Judging the Judges

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Cynthia Loo

When the time comes to vote in judicial races, I’m usually frustrated. This sense of frustration is driven by my lack of knowledge about the candidates and difficulty associated with getting enough information to make an informed decision.

A few years ago, when I was relatively new to the Northeast Democratic Club, I attended a judicial candidate endorsement meeting. I went to the meeting hoping I’d become a more discerning voter, equipped with information I wouldn’t otherwise have had had I not attended the meeting.

Boy, was I disappointed!

The candidates arrived, delivered their stump speeches, waited for the votes to be counted, and then left. Their presentations gave me little more than what was contained in the Official Sample Ballot I had received in the mail that same morning!

Since then, like most people, the day-to-day comings and goings of life have fully occupied my time. I now find myself approaching yet another judicial election, again with little confidence I have enough information to make an informed decision. Yes, I’ve read my Official Sample Ballot and attended the Northeast Democratic Club endorsement meeting.

The Club endorsed Harvey Silberman for Judge of the Superior Court, Office 69, and Patricia Nieto for Judge of the Superior Court, Office 95, and Lori-Ann C. Jones for Judge of the Superior Court, Office 84. Neither Cynthia Loo (shown here) nor Thomas Rubinson, both competing for the Superior Court Judge Office 82 position, gained enough votes to be endorsed by the Club, which requires 60% for endorsement. (Note: Cynthia Loo was endorsed by the Northeast Democratic Club at a subsequent general election endorsement meeting in October 2008)

But unlike my earlier experience, I’m not simply relying on those two sources of information. I’ve also tapped into a couple of other resources. I discovered that the Los Angeles County Bar Association established a Judicial Election Evaluations Committee whose purpose is to evaluate candidates running for the 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. Their ratings can be found here.

Doing research for an article I wrote a few months ago on the overrepresentation of blacks and browns in the California State Prisons, I became motivated to attend a conference on promoting diversity on the bench. The lack of diversity on the bench has been brought to the fore by Assemblyman Mike Davis (AD48) who is giving this issue the attention it deserves. In a piece he wrote last year for the California Progress Report, speaking of the State of California he noted, “70 percent of the state’s judges are Caucasian.” He went on to say, “Although California’s judges are decidedly Caucasian, California’s prison population is overwhelmingly African-American and Latino. In 2005, according to the California Department of Corrections, 67 percent of all male prison inmates in California were African-American or Latino.” This pressing social justice issue is one of the many reasons we, as voters, must educate ourselves.

One of the most comprehensive sources of information can be found at the League of Women’s Voters site. If I could only go to one source, this would be it. It can be found at this highly recommended. The site can be found here.

The Los Angeles County Democratic Party has endorsed the following Superior Court Judicial candidates:

Superior Court Judges
Office No. 4 Ralph W. Dau*
Office No. 69 Harvey A. Silberman
Office No. 72 Hilleri Grossman Merritt
Office No. 82 Cynthia Loo
Office No. 84 Lori-Ann C. Jones
Office No. 94 C. Edward Mack
Office No. 95 Patricia D. Nieto
Office No. 119 Jared D. Moses
Office No. 123 Kathleen Blanchard
Office No. 125 James N. Bianco
Office No. 154 Rocky L. Crab

These and other L.A. County endorsements can be found here:

Superior Court Judges endorsed by The Los Angeles Times
Office No. 4 ——- Ralph W. Dau
Office No. 69 —– Serena R. Murillo
Office No. 72 —– Hilleri Grossman Merritt
Office No. 82 —– Cynthia Loo
Office No. 84 —– Pat Connolly
Office No. 94 —– Michael J. O’Gara
Office No. 95 —– Patricia Nieto
Office No. 119 — Jared D. Moses
Office No. 123 — Kathleen Blanchard
Office No. 125 — James N. Bianco
Office No. 154 — Michael Jesic

sharon-kyle.gifAs we march towards June 3rd, I hope to provide you with more info on the candidates. Look for new articles to appear in the days and weeks to come.

– By Sharon Kyle

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Comments

  1. says

    I BELIEVE THAT ALL PEOPLE WHO ARE GIVEN GREAT POWER TO BE IN CONTROL NEED TO GET LOOK AT EVEN MORE. BECAUSE POWER IS LIKE SEX AND MONEY, EXTREMELY ADDICTIVE AND ANY ADDICTION WILL EVENTUALLY TAKE CONTROL OVER YOU. I AM DEALING WITH A CASE NOW WHERE MY EX-HUSBAND A MEDICAL DOCTOR WHO RAN FOR MAYOR AND HIS JUDGE FRIEND ON OUR CASE VIRGIL SMITH PRTECTS HIM, EVENTHOUGH HE TRYED TO MURDER ME AND ADMITTED TO IT AND RAPED OUR KIDS AND MORE HERE IN DETROIT MICH AND NO ONE IS HELPPING US AT ALL.

  2. says

    Sharon – Thnak you for your efforts to educate others about the judicial elections.

    I, like others responding here, am a candidate for the Superior Court Office 72. Being a 50+ white male perhaps I should not be running in this race. However, in my 21 years of practicing law I have assisted many people of all nationalities and income level (mostly of the lower income level).

    I question why it is that it is perceived by society that only former DA’s make good judges. Our court’s are made up of many different divisions, criminal, Civil, family law, etc. Consider this, would Joe Torre put an outfielder to pitch for the Dodgers. Not likely. In the same vein, we need judges with experience in all areas of the law to fill judicial positions.

    In my practice I work with clients who have been disenfranchised from our civil court system. I help them to not only understand the system, but to obtain justice when they have been abused. It is for this reason that I bring “A civil approach to the bench”. For more about me please visit http://www.friendsofstevesimons.org

    Steven A. Simons

    • says

      Steven,

      Thanks for your comments. I certainly agree that the bench should not be reserved solely — or even predominately — for former DAs.

      I also have a soft spot in my heart for white guys over 50 (in my case, well over 50).

      – Dick

  3. Michael O'Gara says

    Thank you for this informative piece on the judicial elections. It is very difficult for the general public to obtain quality information about the judicial candidates.

    I, like many others who have posted here, am also a candidate in this June’s upcoming election. I would just like to add a website that has, in my opinion, the best set of links for all the candidates. The Los Angeles County Bar Association http://www.lacba.org
    has a link for information on the judicial candidates. Once you access that link there are links to the LA Times and the League of Women Voters sites. It has the most information on ALL of the candidates.

    Thank you.
    Michael O’Gara

  4. Michael Jesic says

    Sharon,

    I’m so sorry. I accidently put an extra “r” in Serena Murrillo’s web address. The correct spelling should be http://www.murilloforjudge.com. Would you mind making the correction so that your readers could view her site.

    Thank you,

    Michael

  5. Michael Jesic says

    Sharon,

    I’m one of the candidates running for judge in the June 3rd election. Thank you so much for providing this informative website. I think it was great for Evelyn Jerome, a political consultant, to provide links to her client’s websites. However I believe it would be more helpful if your readers had links to the other candidate websites as well. All of the below candidates would make outstanding judges. All have been endorsed by the LA Times, with the exception of Tom Rubinson, who was mentioned in your article and Lance Winters who was rated as Exceptionally Well Qualified by the LA County Bar. All have dedicated their careers to serving the public as criminal prosecutors. It’s important to note that two thirds of the courts in Los Angeles County exclusively handle criminal cases. Therefore it’s important to have judges that have experience in handling serious and violent criminal matters, which impact the day to day safety of our families. The reality is that all new judges will be sent to criminal assignments. Do we really want judges with no serious criminal experience handling our most violent criminals and predators? That’s a choice that you as voters need to make. Obviously, these are important issues that impact all of our lives. All I ask is that you make that an informed choice by looking at all the candidate websites.

    http://www.murilloforjudge.com – Seat 69
    http://www.merrittforjudge.com – Seat 72
    http://www.tomrubinson4judge.com – Seat 82
    http://www.ogara4judge.com – Seat 94
    http://www.wintersforjudge.com – Seat 95
    http://www.mosesforjudg.com – Seat 119
    http://www.blanchard4judge.com – Seat 123
    http://www.jesicforjudge.com – Seat 154

  6. Evelyn Jerome Alexander says

    One thing to keep in mind with judicial candidates is that they are technically not allowed to tell you how they would rule on a particular issue that may come before them. So it’s hard to ask them “issue” questions because they are barred from giving you their “position” on any given issue. Which, from their perspective, is frustrating!!

    For some candidates, you can get more information at least on their backgrounds, what they have done before this campaign, and their other endorsements, on their own campaign websites. Here are a few websites of candidates who are endorsed by the Democratic Party:

    http://www.Silberman2008.com (Harvey Silberman, seat #69)
    http://www.CynthiaLoo.com (Cynthia Loo, seat #82)
    http://www.LoriJones4Judge.com (Lori-Ann Jones, seat #84)
    http://www.Nieto4Judge.com (Patricia Nieto, seat #95)
    http://www.BiancoforJudge.com (James Bianco, seat #125)
    http://www.RockyLCrabb4Judge.com (Rocky Crabb, seat #154)

    These six candidates are all existing bench officers, which means they all currently run their own courtrooms.

    As a disclaimer, I am working with Silberman, Loo and Jones. These six are all supporting each other.

    Thanks for doing your homework and trying to find out as much as you can about these races!!!

    Evelyn

    • says

      Thank you Evelyn,

      Great idea to put the candidate websites in the reply. I should have thought to add them to the article. I love that technology is making communication a little easier.

      Sharon

    • Serena Murillo says

      I am a candidate for Judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court, Ofc. 69. I have been reading the responses to your article, and wanted to add some information myself.

      First of all, I am also impressed by the homework you reported regarding the demographics of the defendants in the criminal justice system. In addition, having served on the Judicial Nominees Evaluation Commission (‘JNE’) for the California State Bar, I am all too familiar with the public outcry regarding the lack of diversity on the bench. I would only like to add that due to reporting laws enacted last year, statistics on the demographics of the Judges are now available, and current as of 3/1/08.
      Please see: http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/reference/4_38sb56.htm

      As Assembly Member Mike Davis reported, it is interesting to note that statewide, Judges are 71.9% male. In LA County, male Judges comprise 68.1% of the bench. As of the 2000 Census, despite the fact that women made up 50.5% of the population of L.A. County, they make up only 31% of its Judges.

      With regard to race, according to the report, of the 427 Judges that make up the Los Angeles Superior Court, 38 are Latino (11%). Of these, 8 are Latina (1%.) As of the last census, LA County was somewhere around 47% Latino.

      The report also indicates that the Court consists of 31 African American Judges (13%), and of these, 15 are women.

      Second, I apologize for the ‘stump’ speeches regarding our Judicial candidacies. Although I did not attend the Northeast Democratic Club meeting (my overactive spam filter placed the invite in my trash), I know from experience that two minutes is hardly enough time to sum up your entire legal career! The West L.A. club did put on a great forum. However, we were told afterward that they did not have enough members for a quorum and that no endorsements would be made. Later, we received an e-mail stating that the executive committee adopted the central committee’s recommendation. Therefore, while the forum was informative, I don’t expect that the endorsements will differ much from those already posted above.

      Third, thank you for drawing attention the issues highlighted by your article. In addition to choosing qualified candidates with actual courtroom and jury trial experience (since that is largely what they will be handling), equal access to justice considerations are also important in deciding who should Judge.

      • Sharon Kyle says

        Serena,

        Your response to my article is greatly appreciated. Maintaining the “LA Progressive” website and accompanying newsletter has opened my eyes to the need for more direct communication with electeds, including those on the bench. By posting your comments directly onto the website, you’ve increased the odds that hundreds more will be educated.

        Thank you,

        Sharon

  7. Kim Kaufman says

    COALITION TO BAN BILLBOARD BLIGHT (CBBB)

    BALLOT INFORMATION FROM CBBB

    In the upcoming June 3 Primary Election, incumbent Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Ralph M. Dau at Office No.4 is running for re-election against attorney Sydnee Singer. Both candidates have been rated as qualified by the Los Angeles County Bar Association, and both have statements printed in the Official Sample Ballot. The following information may help you decide how to vote.

    In 2007, a citizen’s group went to court in an attempt to stop a lawsuit settlement between the city of Los Angeles and several large billboard companies.

    Among other things, this settlement allowed almost 900 conventional billboards to be converted to digital ones and grandfathered in an untold number of illegal billboards. Judge Dau ruled against the citizen’s group, on the grounds that it could not show that its members were harmed in any way by terms of the lawsuit settlement, which in reality not only will have far-reaching effects on the city’s visual landscape, but was hammered out behind closed doors without any public notice or debate.

    Ted Wu, President
    Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight, Inc.
    2700 Military Avenue
    Los Angeles, CA 90064
    310. 474-1711
    cbbbla@verizon.net

  8. says

    Thank you for your kind words about the League of Women Voters’ Smart Voter site — http://www.smartvoter.org

    Please check it out for info about OTHER election matters besides those elusive judges. For best results, type in your address and zip code for a complete list of what’s on your ballot, with additional resource material on many of the candidates and issues.

    Any candidate running in the June 3 election can post a virtually unlimited amount of positive campaign material on our site for FREE. Click on the ‘feedback’ button on any Smart Voter page and send an e-mail containing your phone number. You’ll get a call with instructions on how to post.

    • says

      Smartvoter.org is the first place I go to to get information when I’m preparing to vote. I cannot emphasize enough how helpful this site has been.

      Sharon

  9. admin says

    Cara,

    Thank you for providing this valuable information. We need all the help we can get when it comes to the judicial elections. The judicial campaigns seem to be cloaked in mystery.

    Sharon

  10. says

    Dear Sharon,
    Last month the West LA Democratic Club had a Judicial Forum and 14 candidates participated. We had a panel of legal experts asking hard questions after each candidate delivered their 3-minute speech. We also took questions from the audience. Six candidates got the 60% votes needed for endorsement.

    Please go to http://www.westlademclub.org for our list of endorsed candidates. We also note that Bill Johnson, running against James Bianco, has been deemed Unqualified and suggest voting for Bianco.

    Thank you,
    Cara Robin
    Vice President, West LA Democratic Club

  11. Monica Hubbard says

    Dear Sharon,

    A friend at my church has compiled a chart listing endorsements of several different groups and organizations for the propositions and the judges. It was available this morning. E-mail me if you’d like a copy.

    Best wishes,
    Monica Hubbard

    • Kathleen Monson says

      Monica,

      I would appreciate it if you could email me the chart listing the endorsements of the different groups and organizations for the propositions and the judges that your friend has compiled. Thank you so much for this information.

      Sincerely,

      Kathleen

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