🗳️ Nov. 2018 California General Election Analysis (II): Here Come ‘De Judges

My sample ballot has been received, indicating that (a) it is indeed Fall; (b) my TV will soon be inundated with political advertising; and (c) it is time for the General Election Ballot analysis. This election, it is being divided into three parts and a summary:

  1. Non-Judicial Offices: State, Federal, and Local
  2. Judicial Offices
  3. Propositions and Measures
  4. Summary

This is Part II: the judicial choices. It covers the following races. Note that, for the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, you only either confirm or reject the person appointed to the position:

For reference, here is the post that covered the Superior Court Justices in the Primary. The third post of the series, Measure for Measure, will explore the state and local measures on the ballot.

State Supreme Court

Court of Appeals

  • [✓] (2nd Dist, Div. 1) Victoria G. Chaney (Assoc). Her court bio notes that she was confirmed on July 1, 2009, after having served nineteen years as a trial judge. In addition to her duties in the Second District, Justice Chaney sat twice by appointment on the California Supreme Court, and serves as a special master for the Commission on Judicial Performance. She was an RN before going into law, and still maintains that license. She wrote the opinion that “Cereal companies are not required to label their boxes with a Proposition 65 warning, even though many cereals contain acrylamide, because the warnings would be an obstacle to the federal government’s attempts to encourage people to eat whole grains.” She was nominated to the court by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, her nomination was uncontroversial, and she was rated “Well Qualified.” I could find no posts arguing that she is doing a bad job.
  • [✓] (2nd Dist, Div. 1) Helen Bendix (Assoc). Her court bio notes that she was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to the Court of Appeal, Second District, Division One, on April 17, 2018 after having served on the trial court for almost 21 years.  She has interesting experience and awards, and I like the note “She is an avid musician, playing in the Palisades Symphony Orchestra, and the Los Angeles Lawyers Philharmonic Orchestra.” At the time of nomination, she was rated “Exceptionally Well Qualified.” Her daughter (also a lawyer) is proud of her “Superwoman mom”. I could find no posts arguing that she is doing a bad job.
  • [✓] (2nd Dist, Div. 2) Elwood Lui (Presiding). His court bio notes he was nominated to the court (Division 1) in 2015, and moved to the presiding position of Division 2 in 2017. He has an impressive background, was a CPA, and is a UCLA alumni (receiving a professional achievement award in 1992). He was a judge, retired in 1987 for private practice, and then came back to the court when appointed. He is also a Special Master of the Supreme Court’s lawyer disciplining system. He is part of the liberal bloc on the court. At the time of his nomination, he was rated “Exceptionally Well Qualified.” My searching did uncover an interesting connection to a Superior Court candidate from the primary, David Berger, whose blog had an interesting report on a claim of judicial hacking. There was also a report on Met News. However, I could not find any evidence that this particular issue gained any traction outside of Met News and Berger; it does not appear to have been a significant concern. I found no other posts arguing that he is not doing his job.
  • [✓] (2nd Dist, Div. 2) Victoria M. Chavez (Assoc). Her court bio is short, but notes she was appointed in 2005, and was in the Los Angeles Municipal and Superior court systems before that, joining them in 1988.  She was nominated by Arnold Schwartznegger, and she was rated “Qualified” at the time by the JNE Commission. Other than that, there are very few articles about her floating out in the ether — either career highlights or problem reports.
  • [✓] (2nd Dist, Div. 3) Luis A. Lavin (Assoc). His court bio notes that he was appointed as an Associate Justice by Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr., and was unanimously confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments in July 2015. Before that, Justice Lavin served for more than thirteen years as a trial judge on the Los Angeles Superior Court. Justice Lavin is the third openly LGBT appellate jurist in California, and the first to be appointed to the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles. His nomination came on the same day that the Supreme Court ruling in Obergfell v. Hodges made sex-same marriage the law of the land.  At the time of his nomination, he was rated “Well Qualified” by the JNE Commission. He has an interesting background:  the Cuban-born son of a political prisoner whose mother took refuge in the Spanish embassy in Havana after the Communist takeover. I could find no articles arguing against him.
  • [✓] (2nd Dist, Div. 3) Anne H. Egerton (Assoc). [Whoops — missed this the first time around] Her court bio notes that she was appointed in 2017 by Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. The Commission on Judicial Appointments unanimously confirmed her on December 14, 2017, after the Judicial Nominees Evaluation Commission rated her “exceptionally well qualified.” Before that, she was a trial judge on the Superior Court for 16 years. She did have an interesting opinion on a murder case about premeditation. I found no significant complaints, only a hint of bias in the Olivia de Havilland case, primarily because “one of the appellate judges once was a partner in the firm that represented FX Networks in the case.” That “once” was before 2001.
  • [✓] (2nd Dist, Div. 3) Halim Dhanidina (Assoc). His court bio notes that he was nominated and appointed to the position in 2018 by Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. He is the first Muslim appointed as a judge in California. He is open about his faith (and is married to a Roman Catholic).  He has received a number of awards. His JNE rating does not appear to have been posted. He is a past LA Superior Court judge and was a deputy district attorney. I could find no articles arguing against him.
  • [✓] (2nd Dist, Div. 4) Nora M. Manella (Presiding). Her court bio notes she was appointed to the Court of Appeals by Gov. Schwartznegger in 2006, after having been on the U.S. Court of Appeals (9th Circuit), a US District Judge (appointed by Pres. Clinton), a US Attorney, on the LA Municipal Court, and a Federal Prosecutor. When she was up for confirmation in 2014 (I’m guessing as an Assoc. Justice), I noted: “Subject of a couple of articles in the 1990s. One guy has a site calling her a scam judge, but it seems a personal vendetta.  And, proving you’ll find anything on Google, rated #4 out of 5 on “bodacious babes of the bench”. More importantly, rated Qualified by the LA County Bar Association. Unanimously confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments, after receiving an “exceptionally well qualified” rating from the Judicial Nominees Evaluation Commission.” Other than that one rant, I could find no articles arguing against her.
  • [✓] (2nd Dist, Div. 4) Thomas Willhite (Assoc). His court bio notes he was appointed in 2005 by Gov. Schwartznegger, having been on the LA Superior Court before that. He’s also mentioned on the site of the guy with the personal vendetta. He was rated extremely well qualified when nominated.  He was involved in an interesting acquittal in a case where a man raped a woman, but got off because he wasn’t impersonating her husband (the arcane law from 1872 specifically said “spouse”). In his decision, he said that the law forced him into it, and that the law should be re-written. Writing that the court “must reverse” the conviction, Judge Willhite wrote: “In doing so, we urge the Legislature to re-examine … and correct the incongruity that exists when a man may commit rape by having intercourse with a woman when impersonating a husband, but not when impersonating a boyfriend”. I found no articles arguing against him.
  • [✓] (2nd Dist, Div. 5) Dorothy C. Kim (Assoc). Kim was appointed to the court in 2018 by Gov. Brown — so new she doesn’t have a bio up yet on the court page. She has been a judge at Los Angeles County Superior Court since 2014. She served in several positions at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Central District of California Criminal Division from 2001 to 2014, including deputy chief and assistant U.S. attorney. Kim earned her J.D. from Columbia Law School and her bachelor’s degree Cornell University. She is the first Korean American justice in the history of the California Courts of Appeal. One of the Sovereign Rights folks has a petition mentioning her, but it seems to be from conspiracy theory land. I could not find her rating only, but other than the petition, I found no one arguing against her.
  • [✓] (2nd Dist, Div. 5) Carl H. Moor (Assoc). His court bio notes he was also appointed to the Appeals Court in 2018. He was confirmed after receiving an “exceptionally well qualified” rating from the JNE Commission. Previously, he was a judge on the LA Superior Court. He was the judge that finalized the divorce of Johnny Depp and Amanda Heard (whoever they are). I could not find anyone arguing against him.
  • [✓] (2nd Dist, Div. 5) Lamar W. Baker (Assoc). His court bio notes that he was appointed to the court in 2015.  Before his appointment to the bench, Justice Baker served as Special Assistant to the President and Associate Counsel to the President at the White House from 2014 to 2015, where he served as Associate Counsel from 2013 to 2014. From 2012 to 2013, he served as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Legal Policy in Washington, D.C., where he was chief of staff from 2011 to 2012 and senior counsel from 2010 to 2011. There was a “Perspectives” article on MetNews that didn’t like him, but given the article refers to Brown as “Gov. Moonbeam”, I’m writing it off as biased. At the time of his nomination, he was rated “Qualified” and he no judicial experience. He was rated “exceptionally well qualified” by the vetting committees of the Los Angeles County and San Francisco bar associations.  I have need no evidence of issues in the three years since he has been on the bench, so the MetNews (which has gotten things wrong before) may just have some bias on this one. Note: He is not the Tennessee businessman.
  • [✓] (2nd Dist, Div. 6) Arthur Gilbert (Presiding). His court bio is more a series of bullet points. It appears he was appointed to the court way back in 1982. An article I found notes that he is one of the most well known judges in California. He is also a jazz pianist, blogger, and a prolific writer. He appears to have been appointed by Brown during his first stint as Governor. The article notes that judges who make decisions and then leave the bench without explaining their rulings infuriate Gilbert. In the court of appeals, Gilbert said his first draft of a written ruling is often just the beginning. He writes through the problem, explaining it to himself. Then he strives to clarify in his rewrites. A stickler for language, Gilbert uses his blog to attack misuses of language, recently blasting an attorney for using the word “parameter” incorrectly—but he’s not cruel and doesn’t name names.  Sound like an interesting guy. I didn’t find any articles against him.
  • [✓] (2nd Dist, Div. 6) Martin J. Tangeman (Assoc). His court bio notes that he was appointed in 2016 after receiving an “exceptionally well qualified” rating from the Judicial Nominees Evaluation Committee. Before that, he was on the SLO Superior Court since 2001. I could find no real complaints against him.
  • [✓] (2nd Dist, Div. 7) Gail R. Feuer (Assoc). Her court bio notes that she was appointed in 2018 by Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. to the Second Appellate District, Division Seven.  She previously served for 13 years on the Los Angeles Superior Court, following her appointment by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005. She has been married to Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer for over 35 years. Before the Superior Court, she was a Harvard trained environmental attorney. She was ranked “well qualified” by the State Bar Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation. I found no arguments against her.
  • [✓] (2nd Dist, Div. 7) John L. Segal (Assoc). His court bio notes that was nominated to the California Court of Appeal in 2015. Before that, he was on the LA Superior Court since 2000. He was involved in the 2012 decision that criticized the LA Zoo over its treatment of elephants, ruing for the elephants. At the time of his nomination, Segal was rated exceptionally well-qualified. I found no articles against him.
  • [✓] (2nd Dist, Div. 8) Tricia A. Bigelow (Presiding). Her court bio notes that she was confirmed as the Presiding Justice of the Second District Court of Appeal, Division Eight, in February 2010. She served as an associate justice in the same division beginning in June 2008. Prior to her elevation to the appellate court, Presiding Justice Bigelow was assigned the superior court in downtown Los Angeles, where she presided over general jurisdiction fast track civil trials and long cause criminal trials. At the time of her elevation to Presiding Justice, she was rated “well qualified”. I found no articles arguing against her.

Superior Court

Office № 4

[✓] 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. Veronica 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.

📋 Conclusion

Both nominees are 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.

Alfred A. Coletta (FB)

Office № 16

[✗] 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 Association.  Endorsed by numerous politicians, the LA Times, the Metropolitan News, judges, prosecutors, DAs, and unions.

📋 Conclusion

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.

Sydne Jane Michel (FB).

Office № 60

[✓] 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 AssociationLots 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.”

[✗] 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).

Office № 113

[✗] 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.

[✓] 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.

📋 Conclusion

As I noted during the Primary, there are no clear knockouts. Ribons had the Times endorsement.  Perez is rated well by the LACBA and MetNews, whereas Ribons has a load of actual judge experience. My choice in the primaries was knocked out. I noted then that my favorite had about 10 years of courtroom experience over Ribons, and about 6 over Perez. That means Perez has more experience.

Javier Perez (FB)



6 Replies to “🗳️ Nov. 2018 California General Election Analysis (II): Here Come ‘De Judges”

  1. Hi. Sydne Jane Michel and her family are *very* heavy NRA supporters (represented the NRA and has kids named after guns). That may be concerning for some and may be helpful info. as reasonable gun laws are consistently and opposed at every turn by the gun lobbies.

    1. The update of the LA Times endorsement addressed this issue directly:

      Our recommendations come against the backdrop of not just the recent politicized confirmation hearings for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, but also the stream of calls and emails we’ve received from readers who urged us to change our minds about one of the candidates we backed. The candidate is Redondo Beach Senior Deputy City Prosecutor Sydne Jane Michel, and the issue is not that she played one of the girls who mercilessly bullied Sissy Spacek’s character in “Carrie” 42 years ago, or even that she appeared in “Piranha.”

      It’s that she is now married to C.D. “Chuck” Michel, a lawyer whose clients include the National Rifle Assn. and who is president of the California Rifle and Pistol Assn., which described her as a strong supporter of gun rights. The argument seems to be that a vote for Sydne Michel is a vote for the NRA, and how could The Times, with its long history of editorial positions in favor of sensible gun laws that are opposed at every turn by the gun lobby, in good conscience endorse such a person?

      We do so because we reject the notion that Michel’s candidacy represents an attempt by gun interests to somehow take over the court. Voters who worry that just such a thing may be afoot should take a deep breath and then consider the following:

      Michel is the candidate, not her husband. She has not represented the NRA — but so what if she had? Just as being a criminal defense lawyer who represents rapists and murderers does not disqualify one from serving as an evenhanded, fair-minded judge, neither would representing an organization that takes positions on hot-button issues, even if we find those positions repugnant. But again, it is Michel who is the candidate, and there is no suggestion that her husband’s profession has in any way impeded her vigor in prosecuting crimes in Redondo Beach, including some involving guns. Rejecting a candidate not because of her own values and experiences but because of her husband’s — well, that strikes us as a dated and even offensive notion.

      There are personal and political positions that can indeed put a judicial candidate beyond the pale. The Times, for example, rejected judicial candidate William Daniel Johnson, an avowed white nationalist who wrote a book espousing deportation of all nonwhites, as unfit for a position that requires application of equal justice under law. Being married to a lawyer who represents a client we don’t like doesn’t fall into the same category.

      The Times supports Michel because between her and rival Patricia “Patti” Hunter, a Los Angeles deputy city attorney, she is the better candidate and would make a better judge.

      I agree with the Times’ logic. Her husband’s affiliations should not impact her being a judge; indeed, her personal opinions shouldn’t play a part. Only the law should matter, and there is no evidence that her personal opinions are influencing her judgements.

      (Cool, however, that she was in Pirahna)

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