Here Comes ‘Da Judge, together with Congress and Assembly

In a series of previous posts, I presented my analysis of the propositions (1A-1E, 83-85, 86-90, and many of the main candidates and local measures. I summarized those posts here. In this post, I address the remaining offices on my sample ballot.

United States Senator: Dianne Feinstein (D). I’ve tended to like the job Feinstein is doing, and seniority is important in the Senate. Feinstein has also been a strong supporter of LAAFB and the space and aerospace industry in Southern California. I don’t think any of the competition is that serious, including Mountjoy, who is going so far as to put prayer requests on the front page of his website.

United States Representative (30th District): Henry Waxman (D). I’ve long admired Waxman, who has worked tireless against smoking and other health problems. He has also been a strong supporter of Israel. He has been in the house for a while, and this seniority should serve the district well if the Democrats take control of the house. His opponent, David Nelson Jones, was drafted by the Republican party two days before the filing deadline, was not born in the district, and hasn’t been active in district affairs at the local or state level. I don’t think he has enough seasoning.

Member of the State Assembly (38th District): Lyn Shaw (D). For this position, we have no incumbent. Her campaign page talks about restoring the vision of the Pat Brown era of California: good roads and highways and bridges. Music to my ears. Although active in the party, she hasn’t been elected before. Her competition, Cameron Smyth, is a city-councilman in Santa Clarita. He has a number of positions that I like, such as supporting valley cityhood or infrastructure improvements, but has some items listed as issues that I cannot support, such as being explicitly against abortion (“pro-life” is a pejorative term), believing marriage should only be between a man and a woman, being against drivers licenses for illegal immigrants (they are on the road anyway, so let’s make sure they are aware of our laws and have insurance).

Judicial – Supreme Court Justice: Justices are always hard to assess. For the justices listed on my ballot, I did a google search to see if there were any articles noting that they weren’t qualified for the position, or were too much of a loose cannon.

Judicial – Cout of Appeal Justices: For these, I did the same process as for the Supreme Court.

  • Robert M. Mallano: Yes. He did have an interesting case where he ruled emotional distress did not constitute bodily injury, but I’ve found nothing that indicates he is a problematic justice.
  • Frances Rothschild: Yes. She seems to be a well-qualified local justice. When she was at the LA Superior Court, there were some questions regarding her connections to the IRS and her support of a law that mandates that all employers must now report all newly hired personnel–with their Social Security numbers. However I couldn’t follow their argument, and I’ve seen no one else disputing her qualifications.
  • Roger W. Boren: Yes. Justice Boren seems to be a qualified local justice. He’s had some well-known cases, serving as the head prosecutor in the famous “Hillside Strangler” trial and convicted Angelo Buono of the murder of 9 young women in Los Angeles, and presiding over the “Twilight Zone” trial involving the deaths of an actor and 2 children caused by a helicopter crash during the filming of a movie. I don’t see any reported problems.
  • Victoria M. Chavez: Yes. Justice Chavez doesn’t appear to have as much background as the others, and was appointed in Dec. 2005. She is judged as qualified, and I see no information against her.
  • Patti S. Kitching: Yes. An LA Native who has served as a Deputy Attorney General, with a specialty in business and tax. While a Deputy Attorney General, Justice Kitching argued two tax cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. In each case, the U.S. Supreme Court rendered a unanimous opinion in favor of Justice Kitching’s clients. With respect to family law, on the appeals court, she wrote the majority ruling that family law attorneys whose collection of fees from the opposing party was delayed by an objection from their ex-client are entitled to interest on the award. Qualified.
  • Richard D. Aldrich: Yes. Justice Aldrich appears to be very well qualified, who seems to have a personal goal of making the justice system work better. He has received awards in the past for his legal knowledge, legal scholarship, settlement skills, demeanor, efficiency, decisiveness, impartiality, integrity, courage, and reputation.
  • Norman L. Epstein: Yes. He seems to have a long career. After law school, as a Deputy Attorney General of California, he represented the People in criminal appeals and was trial counsel for several state agencies. He was appointed the first chief counsel of the California State Colleges (now California State University). He’s had a number of interesting cases. My guess, based on his age, is that he might be retiring soon.
  • Thomas L. Willhite: Yes. Another UCLA grad. Not a lot of background, although it is notable that as a criminal prosecutor, he was a Supervising Deputy and Capital Case Coordinator, overseeing and prosecuting death penalty appeals from the Counties of Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo. He does have an interesting record with respect to eBay, where he ruled that eBay was not responsible for libel posted as negative feedback. The court ruled that eBay is immune to such claims under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which protects providers of “interactive computer services” from liability for the online comments posted by their users.
  • Nora M. Manella: Yes. Yet another well-qualified judge, who previously served at the Federal level as the United States Attorney for the Central District of California. For five years she served as the chief federal law enforcement officer for the nation’s largest district, administering an office of over 240 lawyers in criminal and civil litigation throughout southern California. She was the 1995 recipient of the Women Lawyers of Los Angeles Ernestine Stahlhut Award for her “significant contributions to the cause of justice.” For those whose minds are more in the gutter, Google also uncovered that she was nominated as a “Superhottie of the Federal Judiciary“, coming in at #4.
  • Steven Suzukawa: Yes. A relatively new justice, appointed to this court in June 2006. He worked as a deputy district attorney for the County of Los Angeles from 1980 to 1989 and was assigned to the Career Criminal Division, which was responsible for the prosecution of repeat offenders. He is married to Mary Suzukawa, a deputy district attorney for the County of Los Angeles. Another UCLA grad. In terms of notariety, he was the judge in the trial of a 31-year-old man accused of plotting to rape the film maker Steven Spielberg; this man was convicted of stalking Spielberg.
  • Richard M. Mosk: Yes. This is one of the more interesting justices. He was on the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal (The Hague) (1981-1984), (1997-2001). He was Chair and Co-Chair, Classification and Rating Administration of Motion Picture Assoc. of America (1994-2000). He was a Member of Staff of President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy (Warren Commission) (1964). He was a member of Independent Commission On The Los Angeles Police Department (Christopher Commission) (1991). I could find nothing that indicated he wasn’t qualified.
  • Sandy R. Kriegler: Yes. Justice Kriegler is a San Fernando Valley boy, and the bulk of his judicial career has been spent presiding over criminal law matters, including approximately 400 jury trials. He was a deputy attorney general for the State of California from 1975-1985, assigned first to the Criminal Law Division and later to the Special Prosecutions Unit, where he handled organized crime trials and investigations, including prosecutions for murder, kidnapping, major frauds, and multi-county narcotics trafficking. His appellate experience as an attorney included approximately 200 felony appeals, three arguments in the California Supreme Court, and one appearance before the United States Supreme Court. He is a CSUN graduate. He runs the Teen Court program at Van Nuys High School, from which he graduated in 1968.
  • Arthur Gilbert: Yes. Justice Gilbert is the presiding judge of Division Six. He has a significant number of awards. Another UCLA graduate. He has his own blog on blogspot… he hasn’t updated it since April, but still it is an interesting insight.
  • Dennis M. Perluss: Yes. Presiding Justice of District Seven. He seems to be well qualified, and here’s an interesting factoid: Justice Perluss is married to Rabbi Emily H. Feigenson, Chaplain at the Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles. Justice Perluss was also Deputy General Counsel of the Independent (“Christopher”) Commission on the Los Angeles Police Department. He was also part of an interesting ruling that says that if a police officer lies in order to make a traffic stop, any evidence found in a vehicle search made after that stop is inadmissible. Justice Perluss disagreed with the ruling, stating in his dissent that, “Honest mistakes happen, even when police officers are involved. Accordingly, I believe it is premature to conclude, as does the majority, if the traffic stop was improper, the officers involved in stopping Rodriguez necessarily engaged in flagrant misconduct that requires suppression of the methamphetamine discovered in his car.” However, I don’t think this position is enough to make me vote “No” on him.
  • Fred Woods: Yes. He seems to be well qualified, but there don’t appear to be any interesting factoids.
  • Laurie D. Zelon: Yes. During the twenty-three years that preceded her appointment to the Los Angeles Superior Court in 2000, Justice Zelon had an active litigation practice, involving scientific and technical issues, fiduciary obligations, and other complex commercial disputes. She appears to be an expert in Real Estate Litigation, and is the namesake of the Laurie D. Zelon Pro Bono Award, given by the Pro Bono Institute of Washington, D.C.
  • Candace D. Cooper: Yes. Justice Cooper serves as Presiding Justice of Division Eight of the Second Appellate District. She appears to be well qualified. In 1988 to 1989 she served as President of the California Judges Association; the second black and second female to head a nearly 2000 member voluntary professional association representing all judicial officers throughout the state from the California Supreme Court to the remaining Justice Courts.
  • Madeline Flier: Yes. She began her legal career in 1968 as a prosecutor in the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office and rose to become the first woman Assistant City Attorney. She doesn’t appear to have a lot of awards. She has an interesting ruling regarding gay rights, when she wrote an opinion in a ruling that a closeted gay man being sued for transmitting HIV to his wife may not be compelled to disclose the identities of the men with whom he had sex. Flier agreed with the trial court that many the questions regarding prior experience were relevant, and so he would have to answer questions pertaining to when he might have contracted HIV; however, he requiring him to answer questions about “lifestyle” was out of bounds, as
    “The word ‘lifestyle’ is vague and ambiguous, to the extent that it suggests a sexual orientation, it is offensive and impermissibly intrusive into the gay man’s zone of sexual privacy.”

Judge of the Superior Court:

  • Office No. 8: Deborah Sanchez. Sanchez is a prosecutor with the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office (18 years), a graduate of CSULB. Her work has focused on some of society’s most vulnerable victims: children molested by teachers, laborers killed as a result of corporate employers who failed to provide safety equipment, hate crime victims injured because of who they are or for what others perceived them to be, and children, whose identities are often unknown, exploited through child pornography. She has been very involved in very extreme porn prosecutions; this Frontline article (possibly NSFW based on words only) provides details. Bob Henry is also well qualified, though, with a focus more on civil justice and death penalty cases. I just think Sanchez has more experience.
  • Office No. 18: Daviann L. Mitchell. Mitchell has over 20 years of law enforcement experience as both a prosecutor and a police officer. Mitchell’s experience has ranged from patrol officer in an urban police department, to a state Supreme Court judicial clerk, to civil litigation and finally to a Deputy District Attorney in the Los Angeles County Hardcore Gang Division. Mitchell has tried over 100 felony jury trials with a 94% conviction rate. The majority of Mitchell’s trials have involved gang murder, domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse. She is also an internationally recognized dog breeder and handler and is very involved in the canine community. Her opponent, John Gutierrez, is more of an administrative judge. As this article shows, however, he doesn’t have a stellar command of the law.
  • Office No. 102: Hayden Zacky. He is rated well qualified, and has received a number of endorsements. He also has served 12 years as a Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney, including several years in the “Hardcore Gang” division. His opponent, George C Montgomery, is a 73-year old civil lawyer looking for a new career. I think I prefer Zacky’s experience and qualifications for this particular position.
  • Office No. 104 Bobbi Tillmon. She is unopposed for this seat, and is rated Exceptionally Well Qualified for Superior Court Judge. She has 26 years of legal experience and judicial expertise. She currently serves as Court Commissioner and Judge Pro Tem of the Los Angeles Superior Court, where she presides over the Family Law Department for the West District in the Santa Monica courthouse. I won’t hold her USC law degree against her.
  • Office No. 144: David W. Stuart, although the other candidate, Janis Levart Barquist, is also well qualified. Barquist is more of a civil rights and commercial law lawyer, and is currently a Deputy City Attorney. Stuart is the younger candidate, and a CSUN graduate. He currently works in the District Attorney office’s Healthcare Fraud unit, prosecuting allegedly injured workers who have collected workers’ compensation benefits while healthy. Without the use of a consultant, he boasts the endorsements of District Attorney Steve Cooley, the Los Angeles Times, several labor unions and law enforcement and victims’ rights groups, and 22 judicial officers. Seems qualified to me.

Whew. That’s it. Over four+ posts I’ve gone through the entire ballot. As always, your comments are welcome.