June 2018 California Primary Analysis (V): Judicial and County

I recently got my sample ballot for the “Statewide Direct Primary Election” on June 5, and boy, is it going to be a confusing election for people. We have two contests with enough candidates to take two pages (27 candidates for Governor, 32 for Senator, and two contests for our assembly district: one for the “short term” because the previous assemblycritter left early thanks to #metoo, and one for the “full term”, with the same candidates). There are going to be a lot of posts as I work through this. Here’s the sequence as I see it (note: links to articles not yet posted will not work or may be incomplete):

This post will cover the Judges of the Superior Court (Offices 4, 16, 20, 60, 63, 67, 71, 113, 118, 126, and 146), LA County Assessor, LA County Sheriff, and LA County Supervisor (3rd District).

Judges of the Superior Court – Introduction

Most people tend not to think much about the judges on the ballot. They have no idea who they are, and so they go for the incumbent, or their favorite minority, or the recommendations in the paper. I like to put a bit more analysis into it: you want someone who isn’t just jonesing for the office, but has the right temperament, skillset, and background.  To that end, I try to find out where the judge went to school and when, and sometimes where they stood grade-wise. You want to look at their trial experience, because they learn from the judges they see and work with. You want to ensure they are fair, level-headed, impartial, and work off the evidence in the law. You want to make sure they have proper judicial ethics, or at least appear to (i.e., no scandals in the background). You look at who endorses them: others in the legal profession, groups, organizations — and in particular, what they say. You look at their rating by the bar association. You look at recommendations from papers of note, including the LA Times and the Metropolitan News. The latter is daily newspaper focusing largely on law and the courts, it publishes the Rules of Court of the State of California, as well as the County of Los Angeles County and other major California counties. Its participation in the legal community includes an annual “Person of the Year” dinner in honor of an outstanding member of the community. I also consider diversity of the court, for it is important for defendants to see a judiciary that looks like them: that increases the perception of fairness when you see your peers on the bench. Lastly, a thank you in advance to my friend, and Men of TAS (MoTAS) brother, Aaron Weissman, a previous judicial candidate, for providing some useful links to judicial rating websites.

Judge of the Superior Court – Office № 4

Candidates

[✓] Alfred A. Coletta

Alfred A. Coletta (FB). This fellow has an interesting background.  B.S., Environmental Health Science, Cal State LA in 1979. Worked as an Aerospace Engineer for Rockwell on the Space Shuttle. Law degree in 1986 from Western State University. He’s been a deputy DA for 30 years. Endorsed by the LA Times and Metropolitan News. Lots of endorsements. Rated Qualified by the LA County Bar Association.

[✓] A. Verónica Sauceda

A. Verónica Sauceda (FB). Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Chicana/o Studies, UCLA. Juris Doctor, UCLA, 2001. Worked as an attorney at non-profit, legal service organizations for 13 years. Elected as Superior Court Commissioner in 2015, doing traffic and family law. A goodly number of endorsements from judges, lawyers, politicians, unions, and democratic clubs. No paper have endorsed her. Rated well qualified by the LA County Bar Assn.

[✗] Matthew Schonbrun

Matthew Schonbrun does not appear to have a campaign or Facebook page. His Linked-In page shows he’s been a Deputy City Attorney/Prosecutor since 2002 (16 years). Smart Voter in 2012 noted he earned his BA from the University of California at Santa Cruz and graduated Cum Laude from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan.  No known endorsements. Rated Qualified by the LA County Bar Assn.

Conclusion

I think this decision comes down to Alfred A. Coletta (FB) vs A. Verónica Sauceda (FB); Schonbrun gets cut because he has less information online and no endorsement information. Both Latinx (increasing the diversity of the bar); Sauceda adds gender diversity. Sauceda has the better rating; Colletta has much more experience — especially in court matters — and has more endorsements. The experience and endorsements tip me into Coletta’s camp.

Judge of the Superior Court – Office № 16

Candidates

[✓] Patricia (Patti) Hunter

Patricia (Patti) Hunter. Patti graduated from CSUN with a BA in English. She earned her JD, cum laude, from Loyola Law School, graduating in the top 2% of her class.  Her webpage does not give dates. She has been with the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office for over 28 years, doing criminal prosecution for 24 of those years. A fair number of endorsements, including political, legal, and democratic clubs. Rated qualified by the LA County Bar Association. No paper endorsements.

[✓] Sydne Jane Michel

Sydne Jane Michel (FB). Bachelors degree (cum laude and with honors) from UCLA. She worked as an actress for a number of years. Went to law school, graduated, again with honors, from Loyola Law School in 1995. She clerked at the Los Angeles United States Attorney’s Office and the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, and started her legal career when she graduated in 1995. She is currently the Senior Deputy City Prosecutor for the cities of Redondo Beach and Hermosa Beach. She has served as a criminal prosecutor for over ten years. Rated qualified by the LA County Bar AssociationEndorsed by numerous politicians, the LA Times, the Metropolitan News, judges, prosecutors, DAs, and unions.

[✗] Hubert S. Yun

Hubert S. Yun (FB). Interesting note: He ran against my friend Aaron, although that’s neither here nor there. He doesn’t list his education on his pages. The California Bar Association shows he did undergraduate at UC Riverside, and got his law degree from Loyola Law. No dates given. He’s been a LA County Deputy District Attorney, 11+ years, and assigned to handle complex gang murder cases in the Hardcore Gang Division, for 6 years. He has the endorsement of a number of judges and law enforcement associations. Rated qualified by the LA County Bar Association.

Conclusion

I have to eliminate someone off the bat, and that’s going to be Yun for not providing his educational background on his page. That leaves Patricia (Patti) Hunter and Sydne Jane Michel (FB). Hunter has slightly more experience, and certainly more as a prosecutor. Why did more papers endorse Michel? The Metropolitan News makes it appear to be an issue of demeanor: “Intelligent, poised, and straight-to-the-point, she would excel as a judge”. The Times is similar, “has the presence to command a courtroom while still respecting the lawyers appearing before her”. But Hunter has similar comments: “is well regarded for her intellect and ability to apply the law to difficult legal issues. She possesses an exceptional temperament that would make her an excellent jurist”. I think either would be good choices; I’m going to give the edge to Michel simply because of the breadth of endorsements.

Judge of the Superior Court – Office № 20

Candidates

[✓] Mary Ann Escalante

Mary Ann Escalante (FB). Received a law degree from Loyola Law School, date unspecified on her webpage.  Rated well-qualified by the LA County Bar Association. Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney for 30 years. Extensive trial experience. One interesting thing I uncovered is that there is apparently a bitter fight between her and her opponent. It makes for interesting reading, but it is hard to know how things fall out or who started what. Escalente has a goodly number of prosecutor, judicial, and attorney endorsements, as well as some union endorsements. She had no endorsements from publications.

[✓] Wendy Segall

Wendy Segall (FB). She also graduated from Loyola Law (and the link above intimates that she did her undergraduate work with Escalante at SDSU). Ms. Segall obtained her LL. M. (Master of Laws) in Taxation from the New York University School of Law. She practiced criminal defense before being hired by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office in 1995. She has been specially assigned to prosecute Sex Crimes, Major Narcotic, High Profile Stalking and Threat cases and is now a member of the Healthcare Fraud Division. Her efforts to fight stalking led to an interesting web screed, although it sounds like it is from someone upset with her. She has a long long list of endorsements, and she earned the endorsement of the LA Times, who wrote “Both Segall and Mary Ann Escalante are accomplished and well-regarded criminal prosecutors, and either would do well enough on the bench, but voters have to choose. The Times considered critiques from lawyers who have worked with them and against them and gives the edge to Segall.” Rated qualified by the LA County Bar Association.

Conclusion

I find it interesting that the Metropolitan News didn’t endorse in this race, but did explore their backgrounds. It makes for an interesting read. For a bit, I was leaning towards Escalante — I don’t think she should be penalized for working part-time due to family, and it looked like Segall might have started their dispute, and enraged some others. Escalante also has a higher rating. But then I read the following statement about Segall in the Metropolitan News article: “She believes in capital punishment, and strong sentencing in appropriate cases. On the other hand, she has long supported gay rights, rehabilitation for criminals with issues like mental health, women’s rights, and some (but not all) of the recent changes in the criminal justice system. That is not to say she is liberal or progressive. Far from it. I know her points of view, which I do not always agree with, are thoughtful rather than knee jerk or pro-forma. She is truly an independent.” and “I also know Ms. Segall to be enormously concerned about being fair. That to me is the singularly most important quality for a judge—not to adhere to stereotypes or a pedantic point of view, but to consider each case, and its component parts, and reach a conclusion that fits the facts and circumstances.”. Given that, and the large number of endorsements, I think I’m going to give the edge to Wendy Segall (FB).

Judge of the Superior Court – Office № 60

Candidates

[✓] Tony J. Cho

Tony J. Cho (FB). Cho graduated from the University of California, Irvine and earned his law degree from George Washington School of Law. No dates given. He is a a Deputy District Attorney with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. For thirteen years, Tony has tried almost 70 jury trials and has represented the People in cases involving serious and violent crimes. For the last five years, Tony has exclusively prosecuted crimes against the elderly and dependent adults in the Elder Abuse Section. Since April 2010, Tony has served as a Staff Judge Advocate at the Office of the Judge Advocate General with the California State Military Reserve (CSMR). Rated qualified by the LA County Bar Association. Lots of judicial, political, and democratic club endorsements. Endorsed by the Metropolitan News, who said that he “is the clear choice here. Imbued with a strong work ethic, he would be a productive judge, and those appearing in his courtroom would find him respectful and fair.”

[✗] Ben Colella

Ben Colella. Does not list his education on his website. Deputy District Attorney with over 28 years of the experience. Rated not qualified by the LA County Bar Association. The Metropolitan News refers to him as “from all accounts, lazy, and clearly not equipped to be a judge.” No endorsements on his page.

[✓] Holly L. Hancock

Holly L. Hancock (FB). Received her B.A. in Rhetoric from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Later, she became a flight attendant and served as the Vice President of the Association of Flight Attendants. Received her J.D. from Southwestern Law School (formerly Southwestern University School of Law) and became a trial lawyer.  Holly has been approved by the Judges of the Superior Court to act as a Judge Pro Tem in small claims court. Has a small number of endorsements, including the LA Times, who wrote: “Hancock will appear on the ballot described as “Attorney-at-Law,” largely because judicial campaign lore dictates that calling oneself a public defender will turn away would-be voters. If that lore is correct it’s a shame, because, like prosecutors, criminal defense lawyers also generally gain a great deal of trial experience. That alone does not necessarily make them good judicial candidates, but in Hancock’s case it does.” However, the Metropolitan News writes that she “is a pleasant person, but would have difficulty keeping proceedings on track; she’s verbose, and wanders in her dissertations.”

Conclusion

Although Hancock would increase judicial diversity, the large number of endorsements for Cho and the recommendation from the Metropolitan News decides is for me: Tony J. Cho (FB).

Judge of the Superior Court – Office № 63

Candidates

[✗] Anthony Lewis

Anthony Lewis (FB) is not THE Anthony Lewis of legal journalism fame; this Lewis is characterized by the Metropolitan News as an “obscure Woodland Hills attorney”. As an undergrad, Lewis studied politics, sociology, and philosophy, writing a senior thesis on the challenges of maintaining American democracy in the face of industrialization, increasing technological complexity, and the resulting inequalities in income, wealth, and political power of American citizens, graduating in 1994. He attended graduate school at Florida State’s School of Public Administration and Policy, and earned a Master’s in Public Administration with a specialization in organization management in 1996.  During graduate school he completed an analysis on measuring the effectiveness of juvenile justice treatment programs, and studied different methods of improving the performance of the government. He attended law school at Northwestern University in Chicago, focussing on trial advocacy and the law school’s clinical programs, graduating in 1999. Since then, he appears to have run his on private law firm, the Lewis Law Firm, primarily in the area of employment law. He does not appear to have experience in the Superior Court system — no indication of being a Deputy DA or a Public Defender. Rated not qualified by the LA County Bar Association. The Metropolitan News sent emails were sent to more than 1,400 lawyers in their address books seeking comments on Lewis. There was a smattering of responses, all but two indicating no knowledge of him. One found him highly competent, the other found him “to be the most unprofessional, rude, and volatile attorney I have encountered to date”. He has 7 endorsements: 3 attorneys, 4 democratic clubs.

[✓] Malcolm H. Mackey

Malcolm H. Mackey, on the other hand,  has been a trial Judge for 39 years. He got his law degree from Southwestern Law School in 1958. He opened his own law office as a single practitioner in 1959 at 5th and Hill Street in Los Angeles. He was on Federal Indigent Panel for 4 years, representing defendants charged with Federal crimes, and has tried and argued a criminal case before the U.S Supreme Court. (U.S. v. Barnes). In 1978, he was elected to Los Angeles Municipal Court, where he became presiding Judge in 1985-1986. In 1988, he was elected to the Los Angeles Superior Court. Rated exceptionally well qualified by the LA County Bar Association. Endorsed by the LA Times and the Metropolitan News. The latter has a good article on his background. The LA Times wrote: “He’s 88. No matter how esteemed he may be, The Times would not hesitate to urge his retirement or ouster if it were evident that age had affected his competence or productivity. But that appears not to be the case. Quite the opposite, in fact; Mackey has a reputation as a sharp-minded judge.” In terms of other endorsements, they are broad and numerous.

Conclusion

No question for this office: Malcolm H. Mackey.

Judge of the Superior Court – Office № 67

Candidates

[✓] Maria Lucy Armendariz

Maria Lucy Armendariz (FB) majored in Sociology and Economics at UCLA (1993) and earned her law degree from U.C. Hastings School of Law (1997). She has served as Los Angeles Chief of Staff to Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero and Counsel to both the California Senate and Assembly Committees on Public Safety. Appointed by Governor Gray Davis, she has also served as the ombudsman for women’s prisons in California. She was appointed to the bench of the State Bar Court of California in 2007. Rated well qualified by the LA County Bar Association.  She is endorsed by the LA Times, who wrote “Her professional background is varied and impressive. It includes experience as an ombudsman for women’s prisons and negotiator in prison hunger strikes, as an attorney for the state Assembly Public Safety Committee and as a staff leader to members of the Legislature. Deputy Dist. Atty. Dennis P. Vincent is also impressive.” She has a very large list of other endorsements. She was not endorsed by the Metropolitan News, primarily due to some questionable misrepresentation of her experience.

[✗] Onica Valle Cole

Onica Valle Cole (FB) did her undergraduate studies at Yale University in New Haven, CT graduating in 1993, she graduated with a degree in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry. She continued on to Loyola Law School, graduating and passing the Bar in 1998. She has more than 15 years as a Los Angeles Criminal Prosecutor. She volunteers as a Temporary Judge for the Los Angeles Superior Court and is regularly called upon to fulfill the duties of a judge. However, she is rated as not qualified by the LA County Bar Association, and a dispute over her ballot designation (now “Attorney/Mother“) notes that she was fired from the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office on Jan. 3. She has a fair number of endorsements.

[✓] Dennis P. Vincent

Dennis P. Vincent does not appear to have a campaign webpage or a campaign Facebook (although he does have a personal FB); one has to go from his Voters Edge profile. That notes his education as University of LaVerne, College of Law — Juris Doctor (J.D.), Graduated 3rd in my law school class. (1994); Southern Illionois University — Bachelor of Science, Electronics Management (Graduated Cum Laude)(1990). They also note he is a deputy DA, although they don’t say when he started. His priorities state that he has “over 23 years in felony and misdemeanor courtrooms”. Voters Edge lists 5 endorsements. He’s endorsed by the Metropolitan News, but they bury their lede on his qualifications (“Vincent, by contrast, is a veteran practitioner. With 23 years of courtroom experience-first as a criminal defense attorney, now as a prosecutor-he knows how a Superior Court courtroom should be run, and has dealt with legal issues more varied and complex than those Armendariz encounters as a hearing officer in administrative proceedings.”). Instead, they speak more of the potential misrepresentations by Armendariz, and the gross problems with Cole. Rated qualified by the LA County Bar Association.

Conclusion

The battle here is one betweeen Armendariz and Vincent. Armendariz comes across as more polished, and is rated slightly better, but MetNews is right about her misleading statements. She never makes clear what the State Bar Judge means, and how that differs from the Superior Court, nor does she make clear she doesn’t have a lot of Superior Court experience. That information is there, but it is by omission. Vincent is less polished and it is harder to find information about him. He really should have created a campaign website with minimal information on education and experience and endorsements. Even a domain name that referred to a Linked In resume would be good. But based on what I can find, he has more relevant courtroom experience, and so I’m going to go with what MetNews says and Dennis Vincent.

Judge of the Superior Court – Office № 71

Candidates

[✓] David A. Berger

David A. Berger (FB). Berger holds law degrees from the University of London and Loyola Law School Los Angeles. During his second year at Loyola, Berger started an externship at the LA County District Attorney’s Office as a Certified Law Clerk. Berger was the first Certified Law Clerk to conduct a multi-count felony jury trial, securing six guilty verdicts for residential burglary. After graduating from Loyola, Berger was hired as a Salaried Law Clerk, assigned to the Major Crimes Division where he worked until being hired as a Deputy District Attorney. Voters Edge enumerates his experience as follows: Deputy District Attorney, LA County District Attorney’s Office (2010–current); Special Assistant City Attorney, City of Los Angeles (2009–2010); Deputy District Attorney, LA County District Attorney’s Office (1998–2009); Salaried Law Clerk, LA County District Attorney’s Office (1997–1998); Senior Law Clerk, LA County District Attorney’s Office (1996–1997). I am a little concerned about his choice of language at times; on his website he states “Recently Berger prosecuted a case where a 75 year old ‘Mom and Pop’ store owner was savagely beaten by two thugs during a robbery….”. I find “thugs” a bit pejorative, “assailants” might be a better term, but that’s probably a minor quibble. Rated not qualified by the LA County Bar Association.  Endorsed by the LA Times, although they find his opponent equally strong. He is also endorsed by MetNews, who feel that his qualifications are stronger than his opponents, saying “he has the potential of becoming one of the court’s stellar members. He is even-tempered, highly articulate, and dignified. He grasps arguments quickly and knows the law, enabling him to decide matters without pondering.” He has a large number of endorsements. He’s rated “well suited” by MetNews, but “not qualified” by the LA Bar, but the reason for the discrepancy is not made clear. There’s a clue, however, in this article: “Committee members were reportedly upset at things Berger has written in his sideline as a political blogger.” That triggered a memory of the 2018 race, where I ended up deeply investigating the blogging claim, and decided to go with Berger. That investigation is worth reading (look at the bottom of the post). It leads to the conclusion that the Not Qualified rating has nothing to do with his qualifications.

[✓] Danielle R. A. Gibbons

Danielle R. A. Gibbons (FB). Voters Edges provides a succinct summary of her experience and education: University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law — Juris Doctor (J.D.) with a concentration in oral advocacy (2001). California State University, Fullerton — Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), History (1997).  Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner, County of Los Angeles (2017–current). Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner, County of Los Angeles — Appointed position (2017–current). Partner and Trial Attorney, Gibbons, Gibbons & Gibbons (2004–2017). Attorney and Sole Practictioner, Law Offices of Danielle R. A. Gibbons (2001–2004). Rated well qualified by the LA County Bar Association, and Qualified by MetNews.  Although not endorsed by the Times or MetNews, the Times says “Our preference would be to elect both him and his rival, Superior Court Commissoner Danielle R.A. Gibbons, to the bench. But they are running against each other, we can pick only one”. MetNews says “Her bench experience is a significant factor. Yet, the credentials of Deputy District Attorney David Berger overshadow hers.” She has a large number of judicial endorsements and a smattering of others.

Conclusion

This is a race with two strong competitors going for the same open seat. I was initially troubled by the LA County Bar rating on Berger, but reminding myself of my past investigation allows me to write that off. If you omit that, much as Gibbons would be good for diversity on the bench, Berger clearly has the Superior Court experience that she does not, which is what led to both the LA Times and MetNews recommendation. Berger needs to be a bit more circumspect in how he writes on the Internet, because what you write can come back to bite you, but that is a far too common problem. I think I’ll stick with my 2018 position, primarily based on his experience:  David A. Berger (FB).

Judge of the Superior Court – Office № 113

Candidates

[✓] Javier Perez

Javier Perez (FB) is not the President of MasterCard Europe. This Perez has been working in the DA’s office for 27 years. His about page doesn’t provide much in the way of details or education. Voters Edge notes that he has a BA from UCLA in History, and a JD from Whittier College of Law in 1990. He went straight into the DA’s office, and has been there since 1990. Rated well qualified by the LA County Bar Association, and Well Suited by MetNews.  He has prosecuted a wide variety of cases throughout his career encompassing everything from domestic violence, gangs, major narcotics, identity theft, DUI’s, child abuse, sexual assault  and murder. He has a small number of endorsements, mostly political, democratic clubs, and 12 judges.

[✓] Michael P. Ribons

Michael P. Ribons (FB) is a civil litigator with over two decades experience in state and federal courts. Education-wise, he has a BS Finance, BS Real Estate (1987) – CSU Northridge, and a JD (1995) – Whittier Law School, LA where he made Dean’s List.  He has been a judge pro tem in both the LA County Superior Court and Ventura County Superior Court, presiding over 7,500 court cases, with hundreds of trials. Rated Qualified by the LA County Bar Association, and Unfit by MetNews.  The latter may stem from a dispute over his ballot designation: he uses the term “Arbitrator”, when there isn’t strong evidence he’s worked in that role. They note his practice breaks down as “Real estate: 30%….Construction and development: 25%….Business: 25%….Debt collection: 10%….Car accident: 10%.” This is why MetNews does not endorse him; they write “whose campaign representations as to his experience appear highly questionable. When he ran two years ago, we did not endorse him, but failed to spot what we now discern: an utter lack of suitability for a judgeship.” To the LA Times, however, that isn’t a big issue; in their endorsement, they write: “Ribons is the best choice. In addition to practicing law, he has served as a judge pro tem — a volunteer judge — and as an arbitrator and mediator. He has a good reputation among attorneys who have appeared before or against him.” He does not list any endorsements on his webpage.

[✓] Steven Schreiner

Steven Schreiner (FB) appears not to have a current website; Google finds a campaign website from 2018 that no longer resolves. Voters Edge to the rescue again. He has three degrees: (1) Canada College — Associate of ArtsJournalism (1978); (2) University of California Santa Barbara — Bachelor of ArtsPolitical Science (1981); and University of Santa Clara School of Law — Juris DoctorLaw (1984). After being a law clerk and a legal aide, he has been a Deputy District Attorney, Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office since 1987. In his 2018 campaign, it was noted that he has 29 years of service as a prosecutor, handling 219 felony prosecutions before juries, including 81 murder trials. In their endorsement this year, MetNews wrote “At age 61, and with an amazing 224 felony jury trials, including 83 murder trials, behind him, he has the know-how, as well as maturity, to serve admirably as a judge.” Rated well qualified by the LA County Bar Association, and Well Suited by MetNews.  As his domain doesn’t resolve, additional endorsements are unknown. Although the Times didn’t endorse him this year, they did in 2018, writing: “Of the four candidates, Steven Schreiner — also a deputy district attorney — has the most experience. He also is the one with the calm demeanor that a judge must have, and that is somewhat ironic, given that the knock on him when he ran two years ago was that he supposedly lost his temper when making his argument to a jury that couldn’t reach a verdict. Given his record in his many other trials, it seems more likely that he didn’t lose his temper at all, but was just going for effect. It wasn’t a great tactic, but it was a departure for a candidate who would likely make a model judge.”

Conclusion

There are no clear knockouts in the initial triage. Ribons has the Times endorsement, Schreiner the MetNews endorsement. Both Perez and Schreiner are rated well by the LACBA and MetNews, whereas Ribons has a load of actual judge experience. I think I’m going to give the edge to Steven Schreiner (FB) based on experience — he has about 10 years of courtroom experience over Ribons, and about 6 over Perez. He needs to learn how to present himself better on the web.

Judge of the Superior Court – Office № 118

Candidates

[✓] Troy Davis

Troy Davis (FB) is not the Troy Davis executed for killing a police officer. This Troy Davis is a youngster, having gotten his BS in Math and Computer Science from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 2000, and his JD from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles in 2006 (I have a friend who did a similar route and is now an attorney specializing in Energy Law). He has been a Deputy District Attorney, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office since 2008, and has tried 57 jury trials including Child Molestation, Murder, Rape, Domestic Violence, and Kidnapping. Rated Qualified by the LA County Bar Association, and Qualified by MetNews.  He has a fair list of endorsements, including law enforcement and a number of judges. He doesn’t have the Times’ endorsement, although they do note “Troy Davis, an impressive prosecutor. Each has the backing of numerous judges of the Superior Court, and each has a reputation as good courtroom lawyer.” He does, however, have the MetNews endorsement. They note: “he possesses maturity and since being hired as a prosecutor in 2008, has handled 57 jury trials and is seen as a rising star in his office. Davis is ready for a judgeship.”

[✓] David D. Diamond

David D. Diamond (FB) is a criminal defense attorney whose claim to fame is handling the “bling ring” case. He has a B.S., International Relations/Economics/Political Science from Michigan State University (1995) and a JD from Southwestern Law School (SCALE 2 year program) in 2000. He has not worked as a prosecutor or for the DA’s office. He touts his membership in the Burbank Police Commission, but that led to some disputes. That dispute is the basis of the failure to endorse from MetNews: “He tried to get by with a ballot designation of “Police Commissioner/Attorney.” Davis brought a writ proceeding and won. Diamond is a member of the Burbank Police Commission, an advisory body that meets about eight times a year for one to two hours. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mary Strobel held that Diamond’s “service on the Commission is not a profession, vocation, or occupation and does not involve a substantial involvement of time and effort,” as required for a ballot designation, and that “his inclusion of ‘Police Commissioner’…in the ballot designation is misleading.” The LA Times did endorse him, noting “Diamond chairs the Burbank Police Commission and as an attorney has served as a family lawyer, a civil litigator and a criminal defense lawyer.” Read into the battling designations what you will. Diamond has a large number of political endorsements, judicial endorsements, law enforcement and democratic clubs. Rated Qualified by the LA County Bar Association, and Unfit by MetNews.

Conclusion

I’m going to give the edge on this one to Troy Davis (FB). Diamond’s misrepresentation of the importance of his Police Commissioner gig is less of an issue than the fact that Davis has more experience as a DA. Not to mention, of course, that I have a soft spot for anyone that moved from Math/CS into Law — it prepares them for the cybercrime world to come.

Judge of the Superior Court – Office № 126

Candidates

[✗] Shlomo Frieman

Shlomo Frieman (FB) only has a Facebook page. He has a Bachelor of Science (B.S.)/Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Chemical Engineering/Liberal Arts from Rutgers University in 1970;  a Juris Doctor (J.D.) from New York Law School in 1974, and is a Charter Life Underwriter (CLU), Financial Planning/Taxation/Insurance from The American College in 2018. He lists his profession as “LA County Superior Court Volunteer Temporary Judge”, even though that doesn’t show in his experience, which is mostly patent law: Senior Associate Patent Counsel, Unocal (1988–1999); Associate, Sheldon & Mak (1986–1988); Senior Attorney and Special Counsel, Beckman Instruments, Inc. (1976–1986). The lawyer has not practiced law in 15 years, and the only appearance he made as a lawyer in a courtroom, he says, was arguing once in the Court of Patent Appeals. MetNews notes his judicial experience is as a temporary judge for under a year. Rated Not Qualified by the LA County Bar Association, and Lacking Necessary Experience by MetNews.

[✓] Ken Fuller

Ken Fuller has an impressive educational background: United States Air Force Judge Advocate General School, Maxwell Air Force Base, AL — Military Law, Admission into Federal Military Courts, American Trial Lawyers Association Excellence in Advocacy Award, Military Law, Fiscal Law, Operations Law, Civil Law, Contracts, Military Justice, Legal Assistance, Wills and Trusts (2013); United States Air Force Officer Training School, Maxwell Air Force Base, AL — Air Force Training Ribbon, National Defense Medal, Officer Commission by Order of the President of the United States, Basic Training of Commissioned Officers (2012); University of Southern California Gould School of Law — Juris Doctor, Law (2005); University of Southern California — Bachelor of Arts, Magna Cum Laude, Political Science (2002); University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts — Bachelor of Arts, Magna Cum Laude, Cinema-Television Production (2002). He also has impressive experience: Deputy District Attorney, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office (2006–current); Captain/ Assistant Staff Judge Advocate, United States Air Force Reserve (2012–current); Senior Law Clerk, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office (2005–2006)
Law Clerk, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office (2005–2005); Extern, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office (2004–2005). There was a dispute about his listing Air Force Captain on his ballot designation, which naturally upset MetNews. Luckily, he corrected the designation. I think the JAG work is valuable experience. Rated Qualified by the LA County Bar Association, and Qualified by MetNews. He has a goodly number of endorsements, including an endorsement by MetNews, who wrote that the endorsement was “based on his somewhat more diversified background, including his annual two-month service in the Air Force Reserves handling cases—many of an assorted civil nature—within the JAG Corps. Too, he has a reputation within the District Attorney’s Office for volunteering to undertake extra work, doing his work on a timely basis, and being well-prepared.”

[✓] Rene Caldwell Gilbertson

Rene Caldwell Gilbertson (FB) attended Wake Forest University for both her Bachelor of Arts (1989) and Juris Doctor (1992) degrees.  She began her legal career as a Staff Attorney at The Alliance for Children’s Rights and, by 1995, became the Interim Executive Director. In 1996, Ms. Gilbertson began representing children in the juvenile dependency arena at Children’s Law Center Los Angeles (formerly Dependency Court Legal Services). Since 1999, Ms. Gilbertson has worked in the Office of the County Counsel where she litigates child abuse and neglect cases on behalf of the County. Rated Qualified by the LA County Bar Association, and Qualified by MetNews. She is endorsed by the LA Times, who wrote: “Gilbertson has served stints providing legal advice to the sheriff and to the Board of Supervisors’ executive office. But she has spent most of her career in dependency court, representing abused or neglected children. The court is badly in need of judges in dependency cases, and Gilbertson would prove an asset.”  She also has a fair list of endorsements.

Conclusion

Both Gilbertson and Fuller are good candidates, and each brings different strengths. Gilbertson has more experience overall and brings juvenile dependency expertise; Fuller has a much stronger law backgroud and a wider variety of cases. I’m going to lean towards Ken Fuller, although Rene Caldwell Gilbertson (FB) wouldn’t be a bad choice, and provides added diversity to the bench.

Judge of the Superior Court – Office № 146

Candidates

[✓] Armando Durón

Armando Durón (FB) has a B.A., Political Science from Loyola Marymount in 1976, and a JD from UCLA in 1979.  He was elected as a Commissioner of the Court by the judges of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County in 2015. Prior to his judicial career, Commissioner Durón was in private practice representing clients almost exclusively in family law cases for over 30 years. He began his legal career working for Legal Aid in East Los Angeles, where he represented low-income clients in landlord-tenant, consumer, education and immigration cases. He served on the Temporary Judge Program for 5 years prior to becoming a commissioner. Commissioner Durón is a past president of the Mexican American Bar Association. Rated Qualified by the LA County Bar Association, and Qualified by MetNews. He’s endorsed by MetNews, who writes: that Duron “is not a “warm and fuzzy’’ person. He’s a bit brittle. Yes, he has judicial experience; his bench performance, however, is not top-notch. Durón is, however, far preferable to Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Emily Theresa Spear who, at 36, acts like a teenager and tells little white lies.” He has a goodly number of endorsements.

[✓] Emily Theresa Spear

Emily Theresa Spear (FB) is another young candidate. Bachelor of Science, Psychology (2002) from University of Illinois; Certificate, Comparative Intellectual Property Law (2003) from Oxford, and a JC (2005 from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She’s been a Deputy District Attorney, County of Los Angeles (2007–current) and a Sex Crimes and Child Molestation Prosecutor, Los Angeles County (2007–current); before that, she was an Attorney, Taylor Blessey, LLP (2005–2007). Rated Qualified by the LA County Bar Association, and Not Presently Qualified by MetNews. She has a small number of endorsements. Those include the LA Times, who writes: “Spear is the better choice, according to attorneys who have worked against her and alongside her, and those who have appeared before Duron.” MetNews complained about “white lies”, but I don’t see anything truly significant in their writeup, other than a bit of condescension at her youth.

Conclusion

Both are qualified, and each brings different experience. Yet I’d be troubled having a brittle judge with less than top-notch experience. Court needs to be friendly to litigants who may be scared. In this case, I’m going to go for the youth and diversity — that is, Emily Theresa Spear (FB) — and let the bench bring some seasoning. We’ll have the opportunity to reevaluate when she comes up for re-election.

Los Angeles County Assessor

The Los Angeles County Assessor is the assessor and officer of the government of Los Angeles County responsible for discovering all taxable property in Los Angeles County, except for state-assessed property, to inventory and list all the taxable property, to value the property, and to enroll the property on the local assessment roll. Going in, I haven’t had any major complaints with the current assessor, Jeffrey Prang (FB), so any opponent needs to convince me what is currently wrong with the assessors office, and what they would fix.

Candidates

[✗] Krish Indra Kumar

Krish Indra Kumar (FB) has a Bachelors of Arts in Economics from the University of California, Riverside. After graduation, he went into public service by becoming a State Certified Commercial Appraiser, working for the Santa Barbara County Assessor’s office. He then went to the Los Angeles County Assessor’s Office. After earning an  Advanced Appraisal Certificate, he joined the International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO), and has worked as both a residential and commercial appraiser. He is currently a member of the Business Solution Division of the Assessor’s Office. His voter information page is truly bizarre: I don’t know if he is talking about himself, or legal voters.

That said, he indicates his number one priority is advancing the efficiency and effectiveness of the Assessor’s Office by reducing financial waste from improper valuations and re-thinking poorly functioning services.” He claims that “millions of dollars are being lost each year due to improper assessments and executive referrals along with an understaffed and poorly equipped Assessor’s Office.” He doesn’t provide more details about how he would improve processes or improve the valuation process, and what he believes is the source of the understaffing in the office. If he is going to attempt to unseat an incumbent with no current scandal, he needs to build a convincing argument, and he fails to do that.

[✗] John “Lower Taxes” Loew

John “Lower Taxes” Loew has been running for County Assessor since 2000. He has gone so far as to change his middle name to “Lower Taxes”; this must be a pain on systems that don’t like spaces in middle names. He doesn’t appear to have a webpage, or a Facebook, and at best has gotten 23% of the vote. I can’t take his candidacy seriously.

[✓][✗] Jeffrey Prang

Jeffrey Prang (FB) has a campaign website, although he needs to get a certificate and enable HTTPS so Google likes it. Prang is a graduate of James Madison College at Michigan State University with a B.A. in International Relations. In 2004, Mr. Prang completed the Program for Senior Executives in Local and State Government at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Professionally, Jeffrey Prang is a State Board of Equalization licensed appraiser, an Executive Committee member of the California Assessors’ Association (CAA), and an active member of the International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO) and the Society of Auditor-Appraisers (SAA). Before his election as Assessor, Jeff Prang served as a member of the Executive Staff in the Los Angeles County Office of the Assessor. Prang previously served as Assistant City Manager for the City of Pico Rivera; Senior Advisor to the Los Angeles County Sheriff; Deputy to State Board of Equalization Chair, and current State Treasurer, John Chiang; Director of Public Information, City of Los Angeles Department of Animal Services; Press Deputy to Los Angeles City Council President Ruth Galanter; and Special Assistant to Los Angeles County Assessor Kenneth P. Hahn. In 1993, Prang completed the Los Angeles County Assessor’s Real Estate Appraisal Training program. Prang began his career as a Realtor with Re/Max Realty in Warren, Michigan. Prang served nearly 18 years as a councilmember for the City of West Hollywood, including four terms as mayor. He was elected Assessor in 2014.

His website indicates that his initiative has been the modernization of our outdated technology to ensure maximum efficiency, fairness, and accuracy in assessments. Obsolete technology from 40 years ago, including a mainframe computer and paper-based, inflexible, and inefficient technology platformsand processes. In 2018, all property files were digitized, and a new mobile application has also been developed to serve as a “mobile briefcase,” allowing appraisers in the field to access all property data, retrieve digital records, sketch property diagrams, take photographs, and perform all functions. These seemingly simple tasks previously required in-office access to numerous programs, archived documents, and maps and later had to be electronically linked to the system. The complete technology transformation project is expected to be completed by early 2019 and will represent a new era in government assessment technology. (Alas, he says nothing about the cybersecurity of the effort). He also worked with the Board of Supervisors to raise the minimum threshold for reporting business property – from $2000 to $5000. He has a one-stop public service counter, and has opened access, through the County’s Open Data website, to unprecedented amount of property data going back 11 years, providing it in an easy-to-use format for free download. There are many more details on what he did, but color me impressed. It demonstrates even more that his challengers do not have a viable argument against him.

[✗] Sandy Sun

Sandy Sun has a one-page campaign website that is scant on details and plans. It notes she is an 18 year veteran of the Assessor’s Office, and is fully trained in both Real Property (RP) Appraisal and Personal Property (PP) Appraisal.  Voters Edge gives more information. She graduated from CalPoly Pomona in 2000 with a BA in Management and Human Resources (2000). She then went to work in the Assessor’s Office as a Deputy Assessor, and has been there since.  She previously ran for this office in 2014.

In terms of priorities, Voters Edge gives some information. Two of them are legislative and mostly something she can’t achieve: supporting legislation to raise the homeowners’ exemption from $7,000 to $30,000 of assessed value, and supporting legislation to allow property tax exemption to disabled veterans and Active Duty Servicemembers, up to $500,000 in assessed value. I don’t know if said legislation is at the county or state level, but she can’t start the legislation, nor does she have the economic chops to build the business case for it. Her last priority is generic: Provide the highest level of public service and treat everyone with RESPECT, FAIRNESS, TRANSPARENCY and GOODWILL. Her last argument, which is on her webpage, is diversity based: “In 168 years, there has never been a female Assessor.”

Although I’d support a female assessor, she needs to build a better argument (or wait until the office opens up): What isn’t working in the Prang administration, and what would she fix. She doesn’t indicate the current office is failing in any way, and she can lobby for legislation as any other citizen would (or could even convince Prang).

Conclusion

None of the other candidates built a sufficient case against the current Assessor, Jeffrey Prang (FB), and he’s amassed a pretty impressive record over four years. I don’t even need to read the Times endorsement.

Los Angeles County Sheriff

Per Wikipedia, The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, officially the County of Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, is the nation’s largest Sheriff’s Department. The Department’s three main responsibilities entail providing patrol services for 153 unincorporated communities of Los Angeles County, California and 42 cities,[2] providing courthouse security for the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, and the housing and transportation of inmates within the county jail system. In addition, the Department contracts with the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Metrolink, provides law enforcement services to ten community colleges, patrols over 177 county parks, golf courses, special event venues, two major lakes, 16 hospitals, and over 300 county facilities; and provides services, such as crime laboratories, homicide investigations, and academy training, to smaller law enforcement agencies within the county. The Sheriff is the manager of the department.

The department has improved from the days of Lee Baca, but there are still lots of problems. Stories of sexual assault and harassment in jails. Some mistreatment of those detained. Some of this comes with the nature and implied privilege of urban policing, but that does make its continued acceptance acceptable. In looking at the incumbent’s accomplishments and goals, I’m looking to see if he recognizes the problems that remain in the department, and what are his plans to fix them. In his opponents, I’m looking at their experience, and to see if they have a better idea.

Candidates

[✗] Robert (“Bob”) Lindsey

Robert (“Bob”) Lindsey (FB) is a retired member of the LA Sheriff’s Department. He started with LASD in 1978. I worked over the next 32 years serving in 24 different assignments, including four Custody Facilities (HOJJ, Biscailuz Center, Men’s Central Jail, Century Regional Detention), four Patrol Stations (Temple City, Firestone, Pico Rivera, Carson), and every Los Angeles County Superior Court as a manager and executive. Other assignments, have included under cover surveillance, Captain of Personnel/Human Resources, Advanced Officer Training, Recruit Training, and Backgrounds and Recruitment. I worked Central Operations for Internal Criminal Investigations, and Internal Affairs, Gang Enforcement Bureau, Field Operations Headquarters for West Division, Field Training Officer Command Central Operations, and Bureau of Compliance which oversaw litigation, promotional testing and Federal mandates. He believes the current vision and direction put into place by Sheriff McDonnell does not solve nor address the many complex problems of an organization reeling from recent struggles, nor does it positively effect the plights of the county’s local community. He sees a disregard for the citizens of Los Angeles County and the men and women of the Los Angeles county Sheriff’s Department who risk their lives on a daily basis, and also believes that the morale of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department at it’s lowest historic point.

His vision is: “I want my Deputies to treat me fairly, be responsive to my problems and above all I want to be treated with respect and without prejudice. I want my public servants to project the utmost professional image to those we serve from all walks of life and to assume a role as a member of all communities rather than just a visitor for an eight-hour shift. I want my police to stop criminals, lower the crime rate and instill a sense of security. ” In that statement, he details the problems he sees with the current Sheriff, but does not provide specifics as to how he will address them. He has an interesting list of endorsements: AFSCME unions, celebrities, and some personal endorsements. No major papers are endorsing him. I don’t see much police union or law enforcement support. One would expect that from a Sheriff’s candidate, so there’s something between the lines. However, although he didn’t get a full endorsement, he does seem to have the support of the LASD Deputies. He is endorsed by Calguns, and is strongly in favor of gun rights.

[✓] Jim McDonnell

Jim McDonnell is the current LA County Sheriff. He began his law enforcement career in 1981 after graduating from the Los Angeles Police Academy.  He served for 29 years at the Los Angeles Police Department. Following his career at the LAPD, Sheriff McDonnell served as the Chief of the Long Beach Police Department for five years.

His accomplishments page details a number of notable improvements he has made, but is more generic on his plans — it is pretty much “to allow me to continue my path forward”. I couldn’t find a more coherent statement of specific objectives. He is endorsed by the LA Times, who provide a detailed list of the LASD’s problems that is worth reading, but conclude “McDonnell’s administration has had its ups and downs, so if either of his opponents were to lay out a comprehensive program for running a modern Sheriff’s Department that reflected the best thinking on criminal justice reform, public safety and jail management, he would merit serious consideration. But both Villanueva and Lindsey focus too much on internal issues and resentments of the rank-and-file and insufficiently on how the department could better serve the county’s 10 million people. Of the three, McDonnell remains the best choice, although in many respects he has thus far fallen short of his early promise.”  Not too ringing. His other endorsement list is surprisingly short. He has the LA County and California Police Chiefs supporting him, but not many other law enforcement organizations. His deputies, however, have no confidence in him.

[✓] Alex Villanueva

Alex Villanueva (FB) has an impressive bio, well worth reading (but hard to summarize). He has impressive education credits:
Associate of Arts, Liberal Arts (1984), San Bernardino Valley College; Bachelor of Science, Liberal Studies (1992), Regents College, University of the State of New York; Master of Public Administration (MPA), Public Administration(1997), CSUN; Doctor of Public Administration (DPA), Public Administration. Dissertation: Leadership Diversity in Law Enforcement (2005), University of La Verne. He has been in the Sheriff’s department since 1986, achieving the rank of Lieutenant. He’s also a Planning Commissioner or La Habra Heights, has been an Adjunct Professor in the  Criminal Justice Department as California State University, Long Beach for 4 years, and served in the California Army National Guard and US Air Force.

The front page of his website specifically enumerates the problems with the current LASD leadership. His issues page details what he plans to do. He has a lot of Democratic club endorsements, but a notable lack of law enforcement rank and file groups.

Conclusion

I went into this thinking I would be supporting the incumbent, Jim McDonnell. But the lack of confidence in him from his staff, and the litany of problems with his leadership makes me unsure about him.  Robert (“Bob”) Lindsey (FB) seems far too focused on internal issues, plus I don’t like his pro-gun stance. Alex Villanueva (FB)’s education and experience impresses me, as do his plans on how to reform the department more. I’m going with Alex Villanueva (FB).

Los Angeles Supervisor – 3rd District

Candidates

[✗] Daniel G. Glaser

Daniel G. Glaser (FB), to quote his webpage, “is running for the Board of Supervisors for District 3 of Los Angeles County, California, USA, Planet Earth, and the Milky Way Galaxy.” Uhh, right. He continues: “Mr. Glaser wants to spread the social justice that is lacking in America and to take it back from the greedy corporations and individuals who have been running it for the past decade. He wants to make it the land of opportunity it once was with a government that’s truly run by and for the people.”

His page details no professional experience, and provides no real specifics on how he would improve the 3rd district, save more addressing of mental illness. With all the problems the district has, that’s all he can come up with? Next.

[✓] Sheila Kuehl

Sheila Kuehl (FB) is sufficiently confident that she doesn’t appear to have a campaign page, only her Supervisor’s office page — and seeing her opponents, I can’t blame her. She has a strong bio, and is currently Chair of the Board of Supervisors. I like what she has done, and I like her politics. She is endorsed by the LA TImes, which details a lot of what she has done.

[✗] Eric Preven

Eric Preven (FB) is a journalist who comments on government, and is also an elected member of the Studio City Neighborhood Council. Before going into journalism, he spent thirty years as a television writer and producer—and member of the Writers’ Guild of America. He has previously run for mayor of Los Angeles. Other than a brief forey into homelessness issues, he does not detail other problems wrong in this district, or more importantly, his specific plans to do better than Sheila Kuehl. I can’t view him as a serious contender.

Conclusion

I like what Sheila Kuehl (FB) has done as supervisor, and neither of her challengers seem credible. I’m sticking with Sheila Kuehl (FB).

Share

2 Replies to “June 2018 California Primary Analysis (V): Judicial and County”

  1. I just want to thank you for taking the time to review and report (and provide links, etc.) on the candidates and issues in this election. I’ve never seen such a screwy election and such poor coverage in the media. Your analysis is insightful, brief but thorough, and transparent. The links and references were so helpful. Thank you so much.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.