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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.