By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
But in the end, we’re not persuaded that Carrick, also a last-minute entry, is up to the prosecutor part of the chief prosecutor’s job. And we worry about his ability to manage an office of prosecutors. Cooley made Carrick part of his Belmont task force because of Carrick’s background in environmental law and also because of his participation in the school district’s internal Belmont investigation. At the D.A.’s Office, however, Carrick hardly covered himself with glory. He now blames Cooley for the lack of prosecutions, though Cooley dearly wanted a Belmont prosecution to show for his campaign promise. After he left the Belmont task force, Carrick, as a private attorney, initiated a civil lawsuit over Belmont, which was dismissed. Carrick is appealing that dismissal.Tony Patchett: Patchett combines much of Carrick’s progressivism with a career of experience in the D.A.’s Office — as the D.A.’s personal driver, as an office investigator and finally as a prosecutor until his retirement in the mid-1990s. His experience in prosecuting environmental crimes and his desire to go after major polluters and big players of all sorts add to an appealing package.
Yet when Cooley brought Patchett back to head the Belmont task force, the results were unimpressive at best. Patchett wanted to indict the lot of Belmont participants for grand theft and blames Cooley for the lack of prosecutions. He also complains that he’d have accomplished more except that his three top prosecutors were, respectively, sick, off-kilter and obsessed with playing basketball. But hehad chosen them personally for this task force; they were his former colleagues in the environmental unit.
Rightly or wrongly, most of the staff simply disagreed with Patchett’s interpretation of the Belmont case. Some came to view Patchett as having questionable judgment. Patchett, in turn, says he would have obtained convictions if he’d been allowed to finish his work.
Ultimately, Cooley removed Patchett from the leadership of the task force in July 2001. Patchett retired again from the office six months later. We’re unconvinced that Patchett is capable of being an effective District Attorney.Denise Beryl Moehlman: The same goes for Moehlman, a veteran prosecutor with some attractively progressive views of her own. In her career, however, she’s not typically been entrusted with seminal cases or a senior management role. Moehlman claims that her rise has been impeded by retaliation for a sexual-harassment complaint against a colleague. She faults former D.A. Garcetti for thwarting her career and Cooley for opposing her lawsuit over the matter. We offer no opinion on the merit of her allegations, but there’s insufficient evidence that she’s deserving of the top job. Tom Higgins: By contrast, Higgins looks to be a solid prosecutor with extensive management experience within the District Attorney’s Office. He also can boast of a long background in crime prevention through his anti-truancy program. He points out that in his best year as a trial lawyer he put away 26 defendants who went to trial — not a bad total. But, he adds, his anti-truancy program immediately improved the attendance of 1,150 of the 1,200 students it dealt with on an annual basis.
Cooley earned Higgins’ ire by reducing funding for this anti-truancy program and by reassigning Higgins from the juvenile division to the worker’s-comp unit. Instead of sulking, Higgins, to his credit, has worked to revive this unit, which had been a sort of exile for managers who’d fallen out of favor.
Higgins, however, is running to the ideological right of Cooley. He would push a harder line on three-strikes prosecutions, undoing a Cooley policy that we actually support. Higgins, like the other challengers, is underfunded to a fault and, like them, has little realistic chance of forcing a runoff.THUS, WE EXPECT THAT COOLEY WILL WIN, but we want to send the message that he needs to build on his achievements, which are sometimes too incremental. He has to police cops vigorously. He must pursue power brokers and outlaw corporations. He should adopt a greater sense of urgency and civic responsibility. Some room exists for optimism, given the experience that his public-integrity division has developed in its pursuit of corruption in South Gate, Carson and Compton. We also like Cooley’s attention to requiring government agencies to do their business in public, though his office erred last year in clearing the county Board of Supervisors of violating the Brown Act. He should keep a more watchful eye on the supervisors.
Steve Cooley, if the voters grant you a second term, we need to see more — and better.JUDGE OF THE SUPERIOR COURT
In non-contested races, the Weeklydoes not typically endorse.
Office 18Mildred Escobedo
The candidates for this office include Pat Campbell, a deputy district attorney whose name isn’t Pat. It’s Dave. Or at least that’s how he’s known around the D.A.’s Office and to opposing counsel. To the State Bar, he is P. David Campbell, but for purposes of the election he is Pat. Could it be a bid to rack up votes from women who think he’s one of them? One more thing: He originally wanted his candidate designation to be "Criminal Prosecutor/Professor." Campbell had to drop "professor" because of a lawsuit brought by opponent Mildred Escobedo, who challenged the claim. This "professor" stuff is a big deal on ballots, because most people don’t know anything about judicial candidates. They decide how to vote only when they get in the ballot booth and read the names and candidate designations. Campbell’s rating from the Los Angeles County Bar Association is "qualified."