By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
By Dennis Romero
Office 53Daniel Zeke Zeidler Zeidlerhas been a Superior Court referee since 1998, handling juvenile dependency cases, which are closed to the public. His varied political background includes a failed run for the state Assembly and successful bids for the Redondo Beach school board. He’s a former ACLU law clerk, and a well-known gay activist. His endorsements include Burt Pines, the judicial-appointments secretary for Gray Davis, which could mean they hoped to appoint him to the court, but got recalled before they had the chance. Rated as "well qualified," he’s the best of this lot.
Another aspirant is Bob Henry, a prosecutor in the state Attorney General’s Office who is endorsed by retiring Judge Rosemary Shumsky to replace her. Henry started in the public welfare section back in 1974, and was responsible for closing diploma mills. It’s the next part of his career path that gives us some discomfort. He became something of a superstar in making sure the gas chamber/injection room could be kept busy. He defended eight death verdicts, and has a perfect 4-0 record in appeals of death penalty decisions to the state Supreme Court. As an aside, he wanted a ballot statement without having to pay the required $65,000 fee. He sued the county for free space and lost. Just like he did back in 1992, when he tried it the first time. Bar Association rating is "well qualified."
This race includes three Cooley deputies. Two of them, David Lopez and Craig Allen Renetzky, are Bar-rated as "qualified." Neither stands out as much as Craig Jordan Mitchell, rated as "well qualified." He’s spent two years as a civil practitioner and 10 years as a prosecutor, after having worked 17 years as a high school teacher. But he seems too much on a personal crusade. In his closing statement at a candidates forum, he called out the names of victims of people he prosecuted, then said, "I know what it means to be a victim of crime," and proceeded to discuss his brother, who was "killed in Compton" by someone who has not been found. A person’s personal demons should not be the centerpiece of a judicial campaign.
The remaining candidate, attorney Michael D. Shook, is the son of a judge and rated "not qualified" by the bar association.
Office 67Richard Van Dusen Judge Van Dusen would make a worthy character in a movie. On most days this judge would be one of the plot’s good guys — we think. Certainly the guy playing him would be up for best supporting actor. The former prosecutor told the Daily Journal that he has "no patience for chronic offenders." He carries a love-him-or-hate-him reputation based in part on off-the-cuff remarks that some find inappropriate and others find colorful. He once sentenced a bike thief to 60 days because, he said, his own bike was stolen as a kid and he never got over it. He’s perfectly capable of pissing off either side depending on how he sees a case, and he does not suffer fools lightly. He flies a single-engine airplane so he can more easily visit the family ranch in Visalia. He once reportedly started playing "Jingle Bells" on his musical tie during jury selection.
Opponent Daniel K. Dik jumped in, apparently, only after he saw that some prosecutors were targeting Van Dusen along with Judge Oki and Judge Wesley. It’s not clear why Van Dusen merited their wrath. Dik, a civil litigator, is endorsed by Crime Victims United of California. Both candidates are Bar-rated as "qualified."
Office 69Donna Groman
The strongest candidates, both rated as "well qualified" by the Bar Association, are prosecutor Judith Levey Meyer and Superior Court Commissioner Donna Groman. Meyer — an accomplished prosecutor, first in Ventura County, then here — got caught up in a childish spat with a Groman supporter over her ballot statement, which says that she was assigned to a Special Victims Unit. The critic, a screenwriter who sits on an L.A. County Bar panel, accused Meyer of improperly trying to ride on the popularity of the television show called "Special Victims Unit," according to a story in the Metropolitan News-Enterprise. For what it’s worth, the formal name of Meyer’s unit is the Victim Impact Program. At a campaign forum, Meyer described a diverse background that includes work on the ski patrol, as a whitewater-rafting guide, and as an ambulance medic, showing, in her words, that she can "remain calm under fire."
That’s fine, but we’re going with Groman, who as a Superior Court commissioner is one step above referee (See Office 18). She’s a full-time bench officer, hired by the judges. Like a referee, she must be approved by the lawyers before presiding as judge over a trial. Well regarded by lawyers and judges, Groman has been a commissioner for seven years, and before that was an attorney in private practice for 17 years. She’s openly gay and emphasizes that she supports diversity on the bench. Don’t try that in Texas. According to the MetNews, she was "papered" by the D.A.’s branch office in Inglewood — meaning that prosecutors there refused to stipulate to her serving as judge for their cases. Which meant she became useless there and had to be transferred to another courthouse. It’s not clear whether this happened because they thought she leaned too much toward the defense, or because someone just had it in for her.