Here in California (and in Los Angeles in particular), we have an election coming up. You know what that means: 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. Because this is a long ballot, I’m splitting this analysis into a few chunks (note: links may not be available until all segments are posted):
- State and National Offices (excluding judges)
- County and City (Los Angeles) Local Offices (excluding judges)
- Local and State Measures (nee Propositions)
- Judicial Offices (County and State)
Note: This analysis is NOT presented in the same order as the Sample Ballot (the ballot order makes no sense). I’ve attempted instead to present things in more logical order.
This part covers all the judgeships on the ballot:
- Judge of the Superior Court: Office № 60 ❦ № 67 ❦ № 70 ❦ № 90 ❦ № 118 ❦ № 151
- State Judicial:
- Supreme Court: Chief Justice ❦ Assoc. Justice ❦ Assoc. Justice
- Appeals Court, 2nd District:
- Presiding: Dist 1 ❦ Dist 5 ❦ Dist 8
- Assoc: Dist 2 ❦ Dist 3 ❦ Dist 4 ❦ Dist 4 ❦ Dist 5 ❦ Dist 6 ❦ Dist 7 ❦ Dist 8 ❦ Dist 8
For your reference and mine, here’s where the candidates for this post were covered in my primary analysis:
Note: This post was updated Sun 10/16 with additional information on Judith M. Ashmann-Gerst and Elizabeth Annette Grimes, but my recommendations did not change.
Judge of the Superior Court (of Los Angeles)
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 № 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.
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.
In the primary, I eliminated Reitano for the lack of endorsements and the fact she was only “Qualified”. That left a choice 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 I went with Ransom as 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. But Ransom was eliminated in the primary. Thus, my choice is now Abby Baron.
Superior Court, Office № 67
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.
Superior Court, Office № 70
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
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.
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.
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.
Park is rated non-qualified, and likely made the general based on endorsements. I’m bothered by Hammond’s police union endorsements (and went with the other guy in the primary because of that), but in a battle against Park, Melissa Hammond wins.
Superior Court, Office № 151
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
The state requires that justices have a term, and at the end of their term, must be elected back to their office. This isn’t a case of two candidates: it is a simple yes or no. If the judge is voted out, the Governor will appoint a replacement to be voted on at the next general election. The notation here is: ⚫ Yes; ◯ No
⚫ Chief Justice, California Supreme Court: Patricia Guerrero
Guerrero was an associate justice who was confirmed as Chief Justice in August 2022. During her hearing, fellow justices and other legal colleagues praised her as uniquely qualified to lead the state’s judicial branch. If approved by voters, she will take over in January as the court’s first Latina chief justice. Legal experts consider Guerrero a moderate who falls slightly to the center-left ideologically. Her predecessor, Justice Cantil-Sakauye, called the confirmation “preordained” and the hearing a “joyous” one, praising Guerrero as well qualified not only to lead the court, but also to serve as the top administrator of the judicial branch. The Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation, a body that reviews judicial candidates, had found Guerrero to be “exceptionally well qualified” to take over as chief, which means it determined she “possesses qualities and attributes of remarkable or extraordinary superiority that enable her to perform the appellate judicial function with distinction.” Doing some quick searching, I couldn’t find any negatives.
⚫ Associate Justice, California Supreme Court: Goodwin Liu
Nominated by Governor Jerry Brown, Justice Liu was sworn into office in 2011 and retained by the electorate in 2014. Before joining the state’s highest court, Justice Liu was Professor of Law and Associate Dean at the UC Berkeley School of Law. He has spoken to the Federalist Society, but doesn’t seem to be a member. In fact, Conservatives don’t like him as he is an outspoken advocate for the theory of a living Constitution and has an expansive interpretation of the 14th amendment. He does not like Samuel Alito and made this clear during Alito’s nomination to the Court. Ballotpedia notes he received a confidence score of Strong Democrat. In advance of his 2011 confirmation, the California State Bar Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation gave Liu a rating of “exceptionally well qualified” on August 29, 2011. Other than the fact that Conservatives don’t like him, I could find no other negatives.
⚫ Associate Justice, California Supreme Court: Martin J. Jenkins
Appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom, Jenkins was confirmed on November 10, 2020. Previously, he served as Senior Judicial Appointments Advisor to Governor Newsom. Preceding his work for Governor Newsom, he served as an Associate Justice of the California Court of Appeal, as well as a federal district judge for the Northern District of California; he was appointed by President William Clinton in May 1997 and confirmed by the United States Senate in November 1997. Earlier, he served as a trial judge on the Oakland Municipal and Alameda County Superior Courts. Jenkins made history as the first openly gay justice and third Black man to serve on the state’s highest court. At the time of his nomination, the State Bar of California issued a report finding him exceptionally well qualified, the association’s highest rating. The bar committee that did the evaluation described him as brilliant, even-tempered and compassionate. He is considered a moderate, and at the time of nomination become the fifth Democratic appointee on the seven-member court. Republican governors appointed him to state court positions, from the Alameda County Municipal Court to the 1st District San Francisco-based state Court of Appeal. On a quick search, I found no articles calling for his ouster.
⚫ Associate Justice, California Supreme Court: Joshua P. Groban
Appointed by Jerry Brown, Justice Groban began serving on the California Supreme Court in January 2019. Previously he was the Senior Advisor to Governor Jerry Brown and advised the governor on judicial appointments, legal policy and legislative issues. At the time of his nomination, Justice Groban received the top rating, exceptionally well qualified, from the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation (JNE). David Fermino, chairman of the state bar’s commission on judicial nominees evaluation, wrote: “His broad range of legal experience, his love of learning and of the law, and his affirmative desire to hear diverse viewpoints, suit him ideally for consideration of the wide array of cases that come before our Supreme Court”. Per Ballotpedia, Groban received a confidence score of Strong Democrat. He was also on Broadway in Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812. Or perhaps I’m confused. Still, I could find no negatives that would make me vote no.
⚫ Presiding Justice, Court of Appeals, 2nd District, Div. 1: Frances Rothschild
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed her on April 4, 2005 to the Court of Appeal and Governor Jerry Brown elevated her on June 28, 2014 to Presiding Justice of Division One. She’s a registered Democrat. At the time of her nomination, Rothschild was rated “well qualified” by the JNE Commission. On a quick search, I could find no negatives.
⚫ Presiding Justice, Court of Appeals, 2nd District, Div. 5: Laurence D. Rubin
Laurence D. Rubin was confirmed as the Presiding Justice of the Second District Court of Appeal, Division Five, in December 2018. He served as an Associate Justice in Division Eight beginning October 2001. Prior to his appointment, Presiding Justice Rubin was a trial judge on the Los Angeles Superior Court and Santa Monica Municipal Court for 19 years. On November 27, 2018, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) appointed Rubin to succeed Justice Paul Turner. He’s a registered Democrat. Searching uncovered no negatives.
⚫ Presiding Justice, Court of Appeals, 2nd District, Div. 8: Maria E. Stratton
In 2005, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Justice Stratton to the Los Angeles County Superior Court. In 2018, Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. appointed Justice Stratton as an Associate Justice to the California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division Eight. In 2022, Governor Gavin Newsom appointed Justice Stratton to be Presiding Justice. After receiving an “exceptionally well qualified” rating from the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation, she was unanimously confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments. She’s a registered Democrat. Searching uncovered no negatives.
⚫ Assoc. Justice, Court of Appeals, 2nd District, Div. 2: Judith M. Ashmann-Gerst
Ashmann-Gerst was appointed to the court by Governor Gray Davis in December 2001 and retained by voters in 2002 and 2010. Party affiliation is unknown, and OpenSecrets shows her as non-partisan. Vote Progessive recommends “no”, but does not explain why (I originally had this wrong). She may have been a little less than civil in one decision. One pro-“traditional values” (i.e., conservative) website has recommended her. She is endorsed by the WeHo Democrats and the LA Times. She was rated “exceptionally well qualified” by the State Bar Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation. “She has excelled every place she has been assigned and she has improved every court to which she has been assigned,” the district attorney said of Ashmann. On a quick search, I could find no negatives.
⚫ Assoc. Justice, Court of Appeals, 2nd District, Div. 3: Luis A. Lavin
Justice Lavin was appointed to the Second Appellate District in 2015 by Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. Since joining the Court of Appeal, he has also served as a pro tem justice on the California Supreme Court. Before his elevation to the Court of Appeal, Justice Lavin served on the Los Angeles Superior Court and presided over civil, criminal, and family law cases. He was the first openly gay justice to serve on the 2nd District Court of Appeals. 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. Lavin is married to Michael Fleming, who oversees the political and charitable endeavors of billionaire David Bohnett, a major donor to Brown and the Democratic Party. He is a registered Democrat. Lavin was rated “well qualified” by the JNE Commission. On a quick search, I could find no negatives.
⚫ Assoc. Justice, Court of Appeals, 2nd District, Div. 4: Audrey B. Collins
Justice Collins was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to the California Court of Appeal in 2014. She received an “exceptionally well qualified” rating from the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation and was unanimously confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments. Justice Collins was appointed by President Clinton as a United States District Court Judge for the Central District of California in 1994. She served as Chief Judge of the Central District from 2009 through September 2012. She is a graduate of American University, Howard University, and UCLA. Collins’s story is unique in that not only did she come of age during the Civil Rights Movement, but she was also the granddaughter of a slave. To be only two generations removed from slavery is “very unusual for someone my age, now 71,” says Collins. She was born in Chester, Pa. in 1945. But both her grandfather and father married later in life, which explains her proximity to slavery. After being freed sometime in the 1860s, her grandfather, Furman Lawrence Brodie, worked his way through school, eventually becoming a minister and teacher. “He didn’t learn to read until he was 16,” says Collins. Collins was first inspired to pursue a career in law by her family’s strong tradition of public service. Originally Republican, she’s been a Democrat since 1994. I am unaware of any negatives.
⚫ Assoc. Justice, Court of Appeals, 2nd District, Div. 4: Brian S. Currey
In 2014, Governor Brown appointed him as a Judge of the Los Angeles County Superior Court. His assignments included presiding over a misdemeanor trial and calendar court, handling a wide variety of cases as the only civil judge at the Compton Courthouse, and serving as the asbestos Coordination Judge at the Complex Civil Litigation Court. He also served pro tem in Divisions 1 and 3 of the Second District Court of Appeal. Governor Brown appointed him to the Court of Appeal in December 2018. The Commission on Judicial Appointments unanimously confirmed his appointment after the Judicial Nominees Evaluation Commission bestowed an “exceptionally well qualified” rating. I’m impressed by his experience. Per his bio: He then spent nearly 30 years litigating complex cases at O’Melveny & Myers LLP, where he served in various roles including vice-chair of the litigation department. Some of his high-profile matters included the Exxon Valdez criminal case, the Cantara Loop/Sacramento River train derailment and toxic chemical spill, and the Vioxx products liability litigation. He also advised on and litigated antitrust, business, energy, intellectual property, public finance, infrastructure, and other issues. On the pro bono front, he served as counsel to the Christopher Commission after the Rodney King incident, was a member of the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s task force on criminal justice reform, and secured a Supreme Court victory allowing the U.S. Census to more accurately count traditionally undercounted groups. His firm was honored for a program he helped to create whereby its lawyers gained trial experience by acting as pro bono prosecutors for several smaller cities. He also received an award from an environmental organization for his pro bono work in Southern California. He’s also calling out sexism is legal briefs. I like this guy.
⚫ Assoc. Justice, Court of Appeals, 2nd District, Div. 5: Lamar W. Baker
The Commission on Judicial Appointments unanimously confirmed Gov. Jerry Brown’s appointment of Lamar Baker as a Justice of the Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District 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. During his tenure at the Justice Department, the Attorney General of the United States recognized Justice Baker with the Award for Distinguished Service, the second-highest award given by the Department for employee performance. JNE Commission Rating: Qualified, but he came into office with little judicial experience. At the time of his nomination, right wing sites complained that he was too young and too liberal. Roger Grace at MetNews does not like him. During his nomination, it was felt that Baker—at 38, the youngest of the candidates, the only one without prior judicial experience, and the only one not be rated “exceptionally well qualified” or “well qualified by the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation—might prove controversial. But he sailed through the hearing, as witnesses testified to his wisdom and the value of his experiences in private and government practice and in the federal Executive Branch. I haven’t found other negatives.
⚫ Assoc. Justice, Court of Appeals, 2nd District, Div. 6: Hernaldo J. Baltodano
In November 2017, Governor Jerry Brown appointed Justice Baltodano to the Superior Court of San Luis Obispo County, where he served in the criminal and civil departments. In June 2022, Governor Gavin Newsom appointed Justice Baltodano as an Associate Justice to the California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, in Division Six. The Commission on Judicial Appointments unanimously confirmed his appointment on August 3, 2022. He is a registered Democrat. I couldn’t find his rating from his approval hearing. I could find no negatives.
⚫ Assoc. Justice, Court of Appeals, 2nd District, Div. 7: John L. Segal
In May 2015 Justice Segal was nominated to the Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division Seven by Gov. Jerry Brown. The Commission on Judicial Appointments confirmed his nomination in July 2015. Segal was rated “exceptionally well qualified” by the JNE Commission. I could find no negatives.
⚫ Assoc. Justice, Court of Appeals, 2nd District, Div. 8: John Shepard Wiley Jr.
Wiley has the shortest court bio I’ve seen to date. Ballotpedia has more info. On November 27, 2018, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) appointed Wiley to succeed Justice Laurence Rubin. The California Commission on Judicial Appointments confirmed Wiley’s appointment on December 21, 2018. Wiley was previously a judge for the Superior Court of Los Angeles County in California from 2002 to 2018. He was appointed by former governor Gray Davis in August 2002. He is a registered Democrat. I could not find his rating at time of his nomination hearing. I couldn’t find any negatives.
⚫ Assoc. Justice, Court of Appeals, 2nd District, Div. 8: Elizabeth Annette Grimes
Grimes is a rarety in this list: The only jurist appointed by Republican governors. After eighteen years in the private sector at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Republican Governor Pete Wilson appointed Grimes as a Judge of the Los Angeles County Superior Court. In February 2010, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Grimes as an Associate Justice of the California Second District Court of Appeal, Division Eight. She’s a registered Republican. She was rated as “qualified” back in 2005, and had some concerns at her hearing. One pro-“traditional values” (i.e., conservative) website has recommended her; on the other hand, the LA Times has also endorsed her. Given that, I did a bunch of searching to see if I could find anything of concern. I couldn’t. There’s also no concern that she’s a Trumpublican: the governors that appointed her would not be considered Republican by Trump today. I don’t think there is anything concerning here.