Here in California (and in Los Angeles in particular), we have an election coming up. For months, one of the wealthiest candidates has been blanketing the airwaves, together with ads from the Native-American Casino Lobby, fighting against a ballot initiative that isn’t even on this ballot. Now that both the sample ballots and the real ballots* have been mailed, the political advertising has increased by an order of magnitude. That’s where I come in. Every election, I do a detailed ballot analysis of my sample ballot. This is where I examine each candidate and share my conclusions, and invite you to convince me to vote for the other jerk.
* California gives all registered voters the option to vote by mail and to vote early.
Because this is a long ballot, I’m splitting it into a few chunks (note: links may not be available until all segments are posted):
- National Offices** (including US Congress)
- Local Offices*** (excluding US Congress and State Assembly)
- Judicial Offices
- California Statewide Offices*** (including State Assembly)
** Bucking the convention of my sample ballot, however, I’m including our Congressional Representative in this section.
*** Bucking the convention of my sample ballot, I’m including state legislative officers with the Statewide officers. In my case, that is my Assemblycritter, as we have no State Senator running for office this election.
This part covers the Judgeships:
- Judge of the Superior Court: Office № 3 ❦ № 60 ❦ № 67 ❦ № 70 ❦ № 90 ❦ № 116 ❦ № 118 ❦ № 151 ❦ № 156
The judgeships are an interesting beast. California law requires judges to be confirmed, but only if there are multiple candidates (i.e., you don’t need to vote when there is only one candidates for a seat). So the seats we see are typically the offices where either (a) a judge is retiring, opening up a competitive slot, or (b) seats where someone thinks the judges are vulnerable. For those interested in being judges, evidently there’s a “game” in picking the right office where you have the right competition. Most voters don’t understand this, and just use an endorsement sheet to determine how to vote.
Superior Court, Office № 3
◯ Frank Amador
◯ Sherilyn Peace Garnett Inc
Garnett is the current office holder. Rated “Exceptionally Well Qualified” by the LA County Bar. She was just confirmed by the Senate to be a US District Judge for California. The LA Times endorsed her despite that, noting “Sherilyn Peace Garnett is a well-regarded judge who was challenged by two lawyers in their belief that Congress would confirm her appointment to the federal district court by election day, leaving the office vacant. They turned out to be correct — she was confirmed on April 27 — although the formalities are not yet complete. She’s by far the best of the three candidates in her race, although voters should be aware that even if she wins, she will have moved on to her federal court position. Neither of the two challengers — bankruptcy lawyer Frank Amador and business lawyer Timothy Reuben — are standouts. If Garnett receives more than 50% of the vote June 7, the office will be vacant and the governor would be able to appoint a new judge. If she receives less than 50% but comes in first or second, there would be a November runoff between Amador and Reuben.” In short: You can take your chances on a Newsom appointment, or pick between the other two now to avoid having to do it later.
⚫ Tim Reuben
Reuben is a principle at Reuben, Raucher, and Blum. He is a litigator and master trial lawyer. Rated “Well Qualified” by the LA County Bar. Admitted to the bar in 1980. Endorsed by the SCNG (Daily Breeze, PE, Daily News, etc), the Metropolitan News and Democratic Party. Given the appointment of Judge Garnett and Reuben’s rating and endorsement, the choice is clear.
I went with Tim Reuben because Judge Garnett is moving to a new position, and of the remaining two, he is the best qualified.
Superior Court, Office № 60
Reitano is a public defender and a former actress. Admitted to the bar in 2009. Rated “Qualified” by the LA County Bar. She’s also a real estate agent. She’s running as part of a progressive slate “because they believe that judges should use their power to take aim at mass incarceration, rather than reinforce it. They also are hoping to disrupt the prosecutor-to-judge pipeline that dominates courts in Los Angeles and across the nation.” No endorsements.
◯ Mark Rosenfeld
Baron is a child molestation prosecutor for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. Admitted to the bar in 2007. Rated “Well Qualified” by the LA Bar. Endorsed by the LA Times, who noted that she “stands out for the praise she has received not just from police and crime victims’ advocates but also from defense attorneys, who cite her fairness and desire for a just result rather than a conviction at all costs.”. Endorsed by the Association of Deputy District Attorneys.
Slaten is Managing Attorney of Slaten Lawyers, APC, as well as a media pundit and former actor (Michael Lacey on ‘’Cagney and Lacey’’). He also seems to be a criminal defense attorney with the Law Offices of Floyd, Skeren, & Kelly, LLP. Formerly worked in the DA’s office. Ran for a judgeship in 2020. Admitted to the bar in 2005. Rated “Qualified” by the LA County Bar. No endorsements.
Ransom works in the LA County DA’s office. Admitted to the bar in 2004. Rated “Well Qualified” by the LA Bar. Endorsed by the SCNG (Daily Breeze, PE, Daily News, etc), who said “For 17 years a deputy district attorney, she calls the root sources of crime the “breakdown in our communities, along with a failure of our society to provide the resources and opportunities necessary to ensure that every child has an equal chance.” Endorsed by the Association of Deputy District Attorneys.
This one was a hard one. The choice is between Abby Baron and Sharon Ransom. Both well qualified. Both with newspaper endorsements. Both with the DA’s office. So I went to their campaign websites, and it was the scope of the other endorsements that swung me to Ransom. Primarily, this was a diversity call. The diversity organizations supporting her swung me over: both would be women on the bench, but she would be a black woman on the bench. Little girls coming into the court would see that and think, “I can do that”. When you have two equally qualified candidates, sometimes it is things like that that make the determination. No one will go wrong by selecting Baron, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a runoff between the two talented ladies.
Superior Court, Office № 67
Homicide and Violent Crimes prosecutor in the LA County DA’s office. Admitted to the bar in 2005. Rated “Well Qualified” by the LA Bar. Endorsed by Met News, who noted the decision was close between Dibble and Barreto, saying “We base our preference, in part, on his more extensive background in trying cases, particularly in trying cases to juries, as well as his having gained actual bench experience by participating in the Superior Court’s Temporary Judge Program.” Endorsed by the Assn of Deputy DA.
Deputy Public Defender. Admitted to the bar in 2003. Rated “Qualified” by the LA County Bar. Part of the group trying to get public defenders elected to judgeships. Large number of progressive endorsements. She was dinged by the Met News, who noted “But in the area of criminal justice, she is too much of an advocate—a zealot, actually—to function on the bench in a criminal law department with objectivity.” They didn’t like her anti-police stance or her being very pro-defendant. I read what they wrote as implying she is like Lola Carmichael on All Rise. Met News didn’t think she was a bad lawyer, just not right for the bench. For me, I think she could be good for the bench, but being only “Qualified” when the competition is better rated is the problem.
Prosecutor in the DA’s office, assigned to complex litigation, and detailed to the Victim Impact Program (“VIP”). In her last three personnel evaluations, Barreto was ranked “Exceeded Expectations (Very Good).” Admitted to the bar in 2005. Rated “Well Qualified” by the LA Bar. Endorsed by the LA Times, who noted “Because voters fill only a very narrow portion of the bench, they have no hope of changing the court’s composition and would be wise to simply pick the best candidate in each race, and in this case that’s Barreto, who has earned respect for her sensitive handling of dozens of violent felony cases following a brief civil practice and several years of prosecuting domestic violence.” Also endorsed by the So Calif News Group, who said “Her opponent Ryan Dibble is backed by police unions; not a good look. She is backed by the deputy district attorneys, but is reform-minded: “A court should be cognizant of the personal and economic effect it is having on the parties involved to avoid rulings that exacerbate harm. A courtroom should be a place where everyone, including people who lack resources and lack expertise, are able to access justice.” Endorsed by the Assn of Deputy DA. Has a bunch of other interesting endorsements.
Much as I would love a strong advocate for justice on the bench, the slightly lower rating eliminates Elizabeth Lashley-Haynes for me. The choice between Ryan Dibble and Fernanda Maria Barreto is hard, but I’m going with Fernanda Maria Barreto. Why? First, SCNG makes a good point regarding the look of the police union endorsement. Secondly, the Times makes the point that we need to increase diversity on the bench where we can (all other things being equal), and the organizational endorsements for FMB show that she’s the stronger diversity candidate. Ryan Dibble would be a good backup choice.
Superior Court, Office № 70
Assistant City Prosecutor for the City of Long Beach. Admitted to the bar in 1993. Rated “Not Qualified” by the LA Bar. Met News said “It is doubtful that Fudge possesses the temperament expected of a judge” Another article on their site explored the issues, and that combined with the rating eliminates this candidate.
Former Deputy DA Worked a Kestenbaum Law but seems to have recently left, according to this article. Admitted to the bar in 2003. Has a really odd line in his Kestenbaum law practice page: “Today I use my many years of unparalleled perspective as a Deputy District Attorney to outmaneuver the current court system and bring the human element back into the scales of justice.” Should any lawyer be talking about outmaneuvering the system? Rated “Qualified” by the LA County Bar. Met News, as part of their endorsement of Chang, said of Vodnoy that “[he] probably never will be [ready for a judgeship]; he lacks judgment and a sense of accountability.” He has some other endorsements, but with other Well Qualified candidates, Qualified isn’t enough.
General practice lawyer in Downey specializing in family law, DUI, and immigration. . Admitted to the bar in 2007. He website emphasizes his service as a temporary judge, but how he represents that has been problematic. Rated “Not Qualified” by the LA Bar. Small number of endorsements, including probation officers.
Public Defender in the DA’s office. Admitted to the bar in 2005. Rated “Qualified” by the LA County Bar. Endorsed by the LA Times, who said that she “is an experienced deputy public defender who has handled a significant number of jury trials. She possesses the valuable combination of self-confidence and civility so essential in a judge who must control a courtroom with a firm but careful hand during high-stakes proceedings when emotions are running high.” Part of the group trying to get public defenders elected to judgeships. A lot of interesting and progressive endorsements.
Deputy District Attorney, working on cases related to child molestation and abuse cases, domestic violence, elder abuse, hate crimes and sexual assault. Admitted to the bar in 1994. Rated “Well Qualified” by the LA Bar. Endorsed by the So. Calif News Group and Met News. The latter wrote “Presaging an ability to perform a valuable function as a judge in quelling acrimony, the latest evaluation reports that she has “met with victims or law enforcement officers who were unhappy with a declination or the outcome of a case” and “diffused even the most difficult situations.”” She has the Assn of DDAs endorsement. Her endorsements page is a bit more problematic: there are a lot of endorsements from police officer associations. That makes me wonder about a slight bias towards law enforcement.
Normally, I would go with the Well Qualified candidate over the Qualified candidate, which would mean Renee Yolande Chang. But Renee Yolande Chang has far too many police association endorsements, making me question fairness. This might be the office where we can address a different aspect of diversity: diversity of judicial background. In other words, this might be the place to bring in a public defender, vs a deputy DA. So I’m going with Holly L. Hancock.
Superior Court, Office № 90
◯ Nasar (Nas) Khoury
McGurk works in the office of the public defender. Admitted to the bar in 2005. Rated “Well Qualified” by the LA Bar. Endorsed by the So Cal News Group, who said “we were impressed by McGurk’s objecting to attorneys still being able to strike jurors simply because they have had a bad experience with law enforcement: “Allowing a juror to be excused simply because they reside in a society where this disparity is occurring is an end-round of the spirit of the prohibition on striking jurors based on race.”” He once ran for state senate. He has a number of democratic club endorsements. However, Met News wrote “He has mildly favorable office evaluations. From all appearances, he is, at a minimum, “OK.””
Gutierrez is a Deputy DA and former criminal defense attorney. She was admitted to the bar in 2011. Rated “Qualified” by the LA County Bar. Endorsed by the Assn of Dep. DAs. Her endorsement page shows a large number of police officer association endorsements; that’s problematic as it might show a perception of bias towards the police. Combine that with a qualified in a field of well qualified, and I think I’ll go with the better qualifications.
Lyons has been a Deputy District Attorney since 2006 for Los Angeles County, assigned to the District Attorney’s Sex Crimes Division, including a two year tenure at Stuart House, where she exclusively prosecuted sexual crimes against children. She was recently promoted to Deputy in Charge of the Compton Juvenile Division. She was admitted to the bar in 2018. Rated “Well Qualified” by the LA Bar. Endorsed by the LA Times, who said that she “is noteworthy for her trial experience in the sex crimes division and for the time and effort she devotes to community programs to help law students as well as young people living in areas with high gang activity. She has the edge over Deputy Public Defender Kevin Thomas McGurk, who also is a well-regarded trial lawyer. ” She was also endorsed by Met News, who said that she “puts forth extra effort in carrying out her duties as a deputy district attorney. One of her recent annual office performance evaluations describes her as “the consummate professional” who “does not shy away from a challenge.” She excels at what she does and gives every indication of having the capacity to serve admirably as a judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court.” Endorsed by the Assn of Dep. DAs. She has a large number of endorsements.
This one was a decision between Kevin Thomas McGurk and Melissa Lyons. The endorsements are what swayed me on this one, especially the “meh” reaction from Met News towards Kevin Thomas McGurk. So I’m going with Melissa Lyons
Superior Court, Office № 116
Handler is a senior trial attorney in the Public Defenders office. He was admitted to the bar in 1989. Rated “Qualified” by the LA County Bar. A very small number of endorsements, mostly Democratic clubs.
⚫ David B. Gelfound Inc
Gelfound is a sitting judge on the Superior Court. Appointed to the bench in 2007, admitted to the bar in 1989. Rated “Exceptionally Well Qualified” by the LA County Bar. Endorsed by the LA Times, who said that a specious allegation by his challenger should be ignored. Met News had more details on that, noting that Handler denounces the incumbent for not embracing District Attorney George Gascón’s view that “retribution and incarceration” are not valid goals of the justice system, with Gelfound responding “Because being a judge is a non-political office, I will not comment on the election of any politician or the policies they have implemented.” Given that Gascon is problematic in many ways, staying silent on Gascon’s views is a good thing. He was also endorsed by the So Cal News Group, who noted that Gelfound “helped create the Teen Court program at Northridge Academy High School, where students interact with judges and lawyers and decide cases involving other high school students.” Endorsed by the Assn of Dep. DAs. Endorsed by a large number of organizations, alas, including the police protective league and the sheriff’s association.
Superior Court, Office № 118
Deputy district attorney. Admitted to the bar in 2004. Rated “Well Qualified” by the LA Bar. Endorsed by the LA Times, who said “She is the rare candidate whose career includes civil law, criminal defense and prosecution, giving her an unusual and valuable perspective on the legal system. ” Endorsed by the Assn of Dep. DAs. However, the So Cal News Group, in their endorsement of McKay, noted “Opponent Melissa Hammond is backed by police unions and gave vague, brief answers to our survey.” Her endorsement page bears that out, with a number of police association endorsements, as well as judges.
Presiding administrative law judge in the Dept. of Social Services. Previously a Deputy Attorney General in the California Department of Justice. Admitted to the bar in 1985. Rated “Well Qualified” by the LA Bar. Endorsed by the So Cal News Group, who said: “Already a presiding administrative law judge, he says “There is no one root cause” for crime, “but poverty, culture, environment and lack of education all play a part.”” Small number of additional endorsements.
Park is an attorney with a private general practice that handles civil rights, labor, tenant and social impact business matters. Admitted to the bar in 2003. Rated “Not Qualified” by the LA Bar. Part of the Defenders of Justice group. Endorsed by Democratic and Progressive groups.
Former Deputy DA (the use of that designation resulted in a small kerfuffle that only Met News would love). Her last assignment was in the Alternative Sentencing and Community Collaborative Court. The focus of this court is treatment and rehabilitation as an alternative to punishment in the appropriate cases. Admitted to the bar in 1987. Rated “Well Qualified” by the LA Bar. Endorsed by the Assn of Dep. DAs. Small number of endorsements.
The LA Times endorsement almost swayed me to Melissa Hammond, but I need to be consistent regarding police protective league endorsements. That also knocks out Keith Koyano. Klint McKay seems to be the best of who remains. However, I don’t think you could go wrong with either. This is the case where one of them should have run for office № 156.
Superior Court, Office № 151
Asst. Professor of Law at the University of La Verne. Admitted to the bar in 2010. The bio on his webpage notes: “In 2021, the Los Angeles County Temporary Judge Program appointed me to serve as a Los Angeles County Volunteer Temporary Judge, where I have decided traffic matters. In Spring of 2022, I anticipate completing my doctorate in public administration.” Rated “Qualified” by the LA County Bar. Small number of endorsements. I don’t really think he has the experience at this time.
Public Defender. Admitted to the bar in 1989. Rated “Well Qualified” by the LA Bar. Endorsed by the LA Times, who said “Patrick Hare is an experienced and widely respected deputy public defender who handled more than 100 jury trials, as well as non-criminal matters such as conservatorships and juvenile dependency cases. He’s the best in this four-candidate field”. The So Cal News Group also endorsed him, saying “His bottom line as a judge: “providing alternatives to incarceration for those suffering from substance abuse and addiction where appropriate, granting expungements for those who have demonstrated rehabilitation, as well as by providing significant sanctions for violent and repeat offenders.”” Met News also endorsed him, saying “PATRICK HARE has been a deputy public defender in Los Angeles County since 1990 and served in a like capacity for five years before that in Orange County. He has handled in excess of 100 cases, with charges ranging from misdemeanors to special-circumstances murders.” He also has a large number of Democratic association endorsements.
Deputy District Attorney, assigned as the Special Trials prosecutor and handles the most serious crimes in the Long Branch Office, including several high profile and special circumstance murder cases. . Admitted to the bar in 1991. Rated “Qualified” by the LA County Bar. Endorsed by the Assn of Dep. DAs. However, MetNews wrote that she “is an enigma. She’s adored by some, abhorred by others. There are those who see her as ideal for the role of a judge, others as unsuitable. She’s portrayed both as indolent and industrious.” Small number of endorsements, including Long Beach Police Officers.
The preponderance of the evidence for this office points to Patrick Hare
Superior Court, Office № 156
◯ Albert Robles
Robles is the former mayor of Carson. First admitted to the bar in 2002, he has thrice been ineligible to practice law in California. Rated “Not Qualified” by the LA Bar. According to Met News, there are unproven sexual-abuse allegations against him, indications that he did not actually reside in Carson, as legally required, while holding offices there as city councilman, then as mayor, and more. The LA Times, in their endorsement of his opponent, notes “Albert Robles, has also run into problems in the past. Robles was found to be improperly holding two elected offices at the same time (mayor of Carson and member of the Water Replenishment District of Southern California board), and he fought, unsuccessfully, for the district to pay for his defense against the lawsuit to oust him from the Carson City Council. ” I’ll note there isn’t a page for Robles, but there is a page against Elswick.
⚫ Carol Elswick Inc
Currently a sitting superior court judge. Rated “Qualified” by the LA County Bar. A lukewarm endorsement by the LA Times, who noted “Judge Carol Elswick crossed the line in improperly ordering defendants in her courtroom into custody. That earned her a 2018 rebuke from the state Commission on Judicial Performance, and properly so. It has also resulted in a reelection challenge, one that voters might seriously consider except that her challenger, Albert Robles, has also run into problems in the past. […] Elswick has acknowledged that she was wrong and has apologized. There have been no subsequent reports of misconduct on her part since 2016. Of the two candidates, Elswick’s experience makes her the better choice.” The So Cal News Group had a similar lukewarm endorsement: “Vote for Carol Elswick, rated qualified by the bar. Opponent Albert Robles is not only rated not qualified, he is the scandal-ridden former mayor of Carson who faced ethics inquiries over campaign finances and other issues throughout his political career.” Even Met News had a lukewarm endorsement: “CAROL ElSWICK IS NOT A MODEL JUDGE. That’s reflected by the public admonishment of her by the Commission on Judicial Performance in 2018. The commission’s action stemmed partly from a sentencing maneuver “which conveyed the appearance that the judge was circumventing the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s early release program.” We assume the conduct has not been repeated, and may be dismissed as history. What is of concern is that, despite the 2018 chastisement, she reportedly persists in violating Canon 3B(4) of the Code of Judicial Ethics which requires judges to be “patient, dignified, and courteous” in conducting court proceedings. Elswick tends to be acerbic. If a candidate with the right temperament, who was knowledgeable of the law, opposed her at the polls, the challenge might be meritorious. But Elswick’s election rival is former Carson Mayor Albert Robles. Although it appears that Elswick is, on the bench, unpleasant and lacking in humility, she is not known to be dishonorable. Robles is.”
It appears that when your opponent is pond scum, simply being dirty water is acceptable. Carol Elswick it is. This is one office where one of the candidates from a different office should have run.