Los Angles County Primary Election Judicial Voter Guide

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LOS ANGELES COUNTY PRIMARY ELECTION JUDICIAL VOTER GUIDE
June 5, 2012 Election

NORML Women's Alliance, Women Working to Change Marijuana Laws

A Project of the NORML Women’s Alliance Los Angeles County (National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws)

We at the NORML Women’s Alliance LA County believe that judges are one of the most important elected positions in our system of government as judges, more than any other office, have a direct impact on the constituents they serve. Yet voters are often least informed about the candidates who they will elect to this important position. We want to change that.

Issues related to cannabis as well as the overall criminal justice system are of great concern to our membership as we see every day the effect a misinformed, or worse, biased judge can have. In addition to doing research on each of the cadidates from the perspective of cannabis and prison reform activists, we polled our members and came up with a list of 10 questions to ask judicial candidates. Some answered our inquiries right away (thank you very much to them). Others have pledged to do so, although we still await their answers. Others never bothered to answer our requests for more information. Still other candidates provided no way for the public to contact them at all and little or no information with which to evaluate them (big time shame on those candidates).

There are 58 Superior Courts in California. There are 400 Judges in Los Angeles County. There are 18 on the ballot in the California Primary Election on Tuesday, June 5, profiled below. An * next to their name indicates they have filled out our 10 question judicial candidate survey.

OFFICE 3 CANDIDATES
Sean D. Coen
Joe Escalante*
Craig Gold*
Laurence N. Kaldor

OFFICE 10 CANDIDATES
Sanjay T. Kumar
Kim Smith

OFFICE 38 CANDIDATES
Lynn D. Olson
Douglas W. Weitzman*

OFFICE 43 CANDIDATES
Malcolm H. Mackey
Robert M. Ross

OFFICE 65 CANDIDATES
Shannon Knight
Matt Schonbrun
Andrea C. Thompson

OFFICE 78 CANDIDATES
Kenneth R. Hughey
James D. Otto

OFFICE 114 CANDIDATES
Ben M. Brees*
Eric Harmon
Berj Parseghian

OFFICE 3 CANDIDATES

Sean D. Coen

Non-incumbent
No Stated  Party Affiliation
Additional Voter Information

Major Endorsements — The Los Angeles Times, Michael D. Antonovich (Los Angeles County Supervisor),
Steve Cooley (Los Angeles County District Attorney), Carmen A. Trutanich (Los Angeles City Attorney), Leroy D. Baca (Los Angeles County Sheriff), Doug Haubert (Long Beach City Prosecutor), Los Angeles County Police Chiefs’ Association, The Association For Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, Los Angeles Police Protective League, Los Angeles County Professional Peace Officers Association, Pomona Police Officers’ Association, Latino Prosecutors Association
Full List of Endorsements

Summary: Sean Coen was born and raised in Southern California. After graduating from Burbank High School, Coen graduated from the University of Oregon with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, then pursued a law degree at the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, where he graduated in the top third of his class. Coen always wanted to be a Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County. In 1999, he volunteered for the office as a law clerk and was then hired as a Senior Law Clerk in January of 2000. Just five months later, Sean Coen was hired as a Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County in April 2000. Over the course of his career, Coen has tried 116 jury trials, 101 of which have been felonies. Coen’s father was a also Deputy District Attorney in LA. and his wife of nine years is also an LA Deputy DA.

He is currently a prosecutor in the Hardcore Gang Division. In that capacity, he was initially assigned to a grant-funded position through the Office of the United States Attorney entitled Anti-Gang Initiative. Via this initiative, Coen was entrusted to prosecute difficult murder and attempted murder cases which arose in the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles Police Department’s 77th Division. Sean Coen is now assigned to the Pomona Hardcore Gang Division where he also prosecutes complex murder and attempted murder cases committed by gang members. Aside from his experience prosecuting gang homicide cases, Sean Coen has a wealth of experience prosecuting other serious and violent felonies such as Rape, Robbery, Kidnapping, Child Molestation, and Torture.

Things We Find Promising: Coen has yet to respond to our request for his views on our issues so we have limited information with which to evaluate him. He does have a lot of experiences, albeit from the prosecutorial side. Coen has tried 116 jury trials, 101 of which have been felonies. For all the accolades of successful prosecutions on his website, there is no specific mention of drug cases.

Things That Gives Us Pause: Coen has yet to respond to our request for his views on our issues so we have limited information with which to evaluate him. That said, his endorsement list giver us SERIOUS pause. Beside the unholy three of anti medical marijuana crusaders (LA Attorney General Steve Cooley, City Attorney Carmen Trutanich and Sheriff Lee Baca), Coen’s endorsement list is a who’s who of professional law enforcement and prosecutor groups. Since we don’t see LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) among that group, we have to assume that’s not good news for the pro cannabis cause. Coen comes at the law only from the side of the prosecution. His father was a prosecutor, his wife is a prosecutor, he began his career with the goal of becoming a prosecutor and he succeeded.

As of this writing Sean Coen has not responded to our request for more information or answered any of our questions.

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Joe Escalante

Non-incumbent
No Stated Party Affiliation

Additional Voter Information

Major Endorsements: Escalante does not believe in endorsements

Summary: Civil attorney Escalante has logged in hundreds of hours as a Volunteer Temporary Judge hearing small claims, traffic, unlawful detainer, and limited civil/ criminal matters, often in under-served areas such as Downey, Compton, Huntington Park, Whittier, East L.A., Bellflower, Inglewood, San Pedero, and Metro LA. Escalante’s legal specialties include intellectual property, broadcasting issues, and antitrust litigation. He is published in these fields and has appeared at Harvard Law School and other institutions as a panelist, guest lecturer, and keynote speaker. Escalante is a consultant with Legalzoom.com document company with whom he partners to provide ordinary citizens with free legal advice.

Escalante has had en extensive career in front of the public starting as the bassist for the punk rock band The Vandals, the host of the popular radio show Barely Legal, and as a frequent legal analyst for the Fox News Channel and KFI / KABC / KTLK / Indie 1031 Radio, as well as PBS, NPR, Ricochet.com, and the Huffington Post.

A dedicated catholic, Escalante spends much of his time as a catechism teacher, weekly volunteer food program staffer, and administrator of his church’s unofficial pro bono legal program.

Things We Find Promising: Escalante was the first judicial candidate to respond to our request for additional information. We like Escalante’s generally libertarian leanings. While Escalante’s lack of criminal legal experience might give some pause, we feel our movement hasn’t always done well with judge’s who come from a prosecutorial or criminal background, so we are open to trying something new. The fact the Shepard Fairey did his campaign poster gives him a certain amount of street cred and that never hurts.  We liked most of his answers to our questionnaire.

Things That Gives Us Pause: While we liked most of Escalante’s  answers to our questionnaire, we are still confused about where he stands on the prison overcrowding issue.  Also a judge who is eager for plea bargains because they free up the courts gives us some pause as we know defendants are often bullied into taking pleas.  We think defendants should be encouraged to fight for their rights if they have done nothing wrong, and the that the system needs fixing.  If every legal cannabis defendant fought their cases rather than accepting pleas the system would be over crowded.   Perhaps that is what it will take to make law enforcement stop arresting and prosecuting these cases in the first place.

NORML Women’s Alliance LA Judicial Candidate Questionnaire

In addition to answering our questions (see below), Joe Escalante had this to say:

“Without committing myself with respect to cases, controversies, or issues that could come before the courts,  (pursuant to applicable Judicial Canon ) I give the following answers.”

1. Do you believe that ALL sales of marijuana are illegal under California law?

Joe Escalante: No.

2. Do you believe that medical marijuana collective and cooperative members may be reasonably reimbursed for their time and costs?

Joe Escalante: I don’t know about this controversy.

3. Would you deny medical marijuana patients or providers an affirmative (medical) defense?

Joe Escalante: That seems ludicrous to me. Someone would have to force me to deny that as an affirmative defense in a pot possession case. However,  my job in superior court will be to apply the law as interpreted by the higher courts. I am not making constitutional interpretations in general.

4. Concerning California’s 3 strikes law, are you comfortable striking “strikes” pursuant to Romero motions?

Joe Escalante:  No problem with this in appropriate circumstances.

Follow Up: If so under what circumstances?

Joe Escalante:  When public safety would not be an issue.   If the recent violation is stupid,  like a marijuana possession, fine, but what if the recent violation is an aggravated assault? That’s a different story. Factors are prior record, employment, age, going to school, etc.

Follow Up: Do you have any preference for pre-3 Strikes Law convictions and/or those convictions pursuant to pleas rather than jury trials?

Joe Escalante:  Pleas are great and don’t tax system.

5. In order to comply with the US Supreme Court mandate that California reduce its prison population, with respect to non-violent offenders, do you advocate:

A. Building more prisons

B. Transporting prisoners out of state

C. Sending them home on house arrest
OR

D. Other (please explain).

Joe Escalante: I don’t advocate any of these things. I advocate privatization of the problem on a trial basis with expansion based on the merits of the outcome.

6. At best, California medical marijuana laws are murky, confusing, and often contradictory. Then Attorney General Jerry Brown wrote a set of guidelines to help clarify the law’s intention. Would you give the AG guidelines “great weight” in your courtroom?

Joe Escalante: I would certainly read it thoroughly. I wish I had time to right now, but I don’t. Sorry.

7. With the advent of mandatory minimum sentences, and enhanced sentencing in general, what are your thoughts regarding the transfer of judicial discretion from judges to prosecutors?

Joe Escalante: Prosecutors have always had huge amounts of discretion due to discretion to file. I see no compelling reason to tear this system down at this time.

8. Do you think it is appropriate for the court to inform prosecutors of over-charged complaints?

Joe Escalante: Yes. If it’s truly over charged.

9. Do you think it is appropriate for the court to make offers directly to defendants?

Joe Escalante: No.

10. Would you be open to requiring the prosecution to make a pre-trial plea offer on the record and to hold them to that recommendation even if the defendant chooses to exercise his constitutional right to a trial?

Joe Escalante: This sounds fair, but my fear is that it would result in no cases getting settled with pleas. Pleas are necessary especially with the current budget situation. Trials are taxing to the system. Someone is going to get screwed by reduced access to justice if pleas are discouraged in this way.

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Craig Gold

Non-incumbent
No Stated Party Affiliation
Additional Voter Information

Major EndorsementsSteve Cooley, Los Angeles County District Attorney, Joyce E. Dudley, Santa Barbara County District Attorney, Lee Baca, Los Angeles County Sheriff

Summary: For the past 22 years, Craig M. Gold has served as a Deputy District Attorney for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. Gold’s career within the office spans both Civil and Criminal matters. For the last 10 years Gold has diligently served the Asset Forfeiture Unit in downtown Los Angeles where he successfully managed the prosecution of cases involving seizures of cash, vehicles, and other forms of property by law enforcement related to the arrests of drug trafficking felons. Gold travels throughout the State of California on behalf of the District Attorney’s Criminal Justice Institute to conduct training for law enforcement officers and prosecutors on the statutory, legal administrative and ethical aspects of civil asset forfeiture law and money laundering. Craig received his B.S. in Industrial Relations from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations in Ithaca, New York, in 1977 then worked as a labor union negotiator, corporate negotiator, and in health care management. He then went on to earn his J.D. in Law, in the evenings while working days, from Golden Gate University’s School of Law in San Francisco, California, in 1985. Craig is involved in civic and charitable activities including organizing the Los Angeles Cornell Club’s Panel Discussion on Developing Alternative Energy Public Policies During These Challenging Economic Times, in June 2011.

Things We Find Promising: We liked almost all the answers candidate Gold gave to our questionnaire, especially the fact that he does believe medical marijuana providers are entitled to reasonable compensation, and his stands on California’s s three strikes laws.

Things That Give Us Pause: Gold is endorsed by LA County District Attorney Steve Cooley and by Sheriff Lee Baca, both rabid anti-cannabis zealots. His answer to question 5 also gives us pause, especially since the prison guard lobby is the largest in California. No matter how you look at it, we can’t see how California needs even more prisons or that we need to be shipping prisoners out of state.

NORML Women’s Alliance LA Judicial Candidate Questionnaire

1. Do you believe that ALL sales of marijuana are illegal under California law?

Craig Gold: No, not all sales, under California statutory and case law individuals with medical prescriptions are legally permitted to purchase marijuana.

2. Do you believe that medical marijuana collective and cooperative members may be reasonably reimbursed for their time and costs?

Craig Gold: Yes

3. Would you deny medical marijuana patients or providers an affirmative (medical) defense?

Craig Gold: No

4. Concerning California’s 3 strikes law, are you comfortable striking “strikes” pursuant to Romero motions?

Craig Gold: Yes in the interest of justice. This is done regularly as a matter of policy in the LA County District Attorney’s office when the underlying charge is a non-violent or non-serious felony.

Follow Up: If so under what circumstances?

Craig Gold: When the underlying charge is a non-violent or non-serious felony and the defendant does not appear to be a career criminal.

Follow Up: Do you have any preference for pre-3 Strikes Law convictions and/or those convictions pursuant to pleas rather than jury trials?

Craig Gold: Generally there is likelihood that a defendant will receive a more lenient plea bargain sentence than if he is to go to trial.

5. In order to comply with the US Supreme Court mandate that California reduce its prison population, with respect to non-violent offenders, do you advocate:

A. Building more prisons – Craig Gold: As needed

B. Transporting prisoners out of state – Craig Gold: As needed

C. Sending them home on house arrest – Craig Gold: Dependent on circumstance and nature of the case.
OR

D. Other (please explain)

6. At best, California medical marijuana laws are murky, confusing, and often contradictory. Then Attorney General Jerry Brown wrote a set of guidelines to help clarify the law’s intention. Would you give the AG guidelines “great weight” in your courtroom?

Craig Gold: Yes

7. With the advent of mandatory minimum sentences, and enhanced sentencing in general, what are your thoughts regarding the transfer of judicial discretion from judges to prosecutors?

Craig Gold: Judges should exercise the appropriate legal discretion on all sentencing matters.

8. Do you think it is appropriate for the court to inform prosecutors of over-charged complaints?

Craig Gold: Yes

9. Do you think it is appropriate for the court to make offers directly to defendants?

Craig Gold: Under state law courts can take open pleas to the charges and with stipulation between the parties the court can make an offer.

10. Would you be open to requiring the prosecution to make a pre-trial plea offer on the record and to hold them to that recommendation even if the defendant chooses to exercise his constitutional right to a trial?

Craig Gold: Not necessarily it depends on the underlying facts on the charges and whether defendant is convicted.

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Laurence N. Kaldor

Non-incumbent
No Stated Party Affiliation
Additional Voter Information

Major Endorsements — C.O.P.E.: Los Angeles County Federation of Labor Issues, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (Locals 33 and 80), Laborers International (Local 300)
Full List of Endorsements

Summary: At age 16, Kaldor miraculously survived an airplane crash. He lost his left leg, his right eye and his father, but not his will to live. Stamina and determination helped him endure more than one hundred surgeries and years of rehabilitation. According to his website, Laurence has since lived his life with a commitment to helping others.

He studied law at Golden Gate University in San Francisco where he received his Doctorate of Jurisprudence. He successfully passed the California and New York State Bar examinations and is a member of these State Bars in good standing. During his last year of law school, Kaldor participated in a Student District Attorney training program in Juvenile Court. Under the mentorship of the Assistant District Attorney, Kaldor actually prosecuted dozens of cases. In 2002 he began his volunteer service for the Harriet Buhai Center for Family Law. Harriet Buhai gave Kaldor the opportunity to help victims of domestic violence and work with people experiencing financial hardships and/or physical handicaps, all of whom he felt deserved fair and unbiased representation. He has done substantial Pro Bono and Pro Tem work in Los Angeles County. He has been a volunteer Judge Pro Tempore in Los Angeles County since 2009.

Things We Find Promising: Kaldor has yet to respond to our request for his views on our issues so we have limited information with which to evaluate him. That said we do like that he has experience on both sides of the legal equation, prosecution and defense. He also does substantial pro bono work, especially for victims of domestic violence and people with physical and financial hardships.

Things That Gives Us Pause: Kaldor has yet to respond to our request for his views on our issues so we have limited information with which to evaluate him. From reading his website, nothing overly concerns us, but we really don’t know enough yet about his views on our issues to make a sound judgement.

As of this writing Laurence Kaldor has not responded to our request for more information or answered any of our questions.

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OFFICE 10 CANDIDATES

Sanjay T. Kumar

Incumbent
No Stated Party Affiliation
Additional Voter Information

Major Endorsements — California Narcotics Officers Association, Steve Cooley (Los Angeles County District Attorney), Carmen A. Trutanich (Los Angeles City Attorney), Leroy D. Baca (Los Angeles County Sheriff), Michael D. Antonovich (Los Angeles County Supervisor), Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, Los Angeles Police Protective League, Los Angeles Times
Full List of Endorsements

Summary:
Sanjay T. Kumar is currently a judge for the Superior Court of Los Angeles County in California. Judge Kumar is the son of English and East Indian immigrants. He was raised in Chicago where he attended public elementary and high schools. He received a BBA from Loyola University of Chicago and a JD from Pepperdine University. Kumar is a former criminal prosecutor who argued IN FAVOR OF THE THREE STRIKES LAW and in support of the death penalty before the Supreme Court. He has served on the Los Angeles Superior Court since 2005. Judge Kumar has presided over all types of criminal cases, including murder prosecutions, and has resolved cases dealing with areas such as tax law, election law, and arbitration. Kumar’s career began in 1990 as a prosecutor with the California Attorney General’s Office. While there, he handled high profile felony appeals including those in the Erik and Lyle Menendez murder case, the Charles Keating, Jr. (“junk bond guru”) securities fraud appeal, and several death penalty cases. Judge Kumar argued five cases in the California Supreme Court.

When the Three Strikes law was enacted, Judge Kumar was tapped to be the Three Strikes Coordinator for the Los Angeles branch of the office. In that capacity, over 100 lawyers in the office were required to submit their briefs and court filings to him for review if any of the issues addressed in those documents concerned the application or interpretation of the Three Strikes law. After the major issues concerning the Three Strikes law were resolved by the courts, Judge Kumar was selected to establish and supervise a team of fifteen lawyers to litigate habeas corpus cases in federal court.

In 2001, Judge Kumar was elected by the judges of the Los Angeles Superior Court to the position of superior court commissioner. Nearly 200 attorneys applied for the position. On April 15, 2005, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed him as a superior court judge. As a judge and a justice pro tem he has not only presided over numerous murder trials but he has also penned appellate opinions concerning general criminal and civil law as well as arbitration, tax law and election law.

Things We Find Promising: Kumar has declined to answer our questionnaire so we have limited information with which to evaluate him. He does have a lot of experience and the speed at which his career has advanced speaks to his dedication and efficiency.

Things That Gives Us Pause: Kumar declined to answer our questionnaire so we have limited information with which to evaluate him. However, in the statement he did give us he rather flippantly dismisses most marijuana statutes as being misdemeanors.  We find that curious as we go to court to support a lot of felony cannabis cases.  This is simply not an accurate picture of what is going on with marijuana, and even allegedly legal medical marijuana, in California.  Also, Kumar’s endorsement list is a nightmare for marijuana users, starting with the California Narcotics Officers Association, the organization that sponsors law enforcement seminars entitled “The Eradication of Medical Marijuana.” This endorsement alone is enough to make us write off Kumar, add to it the fact that he’s also endorsed by anti-medical marijuana crusaders Steve Cooley (LA District Attorney), Carmen Trutanich (LA City Attorney), and Lee Baca (LA County Sheriff) and we find it hard to take Kumar seriously.

Sanjay Kumar has declined our request to answer our questionnaire.  Here’s what he did have to say:

As a sitting judge I am ethically precluded from discussing issues that may be presented before me in my courtroom.  These issues include the legality/propriety of the current marijuana, medical marijuana and narcotics laws.

Most marijuana statutes define misdemeanor conduct.  It is true that before I became a judge I was a prosecutor.  However, I did not prosecute misdemeanor conduct.  Rather, my prosecutions targeted felons such as murderers and rapists.  My opponent, a man named Kim Smith, is currently a city prosecutor in Hawthorne.   In that capacity, he prosecutes only misdemeanors such as drunk driving offenses and marijuana offenses. 

I have never met Mr Smith.  He has never appeared in my courtroom.  It has been reported by many media organizations that Mr. Smith chose to run a campaign against me because I have a foreign-sounding name and he believes that people will vote for him based on the fact that he does not have a foreign-sounding name. 

The Los Angeles County bar association has rated me “exceptionally well qualified” to be a judge and given Mr. Smith their lowest rating of “not qualified.”   Please visit my website.

Thank you for your inquiry.  I am sorry I cannot be specific on my views of the marijuana laws but I hope, nonetheless, you and your friends will vote for me because I am far more qualified to be a judge than Mr. Smith.

All my best,

Judge Sanjay Kumar

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Kim Smith

Non-incumbent
No Stated Party Affiliation
Additional Voter Information

Major Endorsements — Steve Cooley (Los Angeles County District Attorney), Mike Web (Redondo Beach City Attorney)
Full List of Endorsements:
Not Available

Summary: Smith, a Deputy District Attorney, is a criminal prosecutor in the city of Hawthorne. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Occidental College, a masters in public administration from USC and a JD from Southwestern Universaity School of Law. A decorated war veteran, Smith is a former Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Marine Corps and a former Sergeant with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. He has over 10 years prosecutorial experience including 120 criminal jury trials.

Things We Find Promising:
Aside from the fact that Smith has a lot of legal experience, we can’t answer this yet as not only did Smith ignore our requests for more information, he does not have a campaign website and has only provided limited information to the public.

Things That Gives Us Pause:
Smith has yet to respond to our request for his views on our issues so we have limited information with which to evaluate him. Not only that, he doesn’t has a campaign website and the information he provided to the public via Smart Voter is limited at best. However, even with the limited information we have, a former sheriff endorsed by LA County District Attorney Steve Cooley, a well known arch-enemy of medical cannabis, gives us serious pause.  But at least he’s not endorsed by the California Narcotics Officer’s Association, unlike his opponent.

As of this writing Kim Smith has not responded to our request for more information or answered any of our questions.

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OFFICE 38 CANDIDATES

Lynn D. Olson

Incumbent
No Stated Party Affiliation
Additional Voter Information — Not Available
Major Endorsements — Not Available

Summary: Other than a few old news stories that are not all that complimentary, there is little to no information available on Olson and no way for the public to contact her which we find strange from someone running for public office. Perhaps she is a little too comfortable in her current position?

Things We Find Promising: There is little to no information available on Olson and no way for the public to contact her, so we can’t comment.

Things That Gives Us Pause: There is little to no information available on Olson and no way for the public to contact her, which in and of itself we find troubling.

There is little to no information available on Olson and no way for the public to contact her, so she was not sent our questionnaire.

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Douglas W. Weitzman

Non-incumbent
No Stated Party Affiliation
Additional Voter Information
Major Endorsements:
West LA/Westchester Democratic Club, Ray Cordova, chair of the South Section AFL-CIO
Full List of Endorsements: Not Available

Summary: A 5th generation Californian, Weitzman is a consumer rights attorney. He holds degrees from USC, Cal State Berkeley, and Southwestern University School of Law. He became an attorney in 1980, passing the bar on his first attempt. He has 14 years experience as volunteer temporary judge and has presided over 75,000 cases.

Things We Find Promising: Weitzman was one of the first to answer our questionnaire. We liked some of his answers, especially the fact that he would not deny medical marijuana defendants an affirmative defense and that he does not consider ALL sales illegal under state law. We also liked his stance on 3 strikes and prison over crowding for the most part. And while we may not totally agree with all of answers, we can at least respect where some of his views are coming from, as in the Venice Beach reference in question #6 and a judge remaining neutral (questions 9 and 10).

Things That Give Us Pause: Unfortunately a lot of the answers this candidate gave us give us pause, starting with the somewhat contradictory answers on questions #1 and #2. All sales are not illegal (good), but providers cannot be reasonably reimbursed for time and costs (bad). The candidate also shows confusion in that nowhere in the law does it state that collectives and cooperatives must be nonprofit. The nonprofit “rule” comes from former attorney general Jerry Brown’s medical marijuana guidelines. But in question 6 the candidate indicates he would not give weight to these very same guidelines.

NORML Women’s Alliance LA Judicial Candidate Questionnaire

1. Do you believe that ALL sales of marijuana are illegal under California law?

Douglas W. Weitzman: No. California law allows for collectives. They are not to be for profit. Many of these “collectives” are earning massive profits, and that is not why they are allowed. Obviously, there is a conflict with Federal Law, and right now, it seems the pendulum is swinging towards Federal Law. It is the job of the people of this state, if they want to make it clear that Marijuana should be allowed, is to have Federal Law changed to allow what California allows. I still believe in the constitution. The issue is does CA have sovereignty as to this issue.

2. Do you believe that medical marijuana collective and cooperative members may be reasonably reimbursed for their time and costs?

Douglas W. Weitzman: No, a collective is like a community store (cooperative) that makes it’s members chip in time and other things in lieu of pay. That is what a “collective” is. I do not agree, because there would be no control over how much someone may be entitled to.

3. Would you deny medical marijuana patients or providers an affirmative (medical) defense?

Douglas W. Weitzman: California allows it. In state court, I am OK with that.

4. Concerning California’s 3 strikes law, are you comfortable striking “strikes” pursuant to Romero motions?

Douglas W. Weitzman: I am OK with that. Non-violent felonies. No one can get hurt in a prior.

Follow up: Do you have any preference for pre-3 Strikes Law convictions and/or those convictions pursuant to pleas rather than jury trials?

Douglas W. Weitzman: Most cases are settled with please, so either way. I do believe that the judge should have more discretion in sentencing.

5. In order to comply with the US Supreme Court mandate that California reduce its prison population, with respect to non-violent offenders, do you advocate:

A. Building more prisons

B. Transporting prisoners out of state

C. Sending them home on house arrest
OR

D. Other (please explain).

Douglas W. Weitzman: Non-violent prisoners that could benefit from rehabilitative remedies should be sent home. I have a problem with people that become repeat offenders. We have to be able to take responsibility for our actions sometimes.

6. At best, California medical marijuana laws are murky, confusing, and often contradictory. Then Attorney General Jerry Brown wrote a set of guidelines to help clarify the law’s intention. Would you give the AG guidelines “great weight” in your courtroom?

Douglas W. Weitzman: The problem again is the conflict with Federal Law. It is also so easy to get a medical marijuana card. The situation is way out of control. Go to Venice Beach for an example. There are hawkers out there snagging unsuspecting people and signing them up for $30. These are “cappers” that should be put out of business. I believe that there has to be a severe clamp down on who and how you get approved for medical marijuana.

7. With the advent of mandatory minimum sentences, and enhanced sentencing in general, what are your thoughts regarding the transfer of judicial discretion from judges to prosecutors?

Douglas W. Weitzman: I don’t like it.

8. Do you think it is appropriate for the court to inform prosecutors of over-charged complaints?

Douglas W. Weitzman: In private, in chambers. In our system, the prosecutor makes the decision as to what to charge. The judge can throw it out if it isn’t fair, in the judge’s opinion, and the prosecutors must re-file.

9. Do you think it is appropriate for the court to make offers directly to defendants?

Douglas W. Weitzman: No. The judge is a neutral. He can review it based on appropriate motions from either party, or a motion from the bench, after both parties argue the points.

10. Would you be open to requiring the prosecution to make a pre-trial plea offer on the record and to hold them to that recommendation even if the defendant chooses to exercise his constitutional right to a trial?

Douglas W. Weitzman: Sort of like the last answer, it is fair for both sides to either accept or reject an offer, and go based on the evidence. Otherwise the prosecutors may offer less of them.

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OFFICE 43 CANDIDATES

Malcolm H. Mackey

Incumbent
No Stated Party Affiliation
Additional Voter Information Not Available
Major Endorsements — Not Available

Summary: There is little to no information available on Mackey and no way for the public to contact him which we find strange from someone running for public office. Perhaps he is a little too comfortable in his current position?

Things We Find Promising: There is little to no information available on Mackey and no way for the public to contact him, so we can’t comment.

Things That Gives Us Pause: After a lot of digging on our part, the only way we found to contact Mackey was to actually phone his court room, which we did.  After a couple of days Judge Mackey did return our call.  He informed us he had already “won the election” as he was running unopposed (we had not yet realized that his opponent never completed the final election paperwork), so our questions were really moot.  During our brief telephone conversation Mackey did make the statement that he was running unopposed and that was the kind of election he preferred.  We politely stated with all due respect to Judge Mackey that we prefer elections with competition.  No matter, for the time being Mackey runs unopposed, although we did learn something interesting in our research and here it is:

According to our source at the Registrar’s office, after the primary there is still a way to run against an unopposed sitting judge in order to “force the contest on the November ballot.”  So anyone can still challenge an incumbent judge which would force the incumbent (Judge Mackey for instance) to be on the ballot.  Perhaps then he would find it more important to explain his views to the voters.  The filing dates are in the lavote.net handbook.   Anyone out there want to run for judge?

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Robert M. Ross

Summary:   While Ross was originally listed as a candidate, the registrar’s office informed us he didn’t complete the filing process on time to make it on the actual ballot, so the incumbent is now running unopposed (see Mackey, above).

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OFFICE 65 CANDIDATES

Shannon Knight

Non-incumbent
No Stated Party Affiliation
Additional Voter Information

Major Endorsements — Steve Cooley (LA District Attorney), Jim Dear (Mayor of Carson), Tony Mendoza (Assemblyman), Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, Los Angeles County Professional Peace Officers Association, Los Angeles County Democratic Party, Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley
Full List of Endorsements

Summary: Knight earned academic scholarships to both college and law school. Shannon graduated from UCLA with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology in 1994 and earned her Juris Doctor degree from Chicago-Kent College of Law in 1998 and was admitted to the California Bar the same year.

Shannon Knight has been an attorney for 13 years, and a Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney for nearly 12 years. Knight is currently assigned to the Hardcore Gang Division, where for the last five years she has prosecuted some of the most dangerous and violent criminals in Los Angeles County. Shannon’s cases, consisting primarily of gang-related murders and attempted murders, often involve complex legal issues and extremely reluctant witnesses. Knight has tried more than 90 jury trials, including 17 murder trials. She has worked in numerous courthouses throughout the county, handling cases involving crimes such as murder, attempted murder, carjacking, kidnapping, robbery, burglary, domestic violence, child abuse, sex crimes, forgery, identity theft, animal cruelty, and arson.

Prior to being hired as a Deputy District Attorney, Shannon worked at a non-profit, no-kill animal rescue organization. Outside of work, Shannon has been active in dog rescue for the last 15 years. She has demonstrated a commitment to helping animals by volunteering at various rescues and shelters, as well as fostering and providing medical care to orphaned and abandoned dogs in need of permanent homes.

Things We Find Promising: While Knight has indicated she would fill out our questionnaire, we are still waiting on the answers. Stay tuned as we will update whenever we receive additional information. We do like that, while she is a prosecutor, her works seemed centered on violent criminals who truly present a threat to society. The fact that she earned academic scholarships to both college and law school speaks to her intelligence and determination. Also, in our eyes anyone who fosters orphaned and abandoned dogs and volunteers at no-kill animal shelters can’t be all bad.

Things That Gives Us Pause: We are still waiting for Knight’s answers to our questionnaire to make further comments. In the meantime, we never look at an endorsement from LA District Attorney Steve Cooley, a well known enemy to the medical marijuana community, as a good thing. Generally speaking, aside from LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition), law enforcement associations also give us pause and you’ll find several in Knight’s list of endorsers along with a LARGE number of individual law enforcement officers. Then again, she regularly prosecutes gang criminals, so without the answers to our questionnaire, it’s impossible to know how much weight to give these factors.

As of this writing Shannon Knight has not completed our questionnaire, although she has indicated she will do so.

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Matt Schonbrun

Non-incumbent
No Stated Party Affiliation
Additional Voter Information

Major Endorsements — Carmen Trutanich (Los Angeles City Attorney), Betsey Butler (State Assembly Member), Bob Blumenfield (State Assembly Member), Andre Quintero (Mayor of El Monte), Don Newcome (Dodger Legend/Civil Rights leader)
Full List of Endorsements

Summary: Born in Florida, Schonbrun grew up and attended public schools in Los Angeles. He earned his BA from the University of California at Santa Cruz and graduated Cum Laude from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan. A criminal prosecutor, Schonbrun joined the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office in 2002, Schonbrun has prosecuted a wide variety of criminal cases and has led approximately 60 jury trials to verdict. Schonbrun’s criminal prosecution experience of more than 10,000 hours in the courtroom includes cases involving domestic violence, assault with a deadly weapon, battery, criminal threats, sex crimes, identity theft, grand theft, vandalism, drug offenses, DUI, and vehicular manslaughter. An expert in anti-paparazzi cases, Schonbrun is the lead prosecutor for all anti-paparazzi cases stemming from legislation recently enacted at the behest of the L.A. City Attorney’s Office.

Things We Find Promising: Schonbrun has yet to respond to our request for his views on our issues so we have limited information with which to evaluate him. That said we do like that he is endorsed by civil rights leader Don Newcome.

Things That Gives Us Pause: Schonbrun has yet to respond to our request for his views on our issues so we have limited information with which to evaluate him. We don’t like the fact that he is endorsed by LA City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, a well known enemy of medical marijuana, but we really don’t know how much weight to give this without additional information.

As of this writing Matt Schonbrun has not responded to our request for more information or answered any of our questions.

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Andrea C. Thompson

Non-incumbent
No Stated Party Affiliation
Additional Voter Information

Major Endorsements — Steve Cooley (LA County District Attorney), Lee Baca (LA County Sheriff), Senator Tony Strickland, Metropolitan News-Enterprise, Los Angeles Times, Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, Los Angeles County Police Chiefs’ Association, Los Angeles Police Protective League, Professional Peace Officers Association, Crime Victims United of California
Full List of Endorsements

Summary: A native of South Dakota, Thompson came to California in 1981 after graduating Phi Beta Kappa from the University of South Dakota with a triple major in Criminal Justice, Spanish and French. She attended the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, California, where she received her J.D. in 1984. Fluent in both Spanish and French, she worked as a ranger for the National Park Service and as a social worker for the South Dakota Migrant Project before attending law school. Andrea Thompson is married to LAPD Sergeant Greg White.

A Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney for 26 years, Thompson has handled many complex cases of serial rape, kidnapping and child molestation as well as prosecuted crimes involving gangs, guns and homicide in some of Los Angeles County’s highest crime areas. Since 1996, her efforts have focused on prosecuting crimes committed against the most vulnerable victims—children and those who have been physically and sexually abused. She has taken a special interest in prosecuting child molesters and the predators who use the Internet to lure their young victims. She is adept at the technologically complicated prosecutions of Internet-related sex crimes and currently serves as Deputy-in-Charge of Stuart House, a multidisciplinary facility treating children who have been sexually abused. Thompson leads a staff of five attorneys who prosecute the perpetrators of these heinous crimes. She has received a number of awards and for her work, including a commendation from the Director of the FBI. She has volunteered for many years with victim-assistance groups including domestic violence shelters and sexual assault treatment facilities. She also teaches delinquency prevention to at-risk youth in Los Angeles.

Things We Find Promising: Thompson has yet to respond to our request for her views on our issues so we have limited information with which to evaluate her. That said, ss the NORML Women’s Alliance we like Thompson’s work with victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse, and at-risk youth.

Things That Gives Us Pause: Thompson has yet to respond to our request for her views on our issues so we have limited information with which to evaluate her. That said, Thompson’s endorsements read like a laundry list of law enforcement organizations which must always give those in the cannabis movement pause. Adding to the list two of Los Angeles County’s most notorious anti-marijuana crusaders, LA District Attorney Steve Cooley and Sheriff Lee Baca, doesn’t raise her standing any in our eyes.

As of this writing Andrea Thompson has not responded to our request for more information or answered any of our questions.

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OFFICE 78 CANDIDATES

Kenneth R. Hughey

Non-incumbent
No Stated Party Affiliation
Additional Voter Information

Major Endorsements — John McCain, Captain (US Navy, Retired, United States Senator), Steve Kuykendall (Congressman ret.), Pat Furey (Councilman City of Torrance), Alex Vargas, (Councilman City of Hawthorne), Olivia Valentine (Councilwoman City of Hawthorne), Justice Political Action Committee (JusticePAC), Leo Thorsness (Colonel, USAF, Retired, Former POW, Medal Of Honor)
Full List of Endorsements

Summary: Hughey has 40+ years experience in the aerospace business, as a fighter pilot and engineer, and 13 years experience as a Los Angeles Criminal Prosecutor. A veteran and ex-POW, Hughey enlisted in the Air Force at the age of 17, eventually climbing to become a combat fighter pilot achieving the rank of Colonel. His fighter pilot experience includes 564 combat missions in Vietnam.

After his retirement from the United States Air Force, he worked for 15 years as a Senior Engineer and Project Manager at Hughes Aircraft company, where his job was to provide engineering and logistics support for launching government satellites. During his tenure at Hughes, Ken began the study of law and passed the California Bar Exam before he graduated from law school. He then joined the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office as a Criminal Prosecutor. From 1998 until 2011, Ken prosecuted thousands of criminals, including hundreds involving gang activities.

Things We Find Promising: Hughey has yet to respond to our request for her views on our issues so we have limited information with which to evaluate him. We do, of course, respect his service to our country, but we don’t know enough about his views on our issues to comment on his candidacy.

Things That Gives Us Pause: Hughey has yet to respond to our request for her views on our issues so we have limited information with which to evaluate him. That said, we wish his legal experience was more than prosecutorial.

As of this writing Ken Hughey has not responded to our request for more information or answered any of our questions.

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James D. Otto

Incumbent
No Stated Party Affiliation
Additional Voter Information

Major Endorsements — Steve Cooley (LA District Attorney), Lee Baca (LA County Sheriff), Carmen Trutanich (LA City Attorney), Doug Haubert (Long Beach City Prosecutor), Robert Shannon (City Attorney, City of Long Beach), Gray Davis (37th Governor of California), George Deukmejian (35th Governor of California), Alan Lowenthal (State Senator ), James K. Hahn (Former Mayor of Los Angeles)
Full List of Endorsements

Summary: Judge James D. Otto was born in Long Beach and has been a resident of Los Angeles County for over 50 years. Otto graduated summa cum laude from San Diego State University in 1971, and obtained his law degree from Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois in 1974. After law school, Judge Otto returned to Los Angeles to accept an associate position at Cummins, White & Breidenbach. In 1978, he became a partner in the firm that evolved into Cummins & White, LLP where he served as the firm’s managing partner for over 11 years. He had a distinguished career as a trial attorney for 29 years. In 2002 he was inducted as a “Fellow” in the American College of Trial Lawyers, which is by nomination only and is reserved for “those trial lawyers of the highest ethical and moral standards, professionalism and character.”

In 1990 he became the Chair of the Los Angeles County Bar Association (LACBA) Lawyers Errors & Omissions Prevention Committee. He went on to Chair numerous committees and in 1998 was elected to serve as a Member of the Board of Governors, State Bar of California. He chaired many committees while a member of the Board of Governors including the Committee on Regulation and Discipline of Lawyers.

Judge Otto contributes to the community in other volunteer capacities. He served for over a decade on the Board of Directors of the Center for Civic Education, a nonpartisan, nonprofit that became one of the largest providers of civic education in the world. He continues to be a 4-H Youth Organization project leader and the chair of the Civics and Policy Committees of the Los Angeles County 4-H Council. He has also served as the judicial co-coordinator of California State University Long Beach Court intern program and as a moot court judge.

He was appointed as a Judge of the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles on July 23, 2003. During his almost nine years as a judge he has sat exclusively in criminal court assignments doing everything from presiding over gang murder trials to felony and misdemeanor arraignments, retrials, felony preliminary hearings and trials. He has presided over 150 criminal trials as a judge.

Judge Otto has served on the Trial Jurors Committee, the Technology Committee and numerous other court committees. He has been an instructor for the court on criminal jury issues. In 2004 he was appointed by Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court Ronald M. George to serve as a member of the Judicial Council of the California Court Technology Advisory Committee. He was reappointed for another term in 2011 by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. In 2009 and again in 2010 he was elected by the judges in the South District as a Member of the Executive Committee of the Los Angeles Superior Court. In 2010 Judge Otto was appointed by the Presiding Judge of the Los Angeles Superior court to be Assistant Supervising Judge and in 2011-12 to be the Supervising Judge of the South District.

Things We Find Promising: Otto declined to answer our questionnaire so we have limited information with which to evaluate him. That said, he does have a lot of experience and accolades and we do like the fact that he comes from a defense rather than prosecutorial background.

Things That Gives Us Pause: Otto declined to answer our questionnaire so we have limited information with which to evaluate him.   We of course don’t like the fact that he wouldn’t address our concerns and feel he gave us a cop out reply (had we in fact, asked about specific cases, we could understand his reticence, however, that was not the case).  We also firmly disagree with his statement that a judge’s philosophical views are irrelevant.  For proof of this one need look no further than a fellow judge in Otto’s Long Beach Superior courthouse,  Charles D. Sheldon and the case of the People vs. Joseph Byron and Joseph Grumbine.  Judge Sheldon’s blatant anti marijuana bias lead to a fiasco of a trial which was extensively chronicled in the press and whose guilty verdict was nullified by yet another Long Beach Superior judge who called it “a terrible, terrible trial.”  It was in fact this very case that inspired the NORML Women’s Alliance LA County to embark on this very judicial voter education project.  So when Otto says that “As a trial court judge it is irrelevant whether I have a philosophical opinion or I believe certain laws or appellate court decisions to be or not to be in the best interests of society,” that does give us great pause.  In addition, Otto’s endorsement list, starting with LA County’s three biggest anti-marijuana zealots Steve Cooley, Lee Baca and Carmen Trutanich makes us quite concerned. Additional endorsements from Robert Shannon and Doug Haubert, attorney and prosecutor respectively for the city of Long Beach, don’t help Otto’s credibility in our eyes either as this city is notorious for its aggressive and wasteful prosecution of medical marijuana defendants, including the aforementioned defendants Byron and Grumbine.

Judge James Otto declined to answer our questionnaire.  Here’s what he did have to say about it:

“While I, of course, have opinions on many areas of substantive law, I have made it a practice to give litigants the opportunity to persuade me, based on the facts of their case and any developments in the law, that their position is meritorious. That “chance to persuade” is, in my view, a component of due process. Second, I would be subject to recusal were I to express an opinion on disputed legal issues before the case is actually decided by my Court. I have an obligation to minimize the areas in which recusal would be warranted so that I can be a participant, and not a spectator, in the administration of justice.   As a trial level judge I am obligated to and have followed all the laws and appellate decisions that are binding on me, unless they are changed by legislation or over-ruled by a higher court.  As a trial court judge it is irrelevant whether I have a philosophical opinion or I believe certain laws or appellate court decisions to be or not to be in the best interests of society for that is up to the legislature, the people and to some limited extent the appellate courts.  I must respectably decline making a detailed response to your questionnaire as to do so would be contrary to the these principles. You will find detailed information on my qualifications to be re-elected to the Superior Court by going to my web site.  Thank you for your interest in the courts. I am always encouraged when members of the public take a genuine interest in the judicial branch.”

Respectfully yours,
Judge James D. Otto

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OFFICE 114 CANDIDATES

Ben M. Brees

Non-incumbent
No Stated Party Affiliation
Additional Voter Information

Major Endorsements — San Fernando Valley Young Democrats, Mexican American Democratic Club, Gardena Valley Democratic Club, Jim Dear (Mayor City of Carson), Ricardo Lara (Assemblymember), Roger Hernandez (Assemblymember)
Full List of Endorsements

Summary: Ben Brees was born the seventh child of eight children of an immigrant father who dies when he was young. Beginning with the 8th grade, after school, and summers, Brees worked with his siblings to keep the family afloat. His hard work and long struggle paid off: he was soon accepted to the University of Notre Dame. Brees worked evenings, weekends, and summers to put himself through college and he graduated debt- free and without student aid. He worked hard and had an opportunity to travel abroad, learning foreign languages, and ultimately graduated as a teacher with a foreign language credential.

Graduating during a recession with few teaching jobs available, Bree’s immigrant and single parent hard work ethic paid off. He held several jobs, as a substitute teacher, municipal bus driver, probation officer, and pre-trial release officer. To make ends meet, Bree was also twice a small business owner and after working inside and outside sales he decided to attend law school. Working full- time and attending night school, Brees finished in 3 ½ years instead of 4 at the University of La Verne – Van Nuys campus, ranking second in his class and receiving distinction and recognition with various American Jurisprudence awards.

Ben passed the bar on his first attempt and worked in civil litigation for the defense firm, Thomas & Price in Glendale, for about ten years. He then founded Louis and Brees, LLP. He and his partner Bonnie Louis, Esq, operated the firm for about nine years with Brees litigating exclusively on behalf of consumers.

During a successful twenty one year career as a lawyer, Brees volunteered and was appointed arbitrator and mediator for the Los Angeles Superior Court Alternate Dispute Resolution Office. He has also served as a volunteer CRASH settlement officer and has successfully completed required courses in mediation at Strauss Institute at Pepperdine University. he currently works representing hard-working and immigrant families/consumers for the Law Offices of John C. Ye, APLC where he is one of two trial attorneys at the firm.

Things We Find Promising: A perususal of Brees’s bio shows someone with an amazing amount of determination and an iron strong work ethic. We also like that his legal experience comes from the defense rather than prosecutorial side of the aisle.  For the most part, we liked the answers he gave to our questionnaire, as well as the fact that he has used cannabis and is at least informed enough to to realize the “marijuana as a gateway drug” theory holds no merit.

Things That Gives Us Pause:  Not much about Brees’s gives us particular pause, as candidates go, he looks like one our more promising choices.

NORML Women’s Alliance LA Judicial Candidate Questionnaire

In addition to answering our questions (see below), Ben Brees had this to say:

“I would like you and your group to know that I grew up and attended high school and college in the late 60s and early 70s.  Like President Obama, I have tried marijuana, but preferred alcohol.  I have known  people who have used marijuana for recreatinal purposes and who use it for medicinal purposes.  I am not aware of any of those folks going on to being abusers of harder substances. I have strong personal belief that no activities should be participated in excessively.  I am responding with the understanding that my statements are not to be construed  as an indication or promise as to how I might rule on any given issue or legal question.”

1. Do you believe that ALL sales of marijuana are illegal under California law?

Ben Brees: No.

2. Do you believe that medical marijuana collective and cooperative members may be reasonably reimbursed for their time and costs?

Ben Brees: Yes as allowed by law.

3. Would you deny medical marijuana patients or providers an affirmative (medical) defense?

Ben Brees: I can not imagine a circumstance where it would be appropriate to deny such an affirmative defense, but would have to make a decision based on each case/set of facts.

4. Concerning California’s 3 strikes law, are you comfortable striking “strikes” pursuant to Romero motions?

Ben Brees:  Yes.  Each Motion has to be decided on its own merits and to comply with the Romero decision.

5. In order to comply with the US Supreme Court mandate that California reduce its prison population, with respect to non-violent offenders, do you advocate:

A. Building more prisons

B. Transporting prisoners out of state

C. Sending them home on house arrest
OR

D. Other (please explain).

Ben Brees: Wherever practicable – home to house arrest – each individual case should be decided on its merits.  Please keep in mind that the DOC or local Sheriff usually makes those decisions. Some sort of supervision/assistance might greatly improve the chances of not reoffending.  Also help in a transition and an opportunity to forget or put into perspective the prison experience.

6. At best, California medical marijuana laws are murky, confusing, and often contradictory. Then Attorney General Jerry Brown wrote a set of guidelines to help clarify the law’s intention. Would you give the AG guidelines “great weight” in your courtroom?

Ben Brees: The term “great weight” is ambiguous. There are multiple sources a court may consider – one being legislative intent which is very important and the AG opinion would have a lot of weight, another is case precedent from appelate courts, etc.

7. With the advent of mandatory minimum sentences, and enhanced sentencing in general, what are your thoughts regarding the transfer of judicial discretion from judges to prosecutors?

Ben Brees: Whatever discretion that rests with the court should remain with the court.

8. Do you think it is appropriate for the court to inform prosecutors of over-charged complaints?

Ben Brees: Where appropriate a judge may issue a ruling concerning the prosecution’s failure to present sufficient evidence, or a defendant’s failure to put on evidence in support of a defense, etc.  It is not the judge’s position to assit the prosecution or the defense.

9. Do you think it is appropriate for the court to make offers directly to defendants?

Ben Brees: As a rule , I think plea bargaining should take place between the prosecution and the defense attorney/defendant who know the case details/ins and outs much better than the judge might.

10. Would you be open to requiring the prosecution to make a pre-trial plea offer on the record and to hold them to that recommendation even if the defendant chooses to exercise his constitutional right to a trial?

Ben Brees: Not sure.  Taking such a position may result in all plea bargain offers being worse for the defendant if a prosecutor is going to be bound to it later.  Plea bargain is an instrument for both sides to negotiate a sentence/disposition to avoid the risk of a trial  outcome. A policy described in the question could result in offers with harsher consequences, etc than normally.  I do not presently, between the demands of my practice and the demands of a campaign, have the time to research this issue completely.

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Eric Harmon

Non-incumbant
No Stated Party Affiliation
Additional Voter Information

Major Endorsements — Steve Cooley (LA District Attorney), Lee Baca (LA Sheriff), Janice Hahn (Congresswoman), Jeff Prang (Mayor of West Hollywood), Los Angeles Professional Peace Officers Association, Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, Los Angeles County Organization of Police and Sheriffs, Police Protective League, Inglewood Police Officers’ Association, Los Angeles County Chiefs of Police, South Gate Police Officers’ Association, Association of Deputy District Attorneys, Los Angeles County Democratic Party, Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley, Culver City Democratic Club, West Los Angeles Democratic Club, West Hollywood Democratic Club/Beverly Hills, Santa Monica Democratic Club, Latino Prosecutor’s Association, Teamsters Joint Council #42, Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building & Construction Trades Council, United Food and Commercial Workers
Full List of Endorsements

Summary: Educated at UC Berkeley where he graduated magna cum laude and earned his BA in history and political science, Eric Harmon received his JD from the University of Texas School of Law in 1998. After receiving his law degree he clerked for a federal magistrate judge for a year before joining the L.A. County DA’s office in August 1999. For over three years he worked prosecuting hardcore gang offenders, protecting the public from some of the most violent street gang members in L.A. County. For the past two and a half years Eric has specialized in prosecuting major crimes, offenses which are often high-profile, complex and put the prosecution and the DA’s office under intense scrutiny. Eric has prosecuted 60 felony trials and 25 misdemeanor trials, involving offenses which include gang and serial homicides, child murder, domestic violence, rape, kidnapping, identity theft, animal cruelty, home invasion robbery and carjacking.

As a lecturer for the Los Angeles Police Department’s Detective School and for the District Attorney’s office New Hire Training program, and as a legal consultant for television programs, Eric’s courtroom experience is augmented by his work with law enforcement and the media.

Things We Find Promising: Harmon has yet to respond to our request for her views on our issues so we have limited information with which to evaluate him. Judging from his bio he is obviously intelligent and a skilled prosecutor. The endorsement by UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers) is also promising as they are the only union to organize medical marijuana workers and put their union label on medical cannabis products.

Things That Gives Us Pause: Harmon has yet to respond to our request for her views on our issues so we have limited information with which to evaluate him. That said Harmon has WAY TOO MANY law enforcement endorsements for our comfort. He also regularly trains and interacts with the police, which always makes us question just how cozy their relationships are. We also don’t like the fact that he is endorsed by two of LA County’s most notorious enemies of medical marijuana, District Attorney Steve Cooley and Sheriff Lee Baca.

As of this writing Eric Harmon has not responded to our request for more information or answered any of our questions.

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Berj Parseghian

Non-incumbent
No Stated Party Affiliation
Additional Voter Information
Major Endorsements — Lee Baca (LA County Sheriff), Carmen Trutanich (LA City Attorney), Richard Riordan (former LA Mayor), Michael Antonovich (LA County Supervisor), George Deukmejian (former governor of California)
Full List of Endorsements

Summary: Born in Alpena, Michigan, Parsegian graduated with honors from the University of Michigan in 1994. He then followed family members to Los Angeles and worked toward his doctorate in chemistry at Caltech. Having always been interested in the law, Parseghian decided that the analytical skills he developed while studying chemistry would serve him well as an attorney. He left Caltech to pursue a law degree and graduated from UCLA at the top of his class. After passing the California bar, he joined a local law firm where he worked on environmental and lender liability cases. Parseghian boasts over a decade of litigation experience and over 1,000 cases as a volunteer temporary judge.

Parseghian has worked with several firms, specializing in energy and environmental litigation,regulatory and commercial litigation, lender liability and environmental litigation, and complex business and commercial cases, including product liability, antitrust and unfair competition, real estate litigation and creditors’ rights. As a volunteer at the LA County Bar Association’s Domestic Violence Project he provided pro bono one-on-one legal advice to victims of domestic violence

Things We Find Promising: While Parseghian has indicated he would fill out our questionnaire, we are still waiting on the answers. In the meantime, as the NORML Women’s Alliance we especially like the fact that he volunteers time to help the victims of domestic violence. We also like that his experience with the law comes from the point of view of the defense. While we don’t like all his endorsements, at least there are no law enforcement organizations in the mix.

Things That Gives Us Pause: While Parseghian has indicated he would fill out our questionnaire, we are still waiting on the answers. That said, in our book endorsements from medical marijuana adversaries Lee Baca and Carmen Trutanich never go in the plus column. However, without Parseghian’s answers to our questions, it’s impossible to know how much weight to give this factor.

As of this writing Berj Paraseghian has not completed our questionnaire, although he has indicated he will do so.

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