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2 Seek to Unseat Municipal Judge : Challengers Say Burke Is an Inefficient Administrator

June 02, 1988|STEPHANIE O'NEILL | Times Staff Writer

In a divisive judgeship race, an assistant city attorney in Glendale and a relatively unknown Burbank lawyer are attempting to unseat a Glendale Municipal Court judge in Tuesday's primary.

Both challengers have criticized incumbent Barbara Lee Burke as inefficient.

Burke, 46, was appointed to the bench in 1981. She was reelected to the post in 1982 with 70% of the vote.

Her most visible challenger, senior Assistant City Atty. Scott H. Howard, has fought Burke to a stalemate on endorsements and, after receiving a low rating from the Los Angeles County Bar Assn., has demanded a grand jury investigation into the bar's ranking methods.

Also challenging Burke is Patrick T. McCormick, a longtime La Canada Flintridge resident who practices criminal law in Burbank.

Howard, 38, says Burke is a poor administrator who runs her court inefficiently and is rarely available after hours to sign search warrants. "The work ethic that I carry is that you do the work you're paid for by the taxpayers," Howard said. "I don't think that's what this judge has done."

But Burke denied the characterization and said her top rating from the County Bar Assn. speaks for itself, as does Howard's low rating.

The association rated Burke "well qualified," Howard "not qualified" and McCormick "qualified."

That rating "includes my administrative capabilities," Burke said. "He doesn't even know what the job entails. . . . I'm always available in the evenings, and I frequently get calls at home from police officers. There's never been any problem whatsoever."

Burke, a Los Angeles County public defender for 10 years, began practicing criminal law after graduating from UCLA Law School in 1966. In 1978, she was appointed Glendale court commissioner and served in that capacity until Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. appointed her judge in 1981. She is a resident of Pasadena.

Her endorsements include Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, the Los Angeles County Peace Officers Assn., presiding Glendale Municipal Court Judge Cheryl Krott and three former Glendale judges.

Howard, a Studio City resident, graduated from Southwestern University School of Law in 1976. Since 1977, he has served as a Glendale city attorney and now supervises three attorneys in the office.

His endorsements include Assemblyman Pat Nolan (R-Glendale), the Los Angeles County Chiefs of Police, Glendale Councilwoman Ginger Bremberg and Glendale real estate agent Don Platz.

Howard, who was initially rated "qualified" by the Los Angeles County Bar Assn., received the lowest rating from the organization after he petitioned for a better ranking. The bar association does not release reasons for its ratings.

The association bases much of its opinion on information supplied by a a candidate's peers. Howard contends that his evaluations were favorable and that the evaluation committee used extraneous information on which to base their decision.

At a press conference Howard called May 13 to refute the bar's rating, he told reporters that he was criticized for not telling the committee that his wife, Burbank Asst. City Atty. Juli Christine Scott, mailed in an evaluation of her husband.

He also said committee members criticized him for omitting from a list of his 10 most important trials a highly publicized case in which a federal judge ruled that the Glendale Police Department, represented by Howard, had discriminated against a Latino officer by passing him up for promotion in favor of less qualified Anglo officers.

Since the rating was released, however, three Los Angeles County Superior Court judges, including two from Glendale, informally rated Howard "well qualified." More recently, Howard garnered Nolan's support.

In a mailer to constituents Nolan wrote: "Scott Howard is just the kind of conservative, common-sense judge that Gov.Deukmejian and I have worked to put on the courts! Scott has my strong endorsement."

"I don't think anyone has a broader range of experience than I do," Howard said of himself in comparison to Burke and McCormick. "I've had appellate experience, criminal and prosecutorial experience."

McCormick, 62, has practiced law since he graduated from Loyola University of Los Angeles (now Loyola Marymount University) in 1955.

McCormick said he first worked as a deputy attorney general with the state Department of Justice. Later he became a deputy district attorney for Los Angeles County. In 1968 he served as a commissioner/judge pro tem in the Glendale Municipal Court. Since 1978, he as been in private criminal practice. He named no endorsements.

Like Howard, McCormick, who often tries cases in Glendale, said he is trying to oust Burke because "I think the court could be run more efficiently."

"I don't think the court is utilizing its time to efficiently operate and take care of the calendar it has," McCormick said.

Howard went further, accusing Burke of chronic tardiness and of taking excessive vacation days.

"She's taken a lot of time off," Howard said. "I know she's had more than she's allowed."

Burke scoffed at the accusation.

Krott, the presiding judge agreed. "That's absolutely a lie," she said of Howard's charge.

According to court records, Burke has taken one sick day in two years and the allowed three weeks of vacation a year.

Howard cited as an example of what he calls Burke's penchant for wasting time a late start to court: "She was in her chambers playing with her dog," he said.

Burke said that she did have a dog in her chambers but that it wasn't hers. Her bailiff, she said, found a stray puppy running in the street in front of the courthouse and she brought it to work several times until it was adopted. "He did bark a few times, but I don't think he disrupted anything," Burke said. "I explained everything to the attorneys, and they were delighted with him."

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