Judicial Qualification Ratings Questioned by Harvard Study

 
According to a new study done by a Harvard PhD Stanford law graduate, with the support of the Harvard Center on American Political Studies, the American Bar Association’s rating system for judicial candidates is part of the problem why more women and minorities are not on the bench. The study examined 52 years of judicial ratings (1960-2012), findings published in New York Times on May 4, 2014:

(1) women and minorities are more likely than whites and males to receive lower ratings even when controlled for education, experience and partisanship, (2) Ratings are a poor tool for predicting judicial performance (no difference whether rated highly qualified or not) (3) and, taken together, the findings of potential bias and questionable usefulness point to a broken rating system. Read New York Times article on judicial ratings, “How Not To Pick Judges”. 

My thoughts…If we don’t let football players pick referees, why do we let attorneys pick judges? Conflict of interest, anyone?

And, if we don’t have a committee to “rate” the US President or other elected officials, why do we have bar associations and the ABA rating judicial candidates?

Simply my opinion, what say you?

Read post on 10 Things To Know About Judicial Elections.


San Diego Judicial Elections: 10 Things To Know

Given the lack of information about San Diego Judicial Elections, here are 10 things (11 actually) to know about judicial elections: (Disclaimer: I am currently running for Judge in San Diego County in the June 3rd Primary election.)

• Superior Court Judges are elected by the People. The Governor of California is allowed to temporarily appoint judges to vacated seats (i.e. retirement, death, appointment to federal bench, etc.) and then the judges are up for election at the end of the appointed term. (California Constitution, Article 6, Section 15.) Superior Court Judges serve a 6 year term.

• Superior Court Judges are elected county-wide not city-wide. For example, if you are a registered voter in San Diego County (i.e. Oceanside, Ramona, Cardiff), you can vote for Superior Court Judges. It is a non-partisan race so the political affiliation of the judicial candidates will not appear on the ballot.

• There are no contribution limits in judicial races. Individuals, business organizations, PAC’s, etc. can give as much and as often as they choose.

• Judges and judicial candidates are not allowed to publicly endorse or oppose non-judicial candidates (i.e. Senators, Supervisors, Mayors, City Council, etc.) (Code of Judicial Ethics, Canon 5)

• In San Diego County, there are approximately 131 Superior Court Judges. About 45 Superior Court Judges are up for election every 2 years with their name only appearing on the ballot when they are challenged. If they are not challenged, they are automatically elected to a new 6 year term after the November general election. If a Judge decides to withdraw from the election during the nomination period, then the seat becomes open for 5 calendar days to allow candidates to file and run for the open seat. If one candidate receives over 50% of the votes, they are elected in the Primary election. Otherwise, the top two vote getters face a runoff in the November general election and the top vote getter wins.

• To uphold impartiality, judges and judicial candidates are not allowed to make statements on issues, cases or controversies as such matters are likely to come before them while they are on the bench. (Code of Judicial Ethics, Canon 5).

• Superior Court is the trial court. Superior Court Judges generally preside over jury trials, bench (judge) trials, hearings, and motions on civil and criminal matters. Superior Court judgments, convictions and orders may be appealed to the California Court of Appeal, the California Supreme Court and may be heard by the US Supreme Court.

Each judicial race is designated a seat number (i.e. Seat #25). The seat number is just a random numerical designation assigned for ballot purposes. The seat number does not refer to a department, courthouse, or area of the county.

• A Superior Court Judge can be assigned to any division (i.e. civil, criminal, family law, probate, juvenile, etc.) The Presiding Judge determines the assignments and length of the assignment.

• Judicial candidate ratings are a poor tool for predicting judicial performance (no difference whether rated qualified or not), (2) women and minorities are more likely than whites and males to receive lower ratings which is part of the problem why fewer women and minorities are on the bench, (3) and, taken together, the findings of potential bias and questionable usefulness point to a broken rating system. (New York Times May 4, 2014 article, “How Not To Pick Judges” based on a new 2014 study supported by the Harvard Center on American Political Studies and 52 years of judicial ratings data (1960-2012).

• An attorney who is a US citizen, a registered voter and member of the California State Bar for 10 years may run for judicial office.

I think it’s important to provide information to you as judicial elections matter.

Simply my opinion, what say you?

Read post on judicial candidate ratings questioned by new 2014 Harvard study.

(Updated post 5/18/2014)


Oscar Pistorius Faces Premeditated Murder Charge

Oscar Pistorius will be charged tomorrow with the premeditated murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. He is expected to enter a plea of not guilty with a trial to begin in March 2014.

Did he plan to and intend to kill Steenkamp (premeditated murder) or was it an accidental killing?

Reeva was behind a locked interior toilet door with her cell phone in the very early morning hours of February 14, 2013. Neighbors claim they heard arguing coming from Oscar’s home. According to Oscar, he and Reeva were sleeping in the bed when he heard a noise. He gets out of the far side of the bed, goes to the other side of bed, the side closest to the bathroom where he hears the noise, and grabs his gun which is underneath the bed just below the area where Reeva was sleeping. According to the bail hearing, he doesn’t call out to Reeva or check that she is safe. He instead fires several shots into the toilet believing an intruder was inside and kills Steenkamp dead.

Read my posts: Oscar Pistorius Intruder Defense is Nonsense & Oscar Pistorius What Doesn’t Make Sense.

As a former domestic prosecutor, the evidence, so far, unfortunately, points to a tragic domestic violence killing. Fear of losing was the intruder.

Simply my opinion, what say you?


If Bob Filner Misused Public Funds Career Over

(Updated 8/18/2013: As reported in the LA Times, Filner could get removed from office for using the City’s credit card for personal expenses under the never been used before section 108 of the San Diego City Charter. It states, “every city officer who willfully approves or allows an unauthorized payment from the city treasury is subject to removal from office.” Yet, there is no set procedure for removal. The City Council and a judge would likely be required to remove Filner. The misuse of public funds is a felony. Why not let the San Diego District Attorney’s Office or the Attorney General’s Office (if DA Dumanis is recused) arrest and prosecute Filner for the alleged misuse of public funds, just like the DA did in 1986 to Filner’s predecessor (I kid you not) former Councilman Uvaldo Martinez who resigned pursuant to a plea bargain over his misuse of $1800 in city funds. Seriously, I’m not making this up. My bet, Bob will resign, too, when jail is the alternative. Besides, it’s cheaper than a 30 million dollar voter recall or enduring the civil process of testing out a 1931 section of the City Charter.)

Mayor Bob Filner is now being scrutinized for alleged “improper” expenses on his January to May 2013 Mayor’s (taxpayer) credit card statements including frequent hotel charges and $3000 paid to a reputation management firm.

Misuse of public funds?

If Filner misused public funds, game over. Filner faces up to 4 years in prison and can be barred from holding public office.

Having handled many sexual harassment cases and prosecuted many domestic violence cases, I am not surprised to learn of possible financial abuse allegations. Financial abuse commonly occurs by perpetrators of sexual abuse and harassment. When misused, money, just like sex, is just another way perpetrators control others and abuse their power.

Follow the money.

It may just reveal the misuse of public funds.

As stated by the California Attorney General,

“Public funds may not be used for personal purposes.

The starting point for any analysis concerning the misuse of public funds begins with the principle that public funds must be expended for an authorized public purpose. An expenditure is made for a public purpose when its purpose is to benefit the public interest rather than private individuals or private purposes.

Once a public purpose is established, the expenditure must still be authorized. A public official possesses only those powers that are conferred by law, either expressly or impliedly.

The California Constitution and a variety of state statutes make it clear that public funds may not be expended for purposes that are primarily personal. Such expenditures are neither for a public purpose nor are they authorized.

The prohibition against using public funds for personal purposes does not mean that no personal benefit may result from an expenditure of public funds.

For example, the payment of a public employee’s salary confers a personal benefit on the employee, but it is an appropriate expenditure of public funds because it is procuring the services of the employee for public purposes.

The misuse of public funds occurs when the personal benefit conferred by a public expenditure is not merely incidental. The term “public funds” is not limited to money, but includes anything of value belonging to a public agency such as equipment, supplies, compensated staff time, and use of telephones, computers, and fax machines and other equipment and resources.

Examples of Misuse of Public Funds
1.In People v. Dillon, a city commissioner used official government discounts to purchase items for himself and others. This was a misuse of public funds, even though those receiving the discount paid for the items with personal funds.
2.In People v. Sperl, a county marshal furnished a deputy marshal and a county vehicle to transport a political candidate, his staff and family.
3.In People v. Battin, a county supervisor used his county compensated staff to work on his political campaign for Lieutenant Governor.
4.In People v. Harby, a city official used a city car, entrusted to him for use in connection with official business, to take a pleasure trip from Los Angeles to Great Falls, Montana and back.

Violations of the laws prohibiting misuse of public funds may subject the violator to criminal and civil sanctions.

These penalties may include imprisonment for up to four years and a bar from holding office.” (See California Attorney General’s website, Misuse of Public Funds)

If Filner’s alleged improper credit card expenses were for personal use, he may face felony charges and, if found guilty, it will likely be the end of Filner’s political career.

Simply my opinion, what say you?

Read Huffington Post story on Filner’s questionable expenses.
Could Filner get arrested for assault & battery? Read my post Filner arrest or deal?.
Legal Analyst Michele Hagan on Los Angeles KVI talk station.


Will Bob Filner Get Arrested or Get A Deal

Update: 8/21/2013 Filner “mediation” with City Attorney and Gloria Allred continues. Settlement likely Filner wants a deal and Allred wants his resignation. The San Diego taxpayer is left with the bill for costly sex harass claims. Deal maker Filner gets $100K investigation dropped and he walks with his pension. Meanwhile, daily, thousands of San Diegans continue to sign Filner recall petition. How about a new law? If you commit a crime in office, you pay for it. Simply my opinion.

Update: 8/17/2013 16 women have now come forward claiming mistreatment by Mayor Filner. As alleged by victims, Filner’s mistreatment includes forcibly kissing, putting his tongue down a throat, grabbing, and placing an arm hold around a neck. Assault & battery, anyone?

Mayor Bob Filner has been locked out of the San Diego Mayor’s Office. The locks have been changed and he faces sexual harassment allegations by 13 women.

What next? A restraining order? Will Mayor Filner be arrested for assault and battery? false imprisonment? witness intimidation? Will Filner be offered a “deal” to resign? News at 11.

I kid you not.

As one who has handled sexual harassment cases and served as a San Diego prosecutor, criminal prosecution can be a real possibility for Mayor Filner.

Just like any other defendant, if he touched or grabbed any one of the “Filner 13”, the 13 alleged victims who have come forward alleging sexual harassment by San Diego’s Mayor, or, if he held any one of them against their will or threatened any of them, he could be arrested and criminally prosecuted, in addition to potentially facing numerous civil lawsuits for sexual harassment.

It’s possible.

Certainly, criminal prosecution, if warranted, may be cheaper for the San Diego taxpayer than an expensive and difficult voter recall. And, maybe, upon arrest, he will finally choose to resign. Don’t hold your breath. If Filner is a sexual harasser, his behavior is all about power and control which means he will resign on his terms in spite of numerous notable calls for his resignation.

So, why is Filner not resigning? My guess, power and control. He is holding the mayor’s office hostage until his terms are met. Likely, Filner may want the San Diego taxpayer to help him with his legal costs defending the harassment suits, a guaranteed pension, termination of the investigation into the alleged improper $100,000 payment and whatever else he can negotiate. Don’t forget Filner has spent a lifetime making deals and living on the public doll as a professional politician. Why not have the taxpayer continue to pay his bills, he may think. After all, his apparent defense is to blame his alleged misconduct on the City of San Diego (the taxpayer) for not providing him with sexual harassment training to “justify” his alleged misconduct and explain why the San Diego taxpayer should foot the bill for the lawsuits.

Filner is entitled to due process and his day in court or courts. Let him explain his “problem” with women and prove the Filner 13 are not credible. I say no deals to Filner. Let the jury assess his accountability. If Filner feels wronged, let him sue the San Diego taxpayer and convince a San Diego jury that he has been wronged, like any other plaintiff. It will likely be cheaper and less risky than facing Gloria Allred who is known for getting multi-million dollar outcomes.

Simply my opinion, what say you?

Legal Analyst Michele Hagan on KFI Los Angeles Talk Radio.

Could Filner go to jail for personal use of taxpayer’s credit card (misuse of public funds)? Read my post.


Prop 8 Supreme Court Arguments: Standing Matters

If the swing voter, Justice Anthony Kennedy, is questioning standing–whether the Prop 8 case is properly before the US Supreme Court, both sides may want to be concerned.

The standing issue may well let the Supreme Court punt and not decide on the controversial same sex right to marry. The Justices won’t need to consider whether the 14th Amendments due process and equal protection rights apply nor whether marriage should be between a man and a woman. If they punt, then, the California Courts decision to overrule the ban on same sex marriage stands. It’s one way for the Supreme Court could dodge the controversy but it also a legitimate legal avenue for them to take.

Proponents of a ballot initiative have never been granted standing before the Supreme Court, a point made by Justice Ginsburg. The law requires a party to have standing to bring a lawsuit–to show harm or interest in the outcome. Problem is, Prop 8 proponents may not have standing because their “proprietary interest”, as expressed by Justice Ginsburg, is no different than the voters and appears to end when the ballot measure is passed. Lawsuits brought on behalf of a third party or to redress a grievance suffered by all taxpayers (voters) lack standing and their cases are dismissed. In short, Prop 8 proponents may have no right to stand before the Court and ask for legal redress. Case dismissed.(Future ballot proponents take note.)

Or, the Supreme Court could narrowly rule by upholding the California Court’s refusal to ban same sex marriage. The ruling would only apply to California and leave the question up to the other individual states and voters to decide.

Or, the Supreme Court could again decide that marriage is a fundamental right and now extend that right to everyone regardless of gender. Thus, prohibiting states from banning same sex marriages. A historic civil rights decision.

Should all people be treated equally or do we want a two-tiered system? When the rights of a minority are being dictated by a majority, sooner or later, the US Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, will weigh in just as they did with interracial marriages and the civil rights laws. And, if the Supreme Court punts, we can expect the voters and legislatures will weigh in.

Let’s hope the Supreme Court does not make a political decision and makes a just decision based on the law and evidence before them.

Simply my opinion, what say you?

Here is a recording of an interview I gave this morning regarding Prop 8 and DOMA.


Oscar Pistorius Intruder Defense Is Nonsense

(Update 8/18/2013: Pistorius to be formally charged tomorrow with premeditated murder of Steenkamp. Not guilty plea expected with trial to begin in March 2014. No doubt, it will be a battle of the forensic experts.)

Oscar Pistorius killed Reeva Steenkamp out of fear. Fear of losing her, the same reason domestic violence victims are killed by their partners. The only intruder that evening was Oscar’s emotions. Call it jealous rage, heat of passion, fear of rejection, fear of abandonment or unresolved grief from the loss of another woman he deeply loved, his mother, the result is the same, a 29-year-old woman is dead. Shot 4 times by her boyfriend, Oscar.

Anyone who knows anything about domestic violence or has suffered as a victim of domestic violence knows what happened to Reeva in the early morning hours of Valentine’s Day and knows why Reeva took her cellphone into the toilet and locked the toilet door at 3 am. Doors are locked for protection.

Yet, defenses can be crafted to play or capitalize on people’s fear. After all, any salesperson knows emotions are how you sway outcomes. Ask OJ Simpson, a high-profile athlete who walked, when he played on people’s fear of racism, police corruption, and distrust of the police to distract from a classic DV killing. So far, Oscar’s intruder defense is working. As reported, it clearly “resonates” with the public. It is meant to and it is meant to sway the ultimate decider, the trial judge. Who doesn’t have a fear of an intruder? Yet, is that really what happened here? Certainly, it allows people to look away from the ugly truth of domestic violence. But, unlike the OJ Simpson case, domestic violence is front and center. We know Oscar killed Reeva, he admitted it. The question is “why” not “who”. Now, we have to look even deeper as to the “WHY” did he kill and that puts domestic violence on trial.

The intruder defense is nonsense. Oscar claims he has a fear of intruders yet he leaves the bedroom balcony sliding doors open as they slept. There were no burglar bars on the bathroom window. The bathroom window was left open. Ladders were left outside of the house. Does that sound like someone who has a fear of intruders? Simply, not credible. But, maybe you want to “resonate” with an intruder fear because it is easier than looking at the ugliness of domestic violence. Or, maybe you’d rather focus on whether the police wore shoe covers and ignore that Oscar shot at someone behind a locked door, a situation lacking danger and provocation, amounting to an unjustified killing.

Oscar’s version is simply not plausible. Are we to believe that Oscar would not protect the “love of his life” when faced with a possible intruder? Would you leave “the love of your life” in bed without alerting them, ensuring their safety or even checking on their whereabouts before you go to check for an intruder? I find it interesting that the talking heads on TV explain it away by saying, “you never know what you would do in that situation” Hogwash. Ask anyone. We instinctively protect the ones we love.

Having prosecuted domestic violence cases, I get it. People don’t want to look at problem of domestic violence, they’d rather blame it on a victim’s clothing or an intruder. And, they certainly don’t want to see it in someone they have idolized for years like a national hero or a celebrity. Who wants to admit their hero is a killer? Or, that they were deceived? Or, if he could kill in rage, could I?

Given the public outrage over the recent brutal gang rape of a 17-year-old South African woman, the growing epidemic of violence against women and the fact that a woman in South Africa is raped every 3 minutes, an “accidental” killing would surely avoid more public outrage, unrest and a quick conviction. Maybe, Oscar believes he accidentally killed Reeva, but, who would believe that Reeva didn’t cry out after the first shot?

Maybe, it wasn’t a coincidence that Reeva had begun to speak out about violence against women. Just as she began to shine the light on domestic violence, her death will hopefully bring awareness, change and healing.

And, maybe, Oscar can turn his pain into helping others heal their emotional wounds before they act out in violence.

Rest in peace, Ms. Steenkamp.

Simply my opinion, what say you?

Read my other post: Oscar Pistorius What Doesn’t Make Sense