The Jury Talks Back


Vote for me because I am a woman

Filed under: California Politics — aunursa @ 7:48 pm

I’m one of those people who takes my voting very seriously.  I study the election pamphlets in order to make choices for each of the offices.  All of the judicial offices, the water district, the sheriff, etc.  I cross out any candidate who failed to submit a statement.  Then I study each statement in order to find anything that can help me choose to vote for or against the particular candidate.

Sometimes I can make a choice based on the person’s stated positions, priorities, or background.  In some cases, the candidates are equally vague or unacceptable, so that I don’t vote for that office.  In this election, however, one of the candidates made my choice very simple.

Deputy District Attorney John Creighton is running against Administrative Law Judge Victoria Kolakowski for Alameda County Superior Court Judge.  Both candidates have 20 years of legal experience and are rather vague about their priorities.  Creighton touts his prosecution of gangs, while Kolakowski worked in consumer law.  Normally this would be a tossup for me.

But Kolakowski cited an ad hominem reason to vote for her:

Less than a third of the judges currently serving on the Alameda County Superior Court are women, and it is time for another experienced woman to be added to the Court.

This statement is very helpful in my decision.  A person is qualified to be a judge based on judicial experience and the ability to give parties equal and impartial treatment before the law.  Kolakowski’s statement suggests to me that she tends to group a person into categories rather than as an individual.  If she expects the voters to treat her based on her gender, then should we expect that she will treat each case based on the personal characteristics of the litigants?

John Creighton will not receive my vote because he is a man.  Creighton will not receive my vote because his opponent is a woman.  Creighton has earned my vote specifically because his opponent has played the gender card.

* * * * *

Yesterday, after I had prepared to write this post, the Oakland Tribune published an article about the race.  It turns out that there’s even more to the story.

[The candidates] have different opinions on what qualifications are necessary and what the bench currently needs in a judge.

Kolakowski, the transgender candidate who won a three-candidate primary election in June, says her background — both professional and personal — will add a much needed splash of diversity to a court system filled with prosecutors.

Creighton, who has the backing of roughly 80 percent of the judges in the county court system and an endorsement from the candidate who came in third place during the primary, says he has the legal experience — more than 25 years in the district attorney’s office and thousands of hours in trials — necessary to run an efficient, compassionate and fair courtroom.

Kolakowski cites her experience as a political activist, and devotes an entire page on her web site to her transgender identity, implying that voters should elect her so that she can make history as the first transgender trial court judge in the United States.

There are many places where a diverse membership is desirable, even advantageous.  Councils, commissions, and other groups can benefit from the diverse backgrounds and experiences of the various members.  By contrast, the judiciary should be populated by judges who are qualified, not by their diversity, but by their ability to make sound decisions based on the facts and the law.

The reasoning displayed by both candidates reinforces my confidence in my decision.


  1. (a) yay, the jury’s back up again. :)

    (b) i somewhat agree and somewhat disagree with you.

    i think that, when you have two candidates both of whom can make sound decisions based on facts and law, and whose resumes indicate equivalent capability, diversity is a worthwhile thing to look at.

    i’m speaking here in part of diversity of legal experience – having a judiciary drawn from different disciplines of legal practice enriches the judiciary by providing judges with a deep knowledge of a broader range of law.

    but i’m also speaking of general diversity of life experience.

    facts, especially at the trial court level, are frequently in dispute.

    the kinds of conclusions which judges make about the credibility of evidence, etc, are inextricably intertwined with their life experience.

    i think it’s a good thing that judges – particularly appellate judges – have a diversity of life experience because that increases the likelihood that facts will be looked at through multiple interpretational lenses … and therefore that the actual facts will be more likely understood.

    Comment by aphrael — 9/29/2010 @ 9:09 pm

  2. I’m with you, aunursa. Do we really want courts and judging to become a game of “my life experience trumps yours”?

    Comment by DRJ — 10/1/2010 @ 6:12 pm

  3. Thanks for this. I’m voting in Alameda county.

    Comment by luagha — 10/5/2010 @ 9:30 am

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