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Judges and Propositions

It's frightening to think that a judge you know next to nothing about but will vote for in November may ultimately find his way to the Supreme Court.

Hey, whaddya want from a free publication?

Judging the Judges November 2014

Last Sunday, we posted the proposition recommendations made by the Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles. Turns out a few of you weren't too happy with PDLA's positions. One reader commented, "Dick and Sharon, you are dead wrong". Another accused us of disseminating false information.

So here's the deal.

The opinions expressed in the LA Progressive are those of the writers or organizations who prepare and submit articles to the LA Progressive. Often we -- Dick and Sharon -- agree with the writers. Sometimes we don't agree. Sometimes we don't agree with each other. But we are thrilled when an article gets comments. Having ongoing dialogue about the issues is one of the reasons we get up in the morning.

Click here for the March 8, 2011 election recommendations.

So keep 'em coming. Let us know if you think we or the contributing writers are wrong. It's also nice to know if you think we're getting it right. And just for good measure, we've added a little poll to this article. Tell us what you think about judicial races.

[poll id="32"]

Sharon wrote a piece on the judges. If you haven't read it, it provides some links to places that will give you information about the campaigns we typically hear the least about -- the judges. The comments section of the Judges articles are often as informative as the articles themselves.

Click here for an updated November 2010 ballot endorsement for all races.

After reading the article on judicial races, attorney and LA Progressive contributing writer Tom Hall wrote this:

Our Federal political system, was designed to provide “checks and balances”. So the short terms of congressmen were a balance against the longer terms of senators (and vice versa) and the powers of the congressional branch balanced the powers of the executive. In this system, Federal judges get lifetime appointments, specifically to help avoid some of the political pressures that might otherwise affect them.

Historically, states with elected judges have way more judicial corruption than those with appointed judges.

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Beyond those basic concerns, our legal system mirrors our society and has become highly complex as society has grown more complex. Judges get assigned to various specialty courts, like Family Law, Probate Law, Juvenile Law, as well as Criminal or Civil Law. We pour lots (but maybe not enough) tax dollars into educating judges so that they can handle the assignments they get.

But the individual judge needs to want to be educated. The people who run for judicial office politically are often seeking the office because of political philosophy that tells them they already know all they need to know, and don’t have to be sensitive to new or alternative ideas.

Just a couple of years ago, a coffee shop owner with a law degree (but who had never practiced law) and an “anglo” sounding name ran against one of the most respected, knowledgeable, and experienced judges on the Los Angeles Superior Court. The coffee shop owner focused her campaign (shortly after “9/11″) on the fact that the experienced, respected judge had an eastern European sounding name and was thus “untrustworthy” in the new America that the coffee shop owner envisioned.

Unhappily, the voters agreed. So now we have an openly racist, utterly unskilled, legally inexperienced judge, dispensing her bile against Latino and other poor litigants who come before her. Because she ran an openly racist campaign for votes.

I express no opinions on judicial candidates because I think that the electoral process for judges is fundamentally wrong.

(FULL DISCLOSURE: I have violated my own rule on occasion, as in last year’s race when a Family Law judge who had started out knowing little about Family Law (she had been a business litigator)but had spent several years aggressively learning and developing superior skills in working with the emotionally charged cases and with the pro per (unrepresented) litigants who make up more than 1/2 of all family law cases, was challenged for reelection by people who knew no Family Law, were clear about not wanting to learn any, and wanted the judicial office only as a sinecure with guaranteed retirement benefits.)

One of the hilarious hypocrisies of the Tea Bag movement is their automatic support for any judicial candidate who has built a career as a “gang prosecutor” or “violent crime prosecutor”. Such people can put in their 20 with the DA’s office, retire on a pension, then go back on the tax rolls for a judicial salary (eventually earning a second pension).

The joke is on the Tea Baggers though. Many career prosecutors have deep shame at the way the system routinely convicts the innocent, and encourages prosecutors to break the law by giving them promotion points based on conviction rates, rather than for actually solving complex crimes. So when they get on the bench, campaigning on their prosecuting history, an interesting percentage of them develop a sense of responsibility and actual justice and start being neutral and honest, rather than prosecution oriented.

That’s what happened, for example, with very conservative Earl Warren. When he got onto the Supreme Court, he understood that he had the luxury of never campaigning again. So he was able to look at actual Constitutional and legal values, and moral right and wrong. The decisions that came out of his Court set a world example for real justice and decency.

Which is why he is still hated by Republicans everywhere.

It's frightening to think that a judge you know next to nothing about but will vote for in November may ultimately find his way to the Supreme Court.

Dick and Sharon