: Molina v. Aceves - Domestic Violence Attorney v. Child Molestation Prosecutor


There were big surprises and upsets in this race.

First, perhaps, is that Deputy District Attorney Efrain Matthew Aceves, running with the historically powerful ballot designation "Child Molestation Prosecutor," has ended up in second place.

Second is that Alicia Molina, previously not considered to be a serious threat to a likely Aceves-Zuzga runoff, has ended up in first place.

Third, was that Superior Commissioner Cyndy Zuzga was eliminated from the runoff.

Molina's surprise success looks like being due to her having the same combination of factors as seen with Debra Archuleta; she is female, Latino, and also has a ballot title that sounds prosecutorial - "Domestic Violence Attorney."

Molina also enjoys support from MABA-PAC, the Mexican American Bar Association's Political Action Committee, which will likely redouble it's efforts in support of Molina in the runoff. Although there has been some criticism of Molina's ballot title being misleading (she is more properly associated with immigration law than domestic violence), the reality is that there might be little to be gained in a costly legal challenge, as Molina will likely fare just as well as an "Immigration Attorney" ballot title given the dynamics of the runoff.

All in all, Molina looks set to present a formidable challenge in November, and a race that once seemed certain to favor Aceves, now looks hard to call.

OFFICE No.84
Runoff: Townsend v. Perez - Criminal Fraud Prosecutor v. Supervising Criminal Prosecutor


No big surprises here, nor any huge disappointments. Deputy District Attorneys Susan Jung Townsend and Javier Perez were expected to be in the runoff, and they are. It was equally certain that late entrant and lackadaisical candidate Hubert Yun would be eliminated, as he was. However, Yun's candidacy has caused many to wonder the true nature of Yun's campaign. He does not appear to have been actively campaigning having missed all candidate forums, and aside from having a few randomly placed yard signs, did little to dispel the belief that he was nothing more than a name on the ballot. So was he campaigning to be a winner, or was he simply on the ballot to be a spoiler?

If Yun intended to be a spoiler, he certainly succeed in that regard. He succeeded in spiting the pro-prosecutor vote thereby denying both Townsend and Perez votes. However, he also split the Asian vote, hurting Townsend more than Perez. The unanswered question is why?

The sole GOP candidate in this race, Aaron Weissman, is probably disappointed that Republicans appeared to stay home on election day. As a result Weissman placed last, albeit with a respectable 14.71% of the vote. 

The November runoff looks certain to favor female prosecutors, suggesting that Townsend will likely maintain the narrow lead she has over Perez.

OFFICE No. 158
Runoff: Berger v. Nguyen - Violent Crimes Prosecutor v. Deputy Attorney General


Described by experts as the hardest of the races to predict, most nevertheless agreed that Deputy District Attorney David Berger (the editor of this Blog) would be in the runoff. If there was a surprise here, it is that Deputy Attorney General Kim Nguyen emerged as the challenger in the runoff, rather than late entrant and fellow Deputy DA Fred Mesropi. The once prized and highly rated 'Child Molestation Prosecutor' ballot title had promised to place Mesropi high in the rankings, perhaps even in first place. However, in this election cycle it failed to deliver,  just as it did for Aceves in Office No. 42.

Although Nguyen netted at 34.49% of the vote, six points ahead of Berger, that lead is somewhat illusory given that Mesropi clearly split Berger's vote. Indeed, if Mesropi's 17.25% is added to Berger's 28.14%, the resultant 45.39% perhaps represents a more accurate picture of this race; it is not unreasonable to expect voters attracted by Mesropi's ballot title to be easy converts to Berger, who ran with the ballot title 'Violent Crimes Prosecutor.'

As to the 12.21% garnered by Naser Khoury, the sole GOP candidate in this race, those votes seem more likely to go towards a candidate with a prosecutorial ballot title if historical data holds true. Deputy City Attorney Onica Valle Cole, another late entrant, garnered almost 8% of the vote, attributable as much to her gender as her ballot title, 'Prosecutor,' suggesting that her vote will split evenly between the runoff candidates.

Unlike the three other judicial races in the November runoff, this is the only one featuring a prosecutor against a non prosecutor. Although prosecutors generally do better than their opponents in the high-voter turnout General Election, Nguyen could benefit from being the only non-prosecutor on the ballot. With that said, however, data from the primary suggests voters still favor prosecutors in judicial elections.

&tc.



Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Election Day is Finally Here

The LA Times repeated its endorsements over the weekend, as did the Metropolitan News-Enterprise on Monday, ahead of Tuesdays' elections.

The full text of all the Met News endorsements can be read here.

The press have done their bit, now do yours and get out and vote!

&tc.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

2016 Judicial Candidates - LA Times Declares "It's Almost Over!"

The seven judicial candidates who have been endorsed by the LA Times received a welcome boost to their campaigns ahead of Tuesday, June 7, 2016's primary election when the Times today repeated it's April 28, 2016 endorsements of their candidacies.

The value of the LA Times endorsement is immeasurable in that it not only provides free national media coverage for the candidates, but it also lends credibility to their candidacies in way far more effective than slate mailers and yard signs. While not a game-changer in its own right, the Times' endorsements when combined with well managed campaigns and attractive ballot titles, should give all endorsees some degree of comfort in the run up to election day.


The headline, "It's almost over," doubtless rings true for all 23 candidates in the 7 races on the ballot Tuesday.  All 23 are, to varying degrees, likely somewhat pensive ahead of Tuesday's election.

For the 3 sitting Judges who have been challenged; Judge James Kaddo (Office 60) Judge Ray Santana (Office 120) and Judge Kathryn Solorzano (Office 165), that headline is particularly apt - there will be finality to those races as there can only be one winner. The power of incumbency, coupled with the might of the Met-News and Times endorsements should be more than enough to see them all comfortably reelected.

However, for the 17 candidates in the 4 'open races,' (one where a sitting judge is not being challenged) the odds are against any candidate garnering the necessary 50% plus one vote to secure a victory on Tuesday. Therefore, a runoff between the two highest vote-getters is a virtual certainty in all 4 races.

But who are the two likely highest vote-getters in each race? We'll take an educated guess:

OFFICE 11
Deputy District Attorney Steven Schreiner holds the advantage of the LA Times endorsement, as well as the services of judicial campaign guru David Gould. Rival Debra Archuleta has run an aggressive campaign, and despite losing out on media endorsements and access to effective slate mail, is a formidable opponent. But for the late entry of Deputy District Attorney Paul Kim to the race, Schreiner could have won the race outright - Kim has an almost identical ballot title to Schreiner's. However Kim's candidacy, which lacks the finances to feature strongly in this race, will nevertheless likely erode Schreiner's lead to the point where a Schreiner-Archuleta runoff seems inevitable. It is also entirely possible that Archuleta may emerge from the Primary with more votes than  Schreiner. However, any such lead will have to be put into context by combining Shreiner's votes with Kim's. Also in this race is attorney Jonathan Malek, however, his candidacy is unlikely to impact the results.

OFFICE 42
Despite missing out on the LA Times endorsement, Deputy District Attorney Efrain Matthew Aceves has a powerful ballot designation and a well financed campaign managed by David Gould. Aceves, however,  faces stiff competition from LA Times endorsee Commissioner Cyndy Zuzga. In a straight fight between the two, Aceves' ballot designation would likely trump Zuzga's Times endorsement, as Gould's oft-cited prophecy, "Commissioners, in general do not necessarily do very well against D.A.s" has held true more often than not.  However, MABA-PAC endorsed attorney Alicia Molina is also in this race, and although not seen as a winner, she could easily erode Aceves' and Zuzga's votes to the point where they will face each other in a November runoff, at which point Gould's prophecy will likely be proven true. Also in this race is attorney Michael Ribbons who will not be a factor.

OFFICE 84
 Deputy District Attorney Susan Jung Townsend holds all the cards in this race; a well-funded campaign managed by Gould, the Times and Met-News endorsements, and a strong ballot title. Rival Deputy DA Javier Perez, despite losing out on media endorsements and the services of campaign strategist Gould, has a broadly supported campaign. Townsend and Perez are clearly the frontrunners in this race with Townsend, perhaps, having the edge. However, attorney Aaron Weissman and DDA Hubert Yun are also in this race. Weissman has grassroots support from the GOP, which will be worth a few points. Yun, despite not appearing to engage in any active campaigning beyond random sightings of yard signs, has a strong ballot title, also worth a few points. In all likelihood, it will be a Townsend - Perez runoff in November.

OFFICE 158
In the most crowded of the races, Deputy District Attorney David Berger faces four opponents. Berger (who edits this blog) has the advantage of the Met News and LA Times endorsements, a well funded campaign managed by Gould, and a strong ballot title. Deputy Attorney General Kim Nguyen was looking like a strong rival, enjoying the advice and influence of legendary big-league campaign strategist Parke Skelton. However, Nguyen's campaign has suffered some setbacks. At one point Nguyen looked like being the only female candidate in this race after Susan Jerich suddenly dropped out. However, that advantage dissipated equally suddenly when Deputy City Attorney Onica Valle Cole jumped in. Added to the mix was the loss of the LA Times endorsement, who said of Nguyen that she "could benefit from another few years of experience before taking the bench." Despite the setbacks, Nguyen has secured a slew of political endorsements and has an impressive campaign warchest. 

It is, however, a very crowded race for Office 158.  Unlike some of the other races, there are no 'deadwood' candidates - all appear to be seriously campaigning. Cole, who despite limited campaign finances, has successfully leveraged her strong ties to the community. Cole splits the female vote that otherwise belonged to Nguyen. Deputy DA Fred Mesropi splits the prosecutor vote and has a strong ballot title, but his late start on the campaign puts him at a disadvantage. Added to the mix the is the candidacy of GOP endorsed criminal defense attorney Naser Khoury, and it's not as easy to predict the two highest vote getters in this race compared to the others - in a five way race, all could conceivably poll somewhere within five points either side of 20% and the margins could be wafer thin at both ends of the scale.

Most experts believe that the benefit of the LA Times endorsement, coupled with a well planned campaign that has been active since January 2015, likely puts Berger into the runoff. Who else makes the runoff? Most believe that it will be between Mesropi and Nguyen; Mesropi because of his ballot title, and Nguyen because she has campaigned long and hard.

SO GET OUT AND VOTE!
The analysis provided above is an educated guess at best, and the high voter turnout expected for the Presidential Primary could change the analysis considerably.

This year, because of the candidacy of the editor, the Dragnet is not making any endorsements, so vote the way you think best. 

In the interests of full disclosure, the Los Angeles Dragnet is edited by David Berger. Any and all opinions expressed here are personal and are not reflective of any opinion, position or view of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

&tc.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Met News Endorses Susan Jung Townsend for Judge - Office No. 84

Friday, April 29, 2016, the Los Angeles Metropolitan News-Enterprise made, perhaps, the hardest choice of any of the races, endorsing Deputy District Attorney Susan Jung Townsend for Judge of the Superior Court, Office No. 84.


The Met News said all four candidates in this race are "worthy," but found Susan Jung Townsend to be "Poised, intelligent, skilled in communicating her thoughts with precision, we believe she would excel as a judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court. We discern definite potential on her part for higher judicial office."

In what might be considered a 'split endorsement,' the Met News also taped Deputy District Attorney Javier Perez and Attorney Aaron Weissman for appointment saying "While we endorse Susan Jung Townsend for election to the Los Angeles Superior Court, we endorse Weissman and Perez for appointment by the governor." Townsend's endorsement followed the Met News' in-depth reportage of all the candidates.

For Townsend, the Met News endorsement caps a successful week in her campaign, having secured the LA Times endorsement the previous day.

&tc.

Friday, April 29, 2016

LA Times Judicial Endorsements 2016

The Los Angeles Times this week delivered its verdicts on those they found most suitable in the 2016 race for robes.

On Wednesday, April 27, 2016, the Times considered the three sitting Judges who have drawn challenges and found Judge James Kaddo, Judge Ray Santana* and Judge Kathryn Solorzano all more than worthy of reelection.

On Thursday, April 28, 2016, the Times reviewed the 17 candidates for the 4 open seats in this years' election cycle, finding as follows:

Office No. 11 Deputy District Attorney Steven Schreiner “has the most experience,” “with the calm demeanor that a judge must have,” and is “a candidate who would likely make a model judge.”

Office No. 42 Superior Court Commissioner Cyndy Zuzga is “already is doing much of a judge’s work. And by all accounts, she is doing it well.”

Office No. 84 Deputy District Attorney Susan Jung Townsend has “17 years on the job” and “possesses the most integrity and the best judgment.”

Office No. 158 Deputy District Attorney David Berger “was never shy about expressing his opinion, including about his rivals. He has a long and successful record as a prosecutor” adding “Berger is the best choice.

The primary election is on June 7, 2016, and the 'down ticket' nature of judicial elections means that for the vast majority of voters the LA Times is the only source of information and makes their endorsement a most valuable asset. Our hearty congratulations to the 2016 LA Times Judicial Endorsees.

*Judge Ray Santana is not pictured above as he has not yet established a campaign website and we are unable to locate a suitable photograph.

In the interests of full disclosure, the Los Angeles Dragnet is edited by David Berger. Any and all opinions expressed here are personal and are not reflective of any opinion of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. 
&tc.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Metropolitan News-Enterprise Endorses David Berger for Judge

Of the four 'open' seats in the upcoming June 7, 2016 Judicial Election, no race is more crowded that that for Office No. 158 where five candidates are vying to replace retiring Judge Elden S. Fox. On Friday, April 22, 2016,  Los Angeles' leading legal newspaper, the Metropolitan News-Enterprise, gave veteran prosecutor Deputy District Attorney David Berger its highly-prized endorsement.


"One candidate in this race stands out: Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney David Berger." the Met News said. "Composed, articulate and knowledgeable, he would run a court in a steady and effective manner. Berger has a quick mind, and would render reasoned decisions without long pondering." The Met News concluded "... it is clear that David Berger possesses credential far exceeding those of any of his rivals. We endorse his candidacy." The full text of the editorial endorsement can be seen here.

The editorial came after the Met News had published in-depth reviews of all the candidates, with "complex and controversial" David Berger having been profiled on Tuesday April 19, 2016. The Met News noted Berger's British background, his authorship of this blog, crime-fighting efforts, and his robust support from former Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley (2000-2012) who said of Berger "He is very smart, principled, and sees the dynamics of complex situations. He is also courageous." The Met News reported.

Deputy City Attorney Onica Valle Cole and Criminal Defense Attorney Naser "Nas" Khoury were profiled on Wednesday, April 20, 2016, and Deputy District Attorney Fred Mesropi and Deputy Attorney General Kim Nguyen were profiled on Thursday, April 21, 2016.

The Metropolitan News-Enterprise is widely read in Los Angeles' legal community, and while the endorsement is of considerable significance among legal professionals, the 115 year old journal is the source of information for others who follow the judicial races and value the in-depth coverage afforded by no other source.

Thus far the Met News has endorsed Superior Court Judge Kathryn Solorzano for Office No. 165, Deputy District Attorney Steven Schreiner for Office No. 11, and Superior Court Judge James Kaddo for Office No. 60.

&tc.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Former DA Garcetti "I never wanted Marcia Clark on OJ trial"

The FX mini series 'The People v O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story" has reopened debate on many of the missteps taken leading to Simpson's acquittal over 25 years ago. Former District Attorney Gil Garcetti has now weighed in with his perspective in this exclusive New York Post interview.


Among Garcetti's observations; "She wasn't my choice - I didn't pick her" he said of lead prosecutor Marcia Clark, adding "she didn't heed the advice of our trial consultant" Garcetti told the New York Post.

Garcetti blames the 1994 earthquake for the need to hold the trial of the century in downtown Los Angeles rather than in Santa Monica, claiming the aged Santa Monica Courthouse was "wrecked by the earthquake," although many recall 'security concerns' as being the stated reason at the time.

For more of Garcetti's revelations, read the full article here.


&tc.

Monday, April 4, 2016

2016 Judicial Elections - Ballot Positions Announced

The LA County Registrar/Recorder has announced the ballot positions for all candidates in the June 7, 2016 Primary Election. The order of names is drawn at random, largely because it is generally thought that those appearing at the top of the ballot may fare better than those in lower positions. That is, perhaps, especially true in the judicial races where many voters have little or no prior knowledge of the candidates and the first attractive name, with a good ballot designation can score vital points.

Although the ballot positions have been finalized, certain ballot designations have been contested and appear subject to final rulings set to take place this week.

We list the four open seats first:

Office No. 11
 

Office No. 42


Office No. 84


Office No. 158


In the contested seats ballot position is of far less importance that the power of incumbency - it is notoriously difficult to unseat a sitting judge who is actively campaigning for reelection:

Office No. 60


Office No. 120


Office No. 165


In case you missed the link at the top of the page, the link to the final list of qualified candidates appearing on the ballot for the June 7, 2016 Presidential Primary is:
https://lavote.net/Documents/Election_Info/06072016_Final-List-of-Qualified-Candidates-to-Appear-Ballot.pdf

&tc.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Met News Endorses Steven Schreiner for Judge of the Superior Court


Thursday, March 31, 2016. The Los Angeles Metropolitan News-Enterprise delivered a powerful boost to Deputy District Attorney Steven Schreiner's bid to become Judge of the Superior Court endorsing the veteran prosecutor's candidacy.

The endorsement follows two lengthy articles on the four candidates for Office Number 11, with the Met News outlining Deputy District Attorney Debra Archuleta's candidacy on March 29, 2016, and those of Schreiner, fellow DDA Paul Kim, and private practitioner Jonathan Malek on March 30, 2016.

Archuleta, it seems, failed to impress the Met News quite comprehensively. Having told the Met News that she would be '“shocked” if she did not receive the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s highest rating for judicial candidates of “exceptionally well qualified,”' Archuleta is likely less than pleased at the Met New's opinion of her candidacy. Fellow DDA Paul Kim fared better than Archuleta and was considered a "worthy candidate" by the Met News. Despite the appellation, Kim nonetheless lost out to Schreiner's "greater wisdom and insights," the Met News said. Malek received praise for his candor in admitting to virtually no trial experience, but simply lacked the experience and knowledge to be ready for a judgeship, according to the Met News.

The Met News endorsements are widely read and valued among the legal community as well as other publications, organizations and civic leaders engaged in the endorsement process. For Schreiner, the endorsement will likely add gravitas to his candidacy as he seeks the endorsement and support of other influential groups.

There is, regrettably, something of a Ballot Designation Battle underway between some of the candidates for Office Number 11. On March 23, 2016 the Met News reported that Schreiner has challenged Archuleta's use of "Violent Crimes Prosecutor" as her ballot designation on the basis that she has been assigned to the prosecution of White Collar Crimes for the past two years. Those crimes are rarely, if ever, crimes of violence. It appears that Archuleta's claim to the designation arises from a domestic violence case she tried in December 2014 while in her previous assignment. That case is awaiting re-trial following a hung jury, the Met News reported.

Kim has challenged Schreiner's use of "Gang Murder Prosecutor," saying that "Murder Prosecutor" is more appropriate. The essence of Kim's claim appears to be that he believes Schreiner prosecutes murderers who are gang members but do not commit a gang crime, rather than gang members who commit murders in the furtherance of criminal gang activity within the meaning of Penal Code §186.22(b). Kim declared that a 186.22 allegation is “what makes it a gang case.”' he told the Met News.

Both ballot designation battles will be decided by reference to pertinent portions of the Elections Code; §13107(a)(3) requires a ballot designation to be "No more than three words designating either the current principal professions, vocations, or occupations of the candidate, or the principal professions, vocations, or occupations of the candidate during the calendar year immediately preceding the filing of nomination documents." Election Code §13107(b)(1) prohibits a ballot designation that could be misleading to voters. Given that the LA County Registrar/Recorder has to print the ballots well in advance of the June 7, 2016 election, a decision on these challenges is likely imminent.

&tc.


Sunday, March 13, 2016

2016 Judicial Elections - The Race For Robes Takes Shape

Filings in the Los Angeles County Superior Court elections, the 'Race for Robes,' closed at 5pm Friday, March 11, with 16 candidates vying for 4 open seats, and 3 candidates challenging sitting judges.

The race for open seats has a field of 1 Superior Court Commissioner, 8 Deputy District Attorneys, 1 Deputy Attorney General, and 6 attorneys. Those open seats result from the impending retirements of Judges Michelle Rosenblatt, Alan Rosenfield, Kathleen Diesman, and Elden Fox, all of whom were not minded to allow Governor Brown to appoint their replacements.

So here's a first look at the 2016 race for robes:

Office Number 11 
(L-R: Deputy District Attorneys Debra Archuleta, Paul Kim and Steven Schriener face each other, in the race for Office 11
along with largely unknown candidate Jonathan Malek
)

Deputy District Attorney Steven Schreiner, who ran unsuccessfully in 2014, faces fellow DDAs Debra Archuleta and Paul Kim. Schreiner started his campaign shortly after his 2014 defeat, with Archuleta beginning her campaign early in 2015. Kim was a late and unexpected entrant to this race, along with attorney Jonathan Malek. With Schreiner and Archuleta being the frontrunners in terms of campaign strength, warchests and ballot titles, a November runoff between the two is virtually guaranteed.

Candidate Information:
DDA Debra Archuleta
Ballot Title: Violent Crimes Prosecutor
Website: www.ArchuletaForjudge.com
Facebook: facebook.com/ArchuletaForJudge

DDA Paul Kim
Ballot Title: Gang Murder Prosecutor
Website: www.PaulKimForJudge.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Paul-Kim-for-Los-Angeles-County-Judge-Seat-11-469820899880149/

Jonathan Malek
Ballot Title: Civil Litigator
No website or Facebook page can be located at this time.

DDA Steven Schreiner
Ballot Title: Gang Homicide Prosecutor
Website: www.SchreinerForJudge.com
Facebook: facebook.com/SchreinerForJudge

Office Number 42
(L to R: Deputy District Attorney Efrain Aceves, attorneys Alicia Molina,
and Superior Court Commissioner Cyndy Zuzga
)

Deputy District Attorney Efrain Aceves, who ran in 2014 before withdrawing his candidacy, is pitched against Superior Court Commissioner Cynthia Zuzga, and attorneys Alicia Molina and Michael Ribons.  Aceves and Zuzga have been campaigning since 2015, while Molina and Ribons are late entrants. Aceves and Zuzga have the strongest ballot titles and campaign warchests, and will likely face each other in a November runoff.

Candidate Information:
DDA Efrain Aceves
Ballot Title: Child Molestation Prosecutor
Website: www.AcevesForJudge.com
Facebook: facebook.com/Efrain.M.Aceves

Alicia Molina
Ballot Title: Domestic Violence Attorney
Website: http://MolinaForJudge.squarespace.com
Facebook: facebook.com/AliciaMolinaForJudge

Michael Ribons
Ballot Title: Arbitrator/Attorney
No website or Facebook page can be located at this time.

Cyndy Zuzga
Ballot Title: Superior Court Commissioner
Website: www.ZuzgaForJudge.com
Facebook: facebook.com/Zuzga-for-Judge

Office Number 84
(L-R: Deputy District Attorneys Javier Perez, Susan Jung Townsend, attorney Aaron Weissman, and Hubert Yun)

Deputy District Attorney Susan Jung Townsend started her campaign early in 2015, around the same time as attorney Aaron Weissman. They are pitched against DDAs Javier Perez and Hubert Yun who was a late entrant to this race. Townsend leads the field in ballot title and campaign warchest strength, but Perez enjoys substantial backing from MABA-PAC (the Mexican American Bar Association's Political Action Committee) and currently has a strong ballot title. Wesiman is understood to be actively playing catch-up in the fundraising department, while little is known of Yun's campaign or his resources. The frontrunners here are Townsend and Perez, both seem likely to face each other in a November runoff.

Candidate Information:
DDA Javier Perez
Ballot Title: Supervising Gang Prosecutor
Website: www.PerezForJudge.com
Facebook: facebook.com/Perez-For-Judge

DDA Susan Jung Townsend
Ballot Title: Criminal Fraud Prosecutor
Website: www.TownsendForJudge.com
Facebook: facebook.com/Susan-Townsend-for-Judge

Aaron Weissman
Ballot Title: Small Business Attorney
Website: www.AaronWeissman4Judge.org

DDA Hubert Yun
No website or Facebook page can be located at this time.

Office Number 158
(L-R: Deputy District Attorney David Berger, attorneys Susan Jerich, Naser Khoury,
and Deputy Attorney General Kim Nguyen
)

Deputy District Attorney David Berger started his campaign for Office 158 early in 2015, and did so with the blessing of it's current holder, Judge Elden S. Fox, who delayed announcing his retirement until the close of filing in a valiant display of support his for Berger. Berger is currently challenged by Deputy Attorney General Kim Nguyen. Attorneys Naser Khoury and Susan Jerich have also filed papers to run, potentially making this into a four-way race with a November runoff between to two highest vote-getters in the June election.
UPDATED:
Susan Jerich has decided to withdraw her candidacy at this time and plans to run in 2018. Late entries have been filed by Deputy District Attorney Fred Mesropi and Deputy City Attorney Onica Valle Cole

Candidate Information:
DDA David Berger*
Ballot Title: Violent Crimes Prosecutor
Website: www.BergerForJudge2016.com
Facebook: facebook.com/Berger2016

Onica Valle Cole
Ballot Title: Prosecutor
Website: Unnown
Facebook: Not Found

Naser Khoury
Ballot Title: Law Professor/Attorney
Website: www.KhouryForJudge.org
Facebook: facebook.com/Naser-Khoury-for-Los-Angeles-County-Superior-Court-Judge-2016

Fred Mesropi
Ballot Title: Child Molestation Prosecutor
Website: www.MesropiForJudge.com
Facebook: Not Found

Kim Nguyen
Ballot Title: Deputy Attorney General
Website: www.KimForJudge2016.com
Facebook: Not found.

As for the contested races;

Sitting Judges James Kaddo, Ray Santana, and Kathryn Solorzano all face challengers in this election cycle. The last time a sitting Judge was defeated was in 2014 when Judge James Pierce was unseated. The defeat shocked many on the bench who believed that the challenge could have easily been overcome had Judge Pierce done more than simply assume his incumbency would win the day.

Factions within the Superior Court are believed to have contingency plans in place to ensure that there will not be a repeat of 2014. Those plans are said to include traditional fundraising for those incumbents who actively campaign, as well as a Political Action Committee that could finance Independent Expenditures in support of an incumbent who tries to follow the Judge Pierce approach.

Add to the mix is the willingness of MABA-PAC to support of Latino jurists who come under attack. It's without doubt that MABA-PAC's $200k pledge to support Judge Gus Sztraicher was instrumental in deterring attorney Michael Ribons from pursuing his ill-feted campaign for Judge Sztraicher's seat, and it seems likely that MABA-PAC will similarly step up to the plate for Judges Solorzano and Santana.

It will not be a huge surprise, therefore, to see all three incumbents reelected in June.

[*In the interests of full disclosure, for readers who don't already know it, Joe Friday is David Berger, editor of this blog.]

&tc.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Sztraicher Strikes-Out Spurious Seat Stalker

Although much confusion continues to cloud the 2016 race for robes, at least one dark cloud has been lifted; Popular Judge Gus Sztraicher will not be opposed in his reelection campaign, the Dragnet can confirm.

Judge Sztraicher wasted no time mounting a robust reelection campaign.

Arbitrator/attorney Michael Ribons had previously taken out papers to run for Sztraicher's seat, and had told the Los Angeles Metropolitan News-Enterprise on January 25, 2016, that he had drawn Sztraicher's seat at random having been told that he had to 'pick a number' when he first filed his papers, and that he could change his selection to an open seat at a later time. Ribons later said he would not run against Sztraicher and would select an open seat.

Despite those apparent reassurances, Sztraicher was not convinced, noting on his Facebook campaign page that "… the proposed challenger has twice told the Metropolitan News that he does not intend to run against the seat I currently occupy. The first such statement was followed by his filing a declaration of intent on the very same seat. This action is in direct contradiction of the statement made to the press. Therefore, our campaign is now fully activated." he said.


Documents filed with the LA County Registrar/Recorder on February 10, 2016 confirmed that Ribons had indeed filed a Declaration of Intent to run for Sztraicher's seat, notwithstanding the prior assurances.

Despite assurances on January 25, 2016, Ribons filed a Declaration of Intent
to run against Judge Sztraicher on February 10, 2016
Sztraicher was not alone in doubting Ribons. The powerful Mexican-American Bar Association's Political Action Committee (MABA-PAC) threw their weight behind Sztraicher sensing, perhaps, that there was a more sinister motive behind Ribons 'random' seat selection. MABA-PAC posted this comment on their Facebook page which also appeared on Sztraicher's.


"The PAC Board has committed to raise $200,000 for Judge Sztraicher. The Board will not stand by silently when racist xenophobes challenge Latino judges based on the spelling of their last names." the Board said.

MABA-PAC's concerns, presumably shared by Sztraicher, was that Ribons' random run was likely a replay of the cynical strategy used in 2006 by Lynn D. Olson to defeat sitting Judge Dzintra Janavas. Olsen, a former "inactive status" attorney who ran a Manhattan Beach bagel bakery, unseated Janavas with 54% of the vote. Many saw Olson's challenge as distasteful, exploitative, and based solely on the vulnerability of "foreign sounding names" in elections.

But what Janavas lacked in 2006 was the robust support of a well-organized group. MABA-PAC's promise of $200,000 in campaign support was probably not nearly as worrisome for Ribons as was their loud widespread condemnation of what they believed was behind his strategy.

On March 3, 2016, Ribons filed nominating papers for Office Number 42, an open seat. The filing of nominating papers is, to all intents and purposes, irrevocable, and Ribons can no longer threaten to challenge Sztraicher and can only run for Office 42.



With no other challenger having previously filed papers for Sztraicher's seat, the race is effectively over, and Sztraicher will be reelected unopposed; and deservedly so.

If MABA-PAC and Judge Sztraicher were right about Ribons, the kudos then to them for removing this potentially ugly stain from the 2016 judicial elections. While it is unlikely that we will never again see "racist xenophobes" challenging incumbents with foreign sounding names, at least the strategy is clear; speak out against it early, loud and often.

&tc.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

2016 Los Angeles Superior Court Judicial Candidates - Lack of Seats Lamented, Conspiracy Theories Abound

The 2014 Judicial Elections saw 14 open seats and 1 contested race result in 13 Deputy District Attorneys, 1 Superior Court Commissioner and 1 Deputy City Attorney elected to the Los Angeles County Superior Court. It was unprecedented in terms of the number of open seats, and the number of Deputy District Attorneys who succeeded in their run for robes - 3 of whom were elected unopposed, the remaining 10 won handily in the June 2014 Primary. It was also a huge victory for Judicial Election Campaign Guru Strategist David Gould who represented most of the victors.

It all seemed a little too easy and caused many to believe that the 2016 Judicial elections could see an even bigger field of candidates vying for an equally large number of open seats. That does not appear to be the case. There are, perhaps, 23 candidates who have expressed an interest in running, but the big surprise (or disappointment) is the very small number of open seats; 4 or 5 at best.

Rumors abound as the the reason for the low number of open seats in this election cycle. In 2014 it was rumored that the 14 sitting judges who announced their retirements, timed their announcements deliberately to deny Governor Brown the ability to appoint their replacements. This was seen as "payback" either for Brown's slashing of the LA Superior Court budget, or criticism of his 'eclectic' choice of appointees, or both.

And so to the rumor mill now churning regarding the reason for the low number of 2016 open seats - that Judges considering retirement have been 'prevailed upon' to time their retirements in such a way as to restore Governor Brown's appointment powers and thereby restore the somewhat 'crusty' relationship between the LA Superior Court the Governor, and thereby restore much needed funding to the Court - he who holds the budget strings, etc. There's also a certain amount of criticism as to performance of a few of the 2014 elected judges; while most have proven to be excellent judges garnering glowing reviews in legal journals, others have not done so well (I'm sure the comments section will fill in those details.)

Governor Brown, for his part, has no real reason to be miffed by the results of the 2014 election. Since that time he has appointed no less than 38 Judges to the LA County Superior Court, 34 of which are up for election in June, and have not yet drawn a challenge. So perhaps any desire to reign in the number of open seats emanates from Los Angeles, rather than in Sacramento. Or perhaps the whole thing is mere coincidence.

Whatever the reason for the low number of open seats, the Wednesday, February 10, 2016 deadline to file declarations of intent to run will likely see a very crowded race, and some ugly clashes between candidates who have cashed in their retirement accounts to fuel a robust campaign, estimated to be somewhere in the region of $250k.

So here's the current state of the 2016 Judicial Race:

Office Number 11 - Open


When Judge Michelle Rosenblatt (not to be confused with Judge Marsha Revel - see Office Number 34 below) failed to file her Declaration of Intent on the first day of filing (February 1), it was at first thought that she was going to file later in the week. At 63, she's not necessarily in the retirement zone. However, the Los Angeles Metropolitan News-Enterprise reported that she was, indeed, retiring, and Deputy District Attorneys Debra Archuleta and Javier Perez quickly filed for her seat, as did Superior Court Commissioner Cyndy Zuzga. All three are represented by Gould, creating a problem as Gould will not represent candidates who run against each other. The problem may have been partly solved by Perez also filing for Office 84 (see below). Zuzga, who has also filed for Office 120 (see below), told the Met News that she hoped Gould "works his magic" and and finds her another seat. It appears that Archuleta will remain in this race and not contest Office 34 (see below), and will likely face a challenge or challenges from other candidates who, as we go to press, have not yet designated their seat.

Office 34 - Not In Play

Judge Marsha Revel also did not file her Declaration of Intent on the first day of filing. The respected jurist has had a long and distinguished career on the bench, but no rumor anywhere suggested she was ready to hang up her robes. However, rumor had it that a female judge, with the initials "MR" was going to retire, and according the the Met News, there may have been some confusion between Judges Marsha Rosenblatt and Michelle Revel, leading to Deputy District Attorneys Steven Schreiner and Debra Archuleta to file papers for Judge Revel's seat. Neither Archuleta nor Schreiner had any intention of running against Judge Revel. Archuleta has now filed for Office 11 (above) and Schreiner, who ran unsuccessfully in 2014, is likely to file for a different open seat.

Office Number 42 - Open

Deputy District Attorney Susan Jung-Townsend was an early filer for Judge Alan Rosenfield's seat, taking out Signature in Lieu of filing fee papers on January 22, 2016 to stake her claim to what appears to be an open seat in the absence of Rosenfield's filing a declaration of intent. Rosenfield has not issued a statement confirming or denying his retirement, however, it is widely believe he is indeed leaving the bench. Thus far, Jung has yet to draw a challenger; hardly surprising as she is a formidable candidate who is well financed. Although she has been seeking appointment for some time, she has likely become frustrated by the vagaries of the appointment process, which some believe does not favor LA County Deputy District Attorneys. Regardless of the strength of her candidacy, given the number of as yet unseated candidates, Jung-Townsend will likely face at least one challenger by the time filing closes on February 10.

Office Number 60 - Not Open, but possibly In Play

According to the Met News, Sherman Oaks attorney Stepan Baghdassarian took out Signature in Lieu papers indicating he was going to run for Judge James Kaddo's seat. Baghdassarian declined to give the Met News any reason why he had chosen Kaddo's seat, and also would not say whether or not he would actually run. Judge Kaddo has had a long career on the bench, he was appointed to the Municipal Court in 1991, and later drew sharp criticism from the Met News over his campaign for a seat on the Superior Court. He was also the subject of somewhat messy controversy in 2004.  He currently sits in Dept. I at Van Nuys East (civil) and has filed papers indicating his intention to seek reelection. It is unknown whether Baghdassarian's filing arises from a courtroom clash with the veteran jurist similar to that leading to then Deputy DA Carol Najera's 2014 run against sitting Judge James B. Pierce.

Office Number 84 - Open, Possibly

Judge Kathleen O. Diesman's failure to file her Declaration of Intent to seek reelection last week appears to have fueled beliefs that she may be retiring, at least that appears to be the case as Deputy District Attorneys Philip Marshall and Javier Perez filed papers Friday February 5, to run for her seat. Judge Diesman, a distinguished former Deputy DA, was appointed to the bench in 2008, and currently sits in Dept 27 at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse. No statement has been made regarding whether she is indeed retiring, or why. Both Marshal and Perez are clients of David Gould, suggesting there is something of a conflict to be resolved in this race as to who will have access to Gould's valuable slates. If indeed Judge Diesman is retiring, it is likely that one or other of the thus far unseated candidates will enter this race.

Office Number 109 - Not In Play

Judge Gus Sztraicher (pronounced 'striker') was appointed by Governor Brown in June 2014. He has, by all accounts, been an excellent judge drawing praise from all sides siting in Dept 48 of the CJC. He must therefore have been somewhat surprised to hear that Woodland Hills attorney Michael Ribons had filed Signature in Lieu papers for his seat. The Met News reported that Ribons, who practices real estate and business litigation, was told by the LA County Recorder/Registrar's Office that he had to pick an Office to run for when he filed his papers, and that he could change the seat later. Ribons told the Met News that he chose number 109 at random, and does not intend to run against the incumbent. Nevertheless, Sztraicher is leaving nothing to chance and has recently launched a reelection campaign website www.SztraicherForJudge.com and has a FaceBook page at https://www.facebook.com/JudgeSztraicher.
 
Office Number 120 - Open

The Met News reported that Judge Ray Santana would likely not seek reelection based on a colleague's comments regarding health issues. Deputy District Attorneys Efrain Aceves and Fred Mesropi filed papers for the seat, as did Superior Court Commissioner Cyndy Zuzga and sole practitioner Eric Ibis. Aceves is represented by David Gould, as is Zuzga - a situation where Zuzga hopes Gould can "work his magic" and find here another seat, however, that's looking increasingly less likely given the paucity of seats. Aceves had a brief judicial campaign in 2014, but dropped out for reasons given to the Met News. According to the Net News, Mesropi has hired Cerrell Associates as his consultant, and Ibisi has hired Jasper Jackson who has previously handled local and legislative campaigns. Aceves is a formidable candidate, with strong backing, a solid record, and experience in local politics.

Office Number 158 - Open, Hopefully

Judge Elden Fox was appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Court in 1991, having previously served as a distinguished Los Angeles County Deputy DA from 1974-1991. His many years of experience has earned him the respect of prosecutors and defense attorneys alike who appreciate his rulings as much as his quick wit and sense of humor. With so many years of service under his belt, many expected Judge Fox to retire. Indeed the Met News reported that while the veteran jusrist could not be reached for comment, a source said that he had “only told about 300 people” that he was going to retire. Accordingly, Deputy District Attorney David Berger (aka Joe Friday) filed Signature in Lieu papers for Judge Fox's seat on January 27, 2016 and Deputy Attorney General Kim Nguyen filed her papers on February 1, 2016. Surprisingly, Judge Fox filed his Declaration of Intent on February 3, 2106. It remains to be seen whether Judge Fox will retire, as one observer put it "Judge Fox may be retiring, the question is when." Adding fuel to the rumor mill is speculation that if indeed there is an edict to defer retirement from the bench until after the election, Judge Fox may complying in order to be able to sit on assignment in the future. Berger is represented by David Gould with Nguyen having the services of Parke Skelton through her husband Mike Shimpock. Nguyen has said she will not run against Judge Fox, Berger has hinted that he will, stating "In an ideal world, there would be plenty of open seats, but it is not an ideal world." he said, adding "It's a good time for Judge Fox to enjoy some time away from the bench." If Judge Fox bows out of the fray, the battle between Berger and Nguyen will likely be interesting, with Berger vying to be the first English-American Judge in Los Angeles, and Nguyen seeking to be the only actively serving Vietnamese-American Judge on the local trial bench, according to her website, the Met News reported.

Other known candidates yet to nominate a seat (listed alphabetically):
  • Deputy District Attorney Alfred Colleta, a 27 year veteran of the DA's Office, recently launched his campaign and has retained David Gould as consultant.
  • Susan Jerich, an attorney representing police officers and firefighters in civil, administrative and criminal matters, has retained David Gould as consultant.
  • Naser Khoury, a former Deputy DA currently practicing civil and criminal law, has been running his own campaign for some time and is widely liked and respected.
  • Sydne S. Michel, an attorney for the City of Redondo Beach, recently launched her campaign and has retained David Gould as her consultant. Despite the lack of open seats, it is understood that Michel is pressing forward with a planned fundraiser in the South Bay area on March 3, 2016. In all likelihood, Michel will pick a race by the close of filing on February 10, 2016.
  • Deputy District Attorney Taly Peretz was one of the first to start her campaign last year, retaining David Gould as her consultant.
  • Andrew Stein, a renowned and revered defense attorney, run for judge in 2014, winning a place in the November runoff election, but ultimately losing out to then Deputy City Attorney Thomas Griego. Stein has been actively pursuing his candidacy ever since, and has said he would prefer a race that did not pitch him against a prosecutor. That does not appear to be an option in this election cycle.
  • Deputy District Attorney Jeffrey Stodel launched his campaign last year, retaining David Gould as his consultant.
  • Aaron Weissman, a business litigation attorney with Century City-based Novian & Novian, launched his campaign over a year ago, and was hoping to find an open seat.
Commentary:
Of the eight races above, four appear to be definitely open (11, 42, 84, and 120), two more (60 and 158) may see a battle between a sitting judge and challengers, and the remaining two (34 and 109) will likely not be on the ballot, the putative challengers having dropped out of those races.

21 confirmed candidates are chasing between 4 and 6 seats (there were 28 candidates for 15 seats in 2014), meaning that few, if any, of the races will be decided in the June primary, and in all likelihood most races will be decided in a runoff election in November, a far cry from 2014 when all but 2 of the 15 races were decided at the primary.

&tc..