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Pasadena Judge Candidates Take Campaign to the Street

October 30, 1986|LILY ENG | Times Staff Writer

As in a gentlemen's duel, the two candidates seeking a Pasadena Municipal Court judgeship have chosen similar weapons, relying on experience, qualifications and walking ability.

Judson W. Morris and Kevil W. Martin were the top vote-getters in last June's election. None of the five candidates received the more than 50% of the vote needed to win the $74,431-a-year position. Morris received 13,852 votes, or 37.1%, and Martin got 8,125 votes, or 19.92%.

For the runoff election on Nov. 4, both candidates are relying on door-to-door campaigning, each visiting about 100 homes every weekday.

The Pasadena judicial district, which has 120,000 registered voters, covers Pasadena, Sierra Madre, San Marino, South Pasadena and portions of Temple City and Altadena.

The position, which has a six-year term, was vacated by Judge Samuel L. Laidig, who retired early this year after 15 years on the bench.

Both candidates stress that the court system needs less delay and speedier trials.

'Watchdog' Role

Morris, who has been a Los Angeles County deputy district attorney for 10 years, wants to be a "watchdog" against unnecessary continuances which cause delay in trial proceedings.

Victims of crimes should have the same right to a speedy trial as the accused, Morris said.

"Many lawyers are relying on the 'die or move out of state' defense,' " Morris said. "Witnesses to the crime either die or move out of the state before the case comes to court so it's dismissed. Cases should move along."

Martin, who was appointed a Pasadena Municipal Court commissioner in 1981, said the district has provided "good service" by having speedy trials, something he vows to continue.

"I would like to dispense justice in an economical manner where we cut costs by not having drawn-out trials," Martin said.

The four municipal judges and two commissioners handle approximately 2,500 felony cases, 10,000 misdemeanor cases and 6,000 civil cases a year.

Personal Experiences Cited

Both candidates assert that their personal experiences are assets for a judge.

Morris, who has prosecuted hundreds of cases ranging from petty theft to murder, said he is as proud of those cases he has decided not to bring to trial as those he has won.

"For some lawyers, the need to win sometimes outweighs justice," Morris said. "As a prosecutor, I learned that winning is not as important as justice is."

Morris, 43, was the only candidate in the June election to be rated "well qualified" by the Los Angeles County Bar Assn. The other two ratings are "qualified," which was the rating Martin received, and "not qualified." Ratings are based on professional ability, experience, integrity and temperament.

A Pasadena resident, Morris has also been a Los Angeles County deputy sheriff.

No Learning on Job

As a commissioner, Martin, 43, has the full authority of a judge when both parties in a trial agree that he rule on the case.

Often comparing the court system to a football game, Martin said he would be the more experienced "quarterback" while Morris would be a "rookie."

"Jud has never heard a case before," Martin Said. "In a football game, you would give the ball to the more experienced quarterback not to the rookie. Why should the people wait until he learns?"

Martin, a La Canada resident, also has been a sheriff's deputy.

No Comment on Bird

On issues facing the state's court system, Morris refused to comment on the retention of California Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird.

"I think it's unethical to comment on judicial officers," Morris said. "That's between me and my conscience in the polling booth."

However, Martin adamantly opposes Bird.

"She's not judicially honest," Martin said. "Her rulings are based on politics or on what her heart tells her. That's wrong. Rulings should be based on law."

Morris and Martin both support capital punishment.

"I am in favor of capital punishment under limited conditions," Morris said. "It should exist but under well defined restrictions."

Martin agrees. "Capital punishment is proper," Martin said. "But it is only effective if it is used."

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