Patterico's Pontifications

5/30/2008

Patterico’s Judicial Endorsements

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 12:02 am

More than one reader has written me asking for judicial endorsements.

I didn’t realize how many judicial candidates I personally knew, until I read the L.A. Times endorsements. It turns out that a number of the candidates are people with whom I have worked closely and know fairly well. (A lot of the candidates are Deputy District Attorneys.)

I was talking to a colleague in the hallway today about this phenomenon. I said: “I guess I’m just hitting a point in my life when a lot of my colleagues feel qualified to run for judge.” He said: “Yeah. That’s called middle age.”

It’s a little awkward — OK, it’s a real mine field — giving honest opinions about people with whom you have worked. What’s more, it’s actually kind of stupid saying anything negative about someone who might win, because I might have to appear in front of that judge some day.

And everything you ever write on the Internet always makes it back to the people you write about.

Always.

At the same time, I’m not going to lie to you. So if I don’t like someone, I won’t falsely praise them. I just won’t say anything.

That’s not an implication that I have anything bad to say about anyone in this race. I’m just telling you the ground rules for this and all future races. You’re unlikely to see me trashing anyone, ever, because that would be idiotic.

But if I say something positive, I mean it. And I’ll try to tell you something personal about the people I am talking about, to give you a sense of what I think about them and why.

I’m going to go down the list of the Times endorsements and give you my thoughts. In each case, I’ll quote the paper, and then give you my own view.

Office No. 94: Michael J. O’Gara is the standout candidate in this three-person race. He is a well-regarded deputy district attorney with the integrity and demeanor for the bench.

Mike is my top recommendation in this election. I worked with him in Central Trials downtown and really like him. He’s just a really smart guy who knows what he’s doing and would be fair.

But I have a soft spot for Mike for another reason: he’s a fan of the blog, and an occasional commenter under the handle “MOG.” (He authorized me to say that, so I’m not giving away any state secrets.)

You must vote for Mike O’Gara in this election or I will ban you from my blog. ‘Nuff said.

Moving on with the endorsements in order:

The Times endorses: Daniel P. Ramirez for Office No. 3; Juan Carlos Dominguez for Office No. 35; Michael Villalobos for Office No. 41; Hector M. Guzman for Office No. 55; Daniel S. Lopez for Office No. 101; and Jose Sandoval for Office No. 102.

I used to work for Michael Villalobos in juvenile. He’s a good guy.

Office No. 69: Serena R. Murillo is the better of two candidates in this race. Her straightforward style has earned her respect from criminal defense lawyers she faces in court as a prosecutor, as well as from her own colleagues and supervisors. She should make an outstanding judge.

Serena was my office mate for several months when I worked Central Trials downtown. She’s good people and she’d be a good judge.

Office No. 72: Hilleri Grossman Merritt, a deputy district attorney, has the narrow edge in this race, earning high marks from colleagues, defense lawyers and judges for fairness and integrity. We endorse her without hesitation but note that one of her opponents, fellow prosecutor Marc Alain Chomel, would also serve with distinction.

I know both Hilleri and Marc. Hilleri worked with my wife in the Sex Crimes Unit downtown. I worked for Marc when I was in Central Trials. I wish they were running in different races so I could endorse them both. As it stands, I can’t choose. Either one would be a good judge.

Office No. 82: Cynthia Loo. We endorse Loo, a Superior Court referee who presides over juvenile delinquency cases, but with some reservations. She appears to possess little of the serene courtroom demeanor usually associated with a trial judge. Yet she earns high marks from attorneys on all sides for her handling of juvenile cases, which are closed to the public. Loo is an asset to juvenile court, an assignment that ought to be highly sought but seldom is. She is running against two prosecutors, including one — Thomas Rubinson — who has risen high in the district attorney’s office and is well-regarded by colleagues. But Rubinson lacks the respect that many defense lawyers accord his colleagues. Loo is, narrowly, the better choice.

I don’t know Loo, but I know Tom Rubinson. He’s a hard-driving Deputy D.A. who has handled serious cases without blinking. He is smart and has good judgment. I can see where defense attorneys might not all like him; he’s pretty serious and hard-edged. That’s OK with me because I don’t like crime. I endorse Tom.

Office No. 84: Pat Connolly, a deputy district attorney, is the best of four candidates in this race. He is a competent prosecutor and should make a competent judge. The Times has twice before endorsed Deputy Atty. Gen. Bob Henry, and he also would be a capable jurist, but Connolly is the better choice.

I agree with The Times here, but their explanation is poor. Let me elaborate.

In every profession there are company men and people who buck the system. There is no question that Pat Connolly is a guy who bucks the system. I think it’s fair to say he has pissed off some people in the D.A.’s office, including some supervisors. But it’s even more fair to say that he’s one of the most talented and principled prosecutors the office has.

Pat is a very skilled lawyer who has handled countless murder cases, including many extremely high-profile cases. He is a character — the type of person that the District Attorney’s Office used to have in spades, but has traded in for the more faceless, corporate type of personality. If you’re looking for a robotic type of person, Pat isn’t your guy. Pat is hard-driving, superbly organized, and cares about his cases and his victims.

Personally, I like people who call them as they see them, and to hell with the consequences. Pat is that type of guy.

I think he is a fantastic D.A., and I think he would make a fine judge.

Office No. 119: Jared D. Moses. If The Times could pick only one race in which to endorse, this would be the one. Prosecutor Moses is far and away the best qualified of three. He would be a good choice in any field of candidates, but especially in this one.

Don’t know the guy. Mrs. P. says she has heard good things.

Office No. 123: Kathleen Blanchard. As in the previous race, this prosecutor stands out even further because of her two far less qualified opponents.

Katha and I were both assigned to Huntington Park in our first assignments. She had a background as a Deputy Attorney General, and I had a background as a civil lawyer. We were both dismayed when the office stuck us in the habeas unit, grinding out returns to habeas petitions, when we wanted to do trials. The office tapped both of us because we had a background that indicated some ability to write, but that did not mollify us.

Luckily, Katha was able to escape that dreary assignment and has had a very successful career as a gang prosecutor. (I escaped as well, but it took me longer. I used to keep hash marks on a piece of paper I kept taped on the wall of my office, indicating the number of days I had served, like a prisoner. Yes, I had a bad attitude. But that’s another story.) She always impressed me, even back in the days when we were doing misdemeanor trials, because she was one of those lawyers who really cared. She’d be out there serving subpoenas on critical witnesses on the weekends. She’s that kind of lawyer. Katha is one of the younger candidates (she started with me, and I’m young, right? RIGHT?) but she would be a great judge.

Office No. 154: Michael Jesic is another prosecutor who has mastered the courtroom and is ready to become a judge.

I hear good things about Jesic but I don’t know him.

So there you have it. That’s my honest view on the folks who are running for judge. It’s a good crop of folks. I hope this helps.

24 Responses to “Patterico’s Judicial Endorsements”

  1. (she started with me, and I’m young, right? RIGHT?)

    She’s young. You?

    I’ll say nothing, for fear I end up at a defendant’s table with you on the other side…

    Unless she’s the judge. Then I’d feel safe… :)

    Scott Jacobs (d3a6ec)

  2. Two questions: 1) How does this help Michelle Obama’s children?
    2)Do we all have to move to LA and vote for Mike O’Gara, or can you hook us up with absentee ballots for dead people or something?

    Seriously, this is interesting insight. If I had a vote, I’d find it useful.

    Pablo (99243e)

  3. You must vote for Mike O’Gara in this election or I will ban you from my blog. ‘Nuff said.

    Umm, I don’t live in California but, having grown up in Chicago, I don’t have any objections to voting in your election. My question is: Will you drive me to the polls and give me a bottle of Muscatel?

    oldirishpig (66a435)

  4. You must vote for Mike O’Gara in this election or I will ban you from my blog. ‘Nuff said.

    Ok, I’ll write him in on one of the judicial races in Cook County I don’t know anything about. It’s worth a shot, according to Hillary, in the event that something happens to the slated candidates.

    nk (6c75e0)

  5. You must vote for Mike O’Gara in this election or I will ban you from my blog. ‘Nuff said.

    Could you please mail me an absentee ballot? If not, I will follow nk’s lead and write him in here in Indianapolis.

    JD (75f5c3)

  6. Judges are always tough, because there is nothing known about them. The LAPD Chief’s office was once a source for reasonable recommendations, but not since the departure of Daryl Gates.

    Thanks for the insights!

    ManlyDad (75cbfe)

  7. Yep, thanks Patterico. It is always tough for me as I fill out my absentee ballot and I have to read through all the endorsements and try to Google on the names to see what each judicial candidate believes (a quick rule of thumb: if the phrase “social justice” appears anywhere near the name of the candidate they absolutely do not get my vote). I trust your recommendations, so you have saved me a couple of hours of work.

    JVW (78155f)

  8. 40 isn’t old if you’re a tree.

    assistant devil's advocate (5e136d)

  9. Thanks Patterico. Nice to get a trusted opinion.

    Apogee (366e8b)

  10. MOG,

    You read this let me assure you the only things that keep me from voting for you are the fact I don’t live in LA County, and I don’t register to vote because my shrink would have to go through that waste-time paperwork confirming I’m medically unfit to do jury duty.

    Patrick,

    Ban away. I’ll just blog about you and your lust for slug porn. :)

    Alan Kellogg (2997b1)

  11. he started with me, and I’m young, right? RIGHT?

    Of course!

    Thanks for the insight, Pat. Much appreciated from this Brentwood resident.

    h2u (81b7bd)

  12. As a former soldier, who takes voting as seriously as a Catholic takes communion, all I can say, Patterico, is thanks one hell of a lot! Dennis Prager once did a show on the list of judges that a citizen is offered to vote for,or against, without any other information than their name and occupation. I understand your reticence to rate your colleagues. It’s akin to a military personnel performance review that could one day bite where it hurts. I applaud your courage to poke your head above the foxhole. People like you in the judicial branch of government make the time that those of us spent in the military services worth it.

    C. Norris (6c591c)

  13. You must vote for Mike O’Gara in this election or I will ban you from my blog. ‘Nuff said.

    I hope that writing him in on the Dakota County, Minnesota ballot is acceptable? All those others already said that, think of something new!

    (Gears madly spinning.)

    Ah! No requirement that I vote for him to be a judge. I can let go of my nose and be happy voting this November!

    MOG for President!

    htom (412a17)

  14. Office 95: Lance Winters. I know Lance personally and professionally, and he’s a great, solid guy who’s devoted his entire career to public service at the State AG’s office, handling mostly death penalty appeals.

    The Angry Clam (76ef6e)

  15. Thanks to all here … I truly appreciate all the support … and your votes.

    And as an aside – Lance Winters (Office 95) is the only attorney (the only other was Judge Dau) among all the candidates in all races to be rated “Exceptionally Well Qualified” by the Los Angeles County Bar Association. He recently argued before the California Supreme Court on a death penalty issue in a case where the victim was LAPD Officer Paul Verna. Lance has a tough race against a sitting Family Law Commissioner and I know would appreciate your support … as would all candidates listed above.

    Thanks again Patterico.

    MOG (f57a20)

  16. I’d ask for a way I could vote for you, but I’m pretty sure that since I live in Illinois it would be illegal for you to tell me…

    Maybe I’ll ask the Dems…

    Scott Jacobs (d3a6ec)

  17. You don’t mention Office no. 125. The Times endorses James Bianco. The other candidate for that seat is the apparently highly — dangerously — weird “Bill Johnson,” a racist white nationalist. See the story here (via LA Observed).

    Earle Miller (bbae96)

  18. Patterico = It appears that, according to you, the only candidates worthy of recognition come out of the District Attorneys Office. What most people do not understand, and you fail to point out to them, is that the “Judicial System” is made up of more than just criminal cases. It is my position that the Court’s need “civil” attorneys just as much as criminal attorneys. It is for this reason that I seek to bring a Civil Approach to the Bench. Yes, I received a “qualified” rating. I planned an appeal, like one of my opponents. However, because of the time constraints I was forced to chose between a longstanding commitment, my son’s wedding rehearsal, or the appeal. I chose my family. If that means that I, Steven Simons, must live with a qualified rating from the bar – then I will wear that badge with honor.

    Steve Simons (aaf99b)

  19. Steve,

    Patrick can speak well for himself (as we see), and he probably will. I never sense that he has anything against civil attorneys. He’s just giving us insights on those he knows well, most of whom–to no one’s surprise–are his coworkers.

    One other source I’m using (that isn’t much help) is the California Republican Lawyers Association, which endorsed only one candidate in LA county.

    Since I feel mostly endangered by criminals, my preference is usually for a proven prosecutor. That’s not to say that you don’t have anything to offer. Good luck to you.

    ManlyDad (75cbfe)

  20. Steve Simons/18:

    I’m not from the area. But can I make a suggestion?

    If you want to be a judge, you should be careful with your written words when campaigning, which you are here. Apostrophes which do not belong do not inspire confidence in a civil attorney. Quotation marks dashed about don’t seem like good ideas. Capitalization counts.

    Spelling and grammar may not be great indicators, but they are the only indicators some people will have.

    –JRM

    JRM (de6363)

  21. Though I’ve noticed that spelling and such are surgically removed from lawyers. Had a teacher once who had so many spelling errors that were apparent to even myself comment “I used to be able to spell… Then I went to law school”.

    But the whining of Steve in #18 would put me off voting for him, were I in LA and able to vote.

    Scott Jacobs (d3a6ec)

  22. NOW you tell us. Yes, your endorsements are helpful, but came rather late — after I’d sent in my mail-in ballot. OK, so I lucked out. All my votes — based on a reading of the Times endorsements — coincided with your recommendations, both those that agreed and disagreed with the Times’. But please, please next time don’t leave me suspended so long in doubt.

    james fulton (86d115)

  23. How about more judges like CLARENCE THOMAS we need judges who are not under control of the lefists radicals

    krazy kagu (1ccb50)

  24. Thanks Patrick!

    The wife asked me this AM if I had any idea of how to decide which judicial candidates to vote for.

    Now, at least I have some clue . . .

    okie (cff009)


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