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Final Report of the Judicial Elections Evaluation Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association

Issued February 13, 2002 and Amended March 1, 2002

FINAL REPORT OF THE
JUDICIAL ELECTIONS EVALUATION COMMITTEE

Issued February 13, 2002 and amended March 1, 2002

This is the final report of the Judicial Elections Evaluation Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association (“Association”) for the March 2002 primary election.

The committee was appointed by the President of the Association during the administrative year, 2001-2002.  It currently numbers 32 members who represent, by race, gender, and ethnicity, a cross section of the legal community, including lawyers from the private and public sectors, corporate counsel, sole practitioners and members of small, medium and large law firms.  Most of the members have broad courtroom experience, and all have a firm understanding of the qualifications required for judicial office.

The Board of Trustees has approved the Rules of the Judicial Elections Evaluation Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association.  A copy of the Judicial Elections Evaluation Committee Handbook, which incorporates the Rules, is available from Cathy Dreyfuss at the Los Angeles County Bar Association (213-896-6437).  Further voter information is available from the County Bar web page at
http://www.lacba.org/judicial.
 
Before commencement of the committee's work this year, a training session was held for new committee members to acquaint them with the handbook and the rules and procedures to be used in their work on the committee.  The committee then began its evaluation of candidates for the contested judicial offices in Los Angeles County for the primary election scheduled for March 5, 2002.  During this election, twenty-one candidates sought seven offices.
 
After the number of contested offices became known, the committee was divided into three subcommittees.  Subcommittee assignments were made by the committee chair in consultation with the vice-chairs.  These assignments were designed to provide, to the extent possible, each subcommittee with members of diverse personal and professional backgrounds.  Each subcommittee had approximately ten members.  The vice-chairs and the subcommittee chairs organized the subcommittees and performed other functions to assist in the preparation of the subcommittees' reports to the full committee.
 
The entire committee met to review subcommittee reports and to make tentative evaluations on January 15, January 17, January 24, January 29 and January 31, 2002.  In addition, the entire committee met on February 7 and February 12, 2002, to interview those candidates who appealed their tentative evaluations and requested a re-evaluation.
 
All candidates given a tentative evaluation of "Qualified" or "Not Qualified" were invited to meet with the full committee to discuss their tentative evaluations. Nine candidates filed such appeals and appeared before the full committee.

Evaluation Standards
 
In accordance with the Rules, the committee evaluated the candidates as "Well Qualified," "Qualified," or "Not Qualified."  These standards are described in the committee's Rules as follows:

"To be 'Well Qualified,' the candidate must possess professional ability, experience, competence, integrity and temperament indicative of superior fitness to perform the judicial function with a high degree of skill and effectiveness."

"To be 'Qualified,' the candidate must possess professional ability, experience, competence, integrity and temperament indicative of fitness to perform the judicial function satisfactorily."

"To be 'Not Qualified,' the candidate must lack one or more of the qualities of professional ability, experience, competence, integrity and temperament indicative of fitness to perform the judicial function satisfactorily."

 

These standards necessarily contemplate a quantitative and qualitative evaluation. They are, therefore, very different from the eligibility provisions of the California Constitution, which merely require membership in the State Bar or service on a court of record for ten years for Superior Court.

Evaluation Procedure and Investigation 
In discharging its responsibility, the committee complied with its Rules as follows:

1. A meeting was held by the vice-chairs and the committee chair to discuss assignments, procedures, and techniques.  Vice-chairs then organized their subcommittees.  Assignments were made to avoid potential conflict situations.  The attempts by judicial candidates' political consultants to politicize the evaluation process were also discussed.

2. A letter describing the committee's work was sent to each candidate along with a Personal Data Questionnaire, a roster of committee members, notice of the candidate's right to seek disqualification of any committee member based upon conflict of interest, and a copy of the Judicial Elections Evaluation Committee Handbook and Rules.  Each candidate was asked to complete and return the Personal Data Questionnaire, and to review the roster for members who might have a possible conflict of interest.  The chair then dealt with any conflicts claims.  Candidates were also asked to supply the names and current addresses on gummed mailing labels of 50-75 lawyers and judges who could evaluate the candidate's legal skills and knowledge, including all counsel and judges listed in the responses to the Personal Data Questionnaire.

3. The subcommittees reviewed the Personal Data Questionnaires and analyzed additional information concerning the candidates' qualifications for judicial office.  Among other things, they mailed questionnaires to the persons shown on the mailing labels submitted by the candidates and, in some instances, to other persons considered to be knowledgeable about the candidate's qualifications (e.g., members of local bar associations representing communities where the candidate practices or sits as a judge).  The questionnaires were patterned after questionnaires used by the State Bar Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation in rating persons being considered for judicial appointment by the Governor.

Upon receipt of completed questionnaires, the subcommittees followed up with telephone or other communications with judges, lawyers, and other persons who know the candidates.  In particular, reports of negative qualities were followed up to determine the extent to which the reports had any substance and reflected broadly held opinions as opposed to isolated instances or personal reactions peculiar to the person responding.  In many instances, committee members observed sitting judges while they were on the bench.
 In their investigations. subcommittee members specifically inquired, among other things, into the following attributes of the candidates:

( 1)  Integrity and character;
( 2)  Judgment and intellectual capacity;
( 3)  Fairness;
( 4)  Experience;
( 5)  Industry and diligence;
( 6) Judicial temperament, including whether the candidate would be courteous and considerate of counsel, parties, witnesses and jurors, and whether the candidate is even-tempered;
( 7)  Professional ability and knowledge of the law;
( 8)  Health problems that affect the ability to serve as a judge;
( 9)  General reputation in the community;
(10) Civic and community activities;
(11) Other relevant matters of concern.


4. Committee members supplemented the investigations of the subcommittees by exchanging information with the full committee in order to take advantage of the broad base of knowledge, background and experience of the entire membership.
 
5. All candidates were personally interviewed by the subcommittees assigned to them.
 
6. After the subcommittees completed their investigations and interviewed the candidates, the subcommittees reported to the entire committee and recommended tentative evaluations.  During the meetings of the full committee, the subcommittees' reports and recommendations were fully discussed, and a tentative evaluation of each candidate was determined by the full committee.  In accordance with the Rules, of all members present and voting, a majority vote was required for tentative evaluations of "Qualified," and a super majority vote of sixty (60) percent was required for tentative evaluations of "Well-Qualified" or "Not Qualified.”
 
7. Each candidate receiving a tentative evaluation other than “Well Qualified” was advised in writing of the basis for the tentative evaluation and invited to appear individually before the full committee to discuss the evaluation.  Immediately before the candidates appeared, the reasons for the tentative evaluation were reviewed by the committee.  When the candidates appeared, they were given the opportunity to address the reasons given for the tentative evaluation, to present relevant facts, letters from third persons and other documents, and to answer questions from committee members.  After each candidate's discussion with the committee and his or her departure, the committee again discussed the information it had, reviewed the tentative evaluation, and reached a final evaluation.  Final evaluations were then sent to each candidate.

 
Confidentiality
In accordance with the Rules, all investigations and proceedings of the committee and its subcommittees were treated as confidential.  The need for confidentiality was stressed from the beginning of the committee's work, with each member signing an agreement by which the member agreed to be bound by the Rules and, among other things, to not disclose to the public or to any person information regarding the work of the committee, except as set forth in the Judicial Elections Evaluation Committee Handbook and the Rules.
 
Candidates were, however, free to disclose the contents of the confidential letters directed to them from the chair advising them of the committee's tentative and final evaluations, as well as to disclose other information they received from the committee, e.g., during interviews with subcommittees and the full committee.

Evaluations
 
The committee firmly emphasizes that it has limited its evaluations to the candidates' present qualifications for the particular judicial offices they seek at this time.  The evaluations do not purport in any way to reflect upon any candidate's qualifications for any other office or upon any candidate's competence as a practicing attorney or in any other endeavor.

SUPERIOR COURT EVALUATIONS
Having completed its investigations and deliberations, the Judicial Elections Evaluation Committee reports its final evaluations for the candidates for the following Superior Court offices:

SUPERIOR COURT OFFICE NO. 2
Hank Goldberg – Well Qualified
Donald Renetzky – Evaluation Withdrawn
Joseph “Joe” Deering – Well Qualified

SUPERIOR COURT OFFICE NO. 39
Larry H. Layton – Qualified   
Richard E. Naranjo – Qualified
Craig Renetzky – Qualified

SUPERIOR COURT OFFICE NO. 40
Ross A. Stucker – Not Qualified
Floyd V. Baxter – Well Qualified

SUPERIOR COURT OFFICE NO. 53
Robert Harrison – Qualified
Lauren Weis – Well Qualified 
H. Don Christian – Well Qualified
Richard A. Espinoza – Qualified

SUPERIOR COURT OFFICE NO. 67
David Gelfound – Qualified
David Crawford, III – Qualified
Paul A. Bacigalupo – Well Qualified   
Steven Lubell – Well Qualified

SUPERIOR COURT OFFICE NO. 90
Robert Simpson. – Well Qualified  
Kenneth E. Wright – Qualified

SUPERIOR COURT OFFICE NO. 100
John C. Gutierrez – Qualified
Thomas H. Warden – Not Qualified
Richard F. Walmark – Well Qualified


EVALUATION OF NOT QUALIFIED CANDIDATES - SUPERIOR COURT
Ross Stucker was evaluated as "Not Qualified" because in the committee's opinion at this time he does not possess the depth of professional experience indicative of fitness or superior fitness to perform the judicial function with a high degree of skill and effectiveness.

Thomas Warden was evaluated as "Not Qualified" because in the committee’s opinion at this time there are questions pertaining to his integrity and character, and he does not possess the depth and breadth of professional experience indicative of fitness or superior fitness to perform the judicial function with a high degree of skill and effectiveness.

WITHDRAWAL OF EVALUATION
Donald Renetzky, candidate for Superior Court Office No. 2, was rated "Qualified" in the Judicial Elections Evaluation Committee report issued on February 13, 2002.  Based on new information of a serious nature that came to its attention, on March 1, 2002 the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Judicial Elections Evaluation Committee withdrew its rating of "Qualified" issued to Donald Renetzky, pending further investigation.
 
CONCLUSION
The Judicial Elections Evaluation Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association 2001-2002 respectfully submits this report hoping it will be a source of information for the voters of Los Angeles County and will assist them in selecting qualified and able judicial officers in the forthcoming election.  The report collectively represents innumerable hours of work by the committee during a four-month period.  This enormous time investment was made to ensure a quality evaluation and represents a sincere commitment by the committee to the administration of justice.

The chair sincerely thanks the committee members for their dedication and hard work -- a sentiment expressed by many of the judicial candidates evaluated.


Dated:   Issued February 13, 2002 and amended March 1, 2002
 
Members of the Committee:

Gerald L. Chaleff, Chair
Brent A. Braun, Vice-Chair
Gigi Gordon, Vice-Chair
Jan Yoss, Vice-Chair

Bruce A. Armstrong
Raymond Boucher
Laurie J. Butler
Jon D. Cantor
Jacqueline Chooljian
Kenneth P. Erlich
Daniel Feldstern
Jonathan H. Greenspan
Reid S. Honjiyo
Laurence J. Hutt
Peter E. Langsfeld
Randall R. Lee
Kate S. Lehrman
Judith D. Meyer
Richard C. Macias
Erwin A. Nepomuceno
Joseph L. Paller
Eugene P. Ramirez
Robert F. Rubin
Julie A. Shepard
Alan Skobin
Todd M. Sorrell
Cynthia M. Takacs Csato
Abilio Tavares, Jr.
Chestopher L. Taylor
Greg Weingart
Tom Warren
Trenier A. Wright

 

Gerald L. Chaleff, Chair
Judicial Elections Evaluation Committee


     





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