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


  1. Steve Lamb says

    WOW!! I am so glad Leslie Dutton posted here. The first thing we need to know when voting ofr judges in LA County is “Is this judge an incumbent who has participated in the criminal conspiracy to pay judges in contravention of the California Constitution?” “Has this Judge been granted immunity for his past CRIMINAL conduct?” Any sitting incumbent Judge in LA County has engaged knowingly in this CRIMINAL conduct and has been granted through special legislation brought by the California Supreme Court BLANKET IMMUNITY FOR PAST AND ONGOING CRIMINAL CONDUCT.

    DO YOU WANT TO VOTE FOR A JUDGE WHO IS A CORRUPT LITTLE CRIMINAL WEASEL? If you vote for any of these incumbents, who make no mistake have violated their oath of office, that’s what you are doing.


  2. says

    I find the best place to go for information on the judges to be The Metropolitan News-Enterprise, an L.A. newspaper that focuses on law and the courts. Their endorsements and candidate profiles contain much more detail than you find anywhere else. They also run plenty of news articles on what is happening in the judicial races (often legal maneuvering such as arguing over job designations on the ballot). I don’t always follow their endorsements, but I almost always find that the information they provide lets me make an intelligent decision based on relevant fact. Check out metnews.com.

    • says

      thanks Melissa — I’m studying — it amazes me that anyone can remember all of this — at this point I’d be content with just passing the Bar

  3. says

    Sharon: All the California Superior Court Judges in Los Angeles County are employees of the State of California and prohibited from taking money from other than their employer, under the California Constitution. Yet, since 1987 they have been accepting but not reporting the $46,000 now $57,000 per year they get from the L A County who is a major litigant in cases before these judges. Why has the county not lost any cases that come before these judges (except for three) in the past decade?

    This is the reason that disbarred attorney Richard I Fine has been in solitary “coercive confinement” for the past year (since Mar 4, 2009 because he attempted to disqualify Judge David Yaffe for sitting on a case involving the county after having received illegally, some $350,000 over the past two decades from the County and in all cases deciding in favor of the county. Dr. Fine holds a PhD in International Law and was an anti-trust prosecutor with the Department of Justice in Washington DC before becoming a taxpayer advocate. He was always successful outside of L A County, but here he always would lose and he found out why. The County was paying the Judges. All the Judges in L A County have denied his Writ of Habeas Corups and broken all the rules, on the record. The matter is now before the U S Supreme Court. So think twice when you pass on recommendations on voting for Judges. All is NOT well in the State Superior Court of Los Angeles.

    The TRUTH is the media and the press in LA has been complicit by failing to report the the State Legislature and the Governor signed into law (Senate Bill SBX2 11) in February 2009, a retroactive criminal and civil immunity provision for the Judges and the government officials who were involved in this illegal payment scheme.

    So you need to know this, when voting for judges. Did they take the money? Yes, and it amounts to a total of $350 million dollars, that could have gone to keeping the court employees working and the courts open full time. Follow the money trail.

    Keep up the good work of informing your readers.

    Leslie Dutton
    Full Disclosure Network

    • brian stromsoe says

      Leslie needs to explain a bit more fully the “who, what, where, why, how” mechanism of this statement:

      “Yet, since 1987 they have been accepting but not reporting the $46,000 now $57,000 per year they get from the L A County”

  4. Tom says

    Manhattan Beach children’s book author and progressive worker April Wayland puts up a voting website each election cycle. Her effort focuses primarily on races in the beach cities area. But she also lists recommendations for judges.

    I have appeared before Maren E. Nelson on Family Law cases. It is important to know that more than 50% of Family Law cases in L.A. involve “pro per” litigants – that is, people who do NOT have lawyers, and a huge percentage of those are English-as-second-language litigants.

    Judge Nelson is not only extremely knowledgeable on the law, when working with attorney cases, she is also both efficient and empathetic when working with pro per litigants. In a court system burdened with two many cases and severe budget cuts, she is an experience, high quality judge whom we NEED to retain in office.

    In contrast, the Los Angeles County Bar Association rates the other candidate for this office “not qualified”.

    • S says

      As a pro per litigant who has appeared before the Maren Nelson I can tell you SHE IS bias, arrogant and corrupt. I am thrilled that someone is running against her — she needs to be removed from the bench.

      I have watched her abuse her power ESPECIALLY with self represented litigants.

      I can only hope that even is she is reelected that she is sanctioned for her horrible treatment of litigants.

      Absolute Power = Absolute Corruption

      • Jayne White says

        The word “BIAS” doesn’t begin to describe it, Maren Nelson is a complete and utter disgrace to the black robe that she wears. She abuses the power of the judiciary so severely she should end up behind bars. Her partiality and cruelty are beyond belief. She will rule in favor of counsel that she likes at each and every hearing, no matter what. Beyond that, if she decides that for any reason she doesn’t like a litigant, that person’s entire life is over. She ignores the law and the facts, ignores equity, fairness and reason. She will take away absolutely every cent to their name, insult them, humiliate them and leave them in complete ruins. It is appalling that she gets away with what she does. Someone should do a thorough review of her files.

        • dislike Nelson says

          I felt robbed of my time during my time with her. For whatever reason I didn’t get to see the judge I was supposed to. But she completely dismissed evidnece that was incriminating to the father while he showed up unprepared and feeling sorry. clueless about our childs well being and school work. he has a criminal background, recent convictions, driving stolen cars, nothing registered under his name because insurance wont insure him, abuse verbally and physically was also provided and yet she still gives him more time. That time now has disrupted our lives daily. but I still have to keep up with homeowrk or else I look like the neglectful one. Yet our child is sleep deprived and hungry more often because the father doesn’t even feed him for dinner. cookies does not constinute as dinner! I couldn’t speak because she wouldn’t let me. I was prepared and now I’m upset that I spent so much time and effort only to be knocked down again. After 6 years of torment there is no tranqquil spot in my life because i see my childs tired and hungry eyes. waking up in the middle of the night because my child is thirsty and hungry. so we are up having ceraeal at 1am! and going to bed at almost 10 so homework is done correct, lunch is ready for the next day, bathed. and assignements are complete. She ruined a 6 year routine with excellent health, greades, always on time, always neat. I try my best to do his needs first and then I take care of mine, but even then I’m too tired and fall asleep. 2 hours of disrupted lifetsyle is significant to have an impact on my childs life and it sure. I’m depressed for him, I hear him tell me he is tired. He sleeps on the way home which were are now stuck in traffice for almost an hour. Every minute counts. I CANNOT BELIEVE SHE DISMISSED MY EVIDNECE!!!

      • Killthefly says

        Dear S,

        100% agree. It’s very sad that Maren Nelson was elected for 6-year term in 2010. Not only is she bias, arrogant and corrupt, she is also very opinionated and inattentive. Especially, when it comes to a pro per litigant’s case. She does not even bother to listen since an opposing party is presented by a counsel that she likes, and whose law firm was sponsoring her election campaign. As human beings with dignity and respect we should united our efforts to get this horrible judge unseated from the bench!


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