Page 4 of 7
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 Cooleys 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 Weekly does not typically endorse.
The candidates for this office include Pat Campbell, a deputy district attorney whose name isnt Pat. Its Dave. Or at least thats how hes 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 hes 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 dont 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. Campbells rating from the Los Angeles County Bar Association is "qualified."
Another candidate, Daniel Feldstern, is an 18-year prosecutor, well regarded, who supervises the Glendale and Burbank branches. He formerly handled civil cases at a private firm. His Bar Association rating is "well qualified."
Miguel Angel Dager, a deputy city attorney, works in the Public Finance Division, drafting laws and handling issues related to public bonds and taxes in court. He previously spent five years in the offices criminal division. Also got a "well qualified" rating.
Our pick is Mildred Escobedo, a Superior Court referee since 1998, a job that has nothing to do with wearing a striped shirt and blowing a whistle. She is hired by the full-time judges on an hourly basis to handle cases when there arent enough judges, which is always. She can do trials on stipulation, or "stip," which means that lawyers from both sides agree to have her as judge and most do. Because the word "referee" is obscure in this sense, she tried to get herself called a "judicial officer" or "temporary judge" on the ballot. Pat/Dave Campbell sued, and won, so "referee" it is. You have to be very well regarded by the judges and by attorneys on both sides to keep a referee job for this long. The L.A. Superior Court, with 429 judges, has only a handful of Latinas. Were all for promoting another capable one like Escobedo. Her Bar Association rating is "qualified," which isnt the highest in this contest, but then the Bar ratings are not always the last word on whos best for the job.
Six largely qualified candidates are vying for this office. Three of them work as prosecutors for D.A. Steve Cooley. Running down this list, we start with Edward Nison, a well-regarded prosecutor with 18 years of experience. Rated "not qualified" by the Los Angeles County Bar Association for reasons not apparent to us. "It appears someone, somewhere, was out to get me," he said. The "instructor" part of his candidate designation is for teaching police officers how not to screw up evidence.
Lori Jones, another Cooley trooper, has 15 years of experience as a prosecutor. The Bar Association rates her as "qualified." Thats about right.
The third Cooley deputy, Jeffrey S. Gootman, walks around with a computer database of thousands of case summaries, presumably so lazy judges dont have to look things up when hes in their courtroom. Formerly a civil practitioner, hes been in the D.A.s Office for 20 years. The Bar Association calls him "well qualified," the highest rating in this race.
Deputy public defender C. Edward Mack lists his occupation as "trial attorney" for ballot purposes. He told voters at a candidates forum that he wants to do something about the courts budget, but, in fact, judges have no budgetary control unless their peers elect them to their executive committee. He also said he would work outside the courtroom to stop violence and gang killings again, not part of the job, though a laudable aim. His Bar Association rating is "qualified."