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Final Report of the
Judicial Elections Evaluation Committee

Issued February 12, 2004
For a printable PDF version, click here. 

This is the final report of the Judicial Elections Evaluation Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association ("Association") for the March 2004 primary election. (LACBA would like to acknowledge and thank LexisNexis for their indispensable donation of database research time.)

The committee was appointed by the President of the Los Angeles County Bar Association during the administrative year, 2003-2004. It currently numbers 45 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 W. Clark Brown at the Los Angeles County Bar Association (213-833-6703). Further voter information is available from the County Bar Web page at http://www.lacba.org/judicialevaluation.

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 2, 2004. During this election, thirty-six candidates sought nine contested offices (Judicial Office No. 14 is uncontested).

After the number of contested offices became known, the committee was divided into four 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 13, January 15, January 20, January 22 and January 27, 2004. In addition, the entire committee met on January 29 and February 3 and 10, 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. Twenty 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. 18
Miguel Angel Dager – Well Qualified
Mildred Escobedo – Qualified
Pat Campbell – Qualified
Daniel Feldstern* – Well Qualified

SUPERIOR COURT OFFICE NO. 29
Lori Jones – Qualified
Jeffrey S. Gootman – Well Qualified
Gus Gomez – Qualified
Larry H. Layton – Qualified
Edward Nison – Not Qualified
C. Edward Mack – Qualified

SUPERIOR COURT OFFICE NO. 52
Larry Diamond – Qualified
John C. Gutierrez – Qualified
Laura F. Priver – Well Qualified

SUPERIOR COURT OFFICE NO. 53
Craig Jordan Mitchell – Well Qualified
Michael D. Shook – Not Qualified
David Lopez – Qualified
Craig Allen Renetzky – Qualified
Daniel Zeke Zeidler – Well Qualified
Bob Henry – Well Qualified

SUPERIOR COURT OFFICE NO. 67
Daniel K. Dik – Qualified
Richard W. Van Dusen – Qualified

SUPERIOR COURT OFFICE NO. 69
Donna Groman – Well Qualified
Carol Najera – Not Qualified
Mitchell W. Roth – Not Qualified
Judith Levey Meyer* – Well Qualified
P. Michael Erwin – Not Qualified

SUPERIOR COURT OFFICE NO. 72
Kevin Burke – Qualified
Herbert R. Lapin – Qualified
Hon. David S. Wesley – Well Qualified
Daniel Lee Bershin – Qualified

SUPERIOR COURT OFFICE NO. 95
Marc Debbaudt – Well Qualified
Eugene M. Salute – Not Qualified
Dan Thomas Oki – Well Qualified
Hilary Anne Rhonan – Not Qualified

SUPERIOR COURT OFFICE NO. 111
Chesley N. McKay, Jr. – Not Qualified
Stella L. Owens-Murrell – Qualified

* These two candidates were members of the Judicial Elections Evaluation Committee in 2002.

EVALUATION OF NOT QUALIFIED CANDIDATES - SUPERIOR COURT

The committee rated as "Not Qualified" the following candidates: Edward Nison, Michael D. Shook, P. Michael Erwin, Carol Najera, Mitchell W. Roth, Hilary Anne Rhonan, Eugene M. Salute and Chesley N. McKay, Jr. That evaluation reflects the committee's opinion that these candidates do not adequately possess one or more of the following attributes necessary to perform the judicial function satisfactorily:

Integrity and character

Judgment and intellectual capacity

Fairness

Experience

Industry and diligence

Judicial temperament, including whether the candidate would be courteous and considerate of counsel, parties, witnesses and jurors, and whether the candidate is even-tempered

Professional ability and knowledge of the law

Absence of health problems that affect the ability to serve as a judge

Positive professional reputation in the community.


CONCLUSION

The Judicial Elections Evaluation Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association 2003-2004 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.

In addition, the Los Angeles County Bar Association thanks LexisNexis for its invaluable support in providing research resources critical to our evaluative process.

Dated: Issued February 12, 2004



Members of the Committee:

Gerald L. Chaleff, Chair
Brent A. Braun, Vice Chair
Richard J. Burdge, Jr., Vice Chair
Gigi Gordon, Vice Chair
Jan Yoss, Vice Chair
Jerrold E. Abeles
Anya C. Artan
Nicole C. Bershon
Christopher C. Chaney
Jacqueline Chooljian
Nicholas P. Connon
Jason de Bretteville
Russell Glazer
Laura Green
Daniel Grunfeld
Laurence J. Hutt
Tania M. Ibanez
Leslie Marie Kenyon
Peter E. Langsfeld
Jeffrey A. Lowe
Richard M. Macias
Michael L. Many
Jill P. McDonell

John P. McNicholas
Christopher C. Melcher
James "Duff" Murphy
Tyson B. Park
Steven C. Rice
Carl C. Robinson
Victor W. Santochi
Rickard Santwier
Dana Senit Henry
John W. Sheller
Julie A. Shepard
Alan J. Skobin
Lorin D. Snyder
Andrew M. Stein
Alan K. Steinbrecher
Robert H. Stellwagen
R. Bruce Tepper, Jr.
Aparna Voleti
Justin H. Walcott
Gregory J. Weingart
Trenier A. Wright
Deborah Yim


Gerald L. Chaleff, Chair
Los Angeles County Bar Association

Judicial Elections Evaluation Committee

     





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