Judging the Judges 2010

I feel confident about the choices I’ll make when I go to the polls on June 8th with one exception — the JUDGES!!  How in the world does the average voter know which candidate will make the best judge??!!

An updated version of this post for the November 2010 election can be found here.

Every election cycle, we are asked to vote for people few of us have heard of for offices that few of us know very much about. Yet these offices carry tremendous power.  Studies have shown that the average voter goes to the polls with little to no information on  judicial races. Some skip that portion of the ballot. Others select a candidate on the basis of the candidate’s name — still others use gender or assumed ethnicity to decide.

For the past few years, I have gone to judicial candidate endorsement meetings. In this venue, usually a community center or some other public space, the  judicial candidates show up and make a stump speech.  The ones I’ve attended give each candidate about a minute to tell the voters why they should vote for him or her and then they take another minute or two for questions. I’ve got to be honest here, I find this process to be a waste of time — for the voter.  The candidate, on the other hand,  gets an opportunity to get endorsed by the organization they are pitching to. That endorsement is then added to a list of endorsements that will appear on the candidate’s website, mailers, fliers, etc.

The candidates arrive, deliver their stump speeches, wait for the votes to be tallied, listen to see if they have been endorsed, and then leave. The information they present is little more than what is on their website or the other sites that I link to below.  Most of the time, not all candidates show up. Some candidates will send a surrogate to speak on their behalf.  Still others don’t send anyone. In that case, they are unlikely to get endorsed. To say the process is flawed is an understatement.  The candidate with the most energy and the deepest pockets is in a better position to be elected regardless of their qualifications.

To arm the voter with more information, the Los Angeles County Bar Association established a Judicial Election Evaluations Committee whose purpose is to evaluate candidates running for contested judicial elections in Los Angeles County. The Bar Association rates each judicial candidate and makes their rating available to the public on the LA County Bar website. This is worth reviewing before you go to the polls. Their ratings can be found here.

One of the most comprehensive sources of information can be found on the League of Women’s Voters site.  This site is user friendly and packed with information.  The League of Women Voters site can be found here.

In addition to the two sources I’ve listed above, the Los Angeles County Democratic Party has an endorsement process for judicial candidates. The following candidates have been endorsed for this election cycle by the LACDP:

Superior Court Judges endorsed by the Los Angeles County Democratic Party
Office No. 28 ——- Mark K. Ameli
Office No. 35 ——- Soussan (Suzanne) Bruguera*
Office No. 107 —— Valerie Salkin
Office No. 117 —— Alan Schneider
Office No. 131 —— Maren E. Nelson*

The L.A. County Democratic Party endorsements for all races including the judicial candidates  can be found here:

The Los Angeles Times wrote a piece on April 23, 2010 covering the judicial race including endorsements.

Superior Court Judges endorsed by The Los Angeles Times
Office No. 28 ——- Randy Hammock
Office No. 35 ——- Soussan (Suzanne) Bruguera*
Office No. 73 ——- Laura A. Matz
sharon-kyle.gifOffice No. 107 —— Tony de los Reyes
Office No. 117 —— Alan Schneider
Office No. 131 —— Maren E. Nelson*

As we march toward June 8th, I hope to provide you with more info on the candidates and on the process.  Look for new articles to appear in the days and weeks to come.

– By Sharon Kyle

Published by the LA Progressive on May 23, 2010
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About Sharon Kyle

Sharon Kyle, J.D. is the Publisher of the LA Progressive which she co-founded with her husband Dick Price. Ms. Kyle is an adjunct professor of law at Peoples College in Los Angeles. She sits on the board of the ACLU Pasadena/Foothills Chapter and is on the editorial board of the BlackCommentator.com. Photo courtesy Wadeva Images. www.wadevaimages.com