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COMPTON : Candidate for Judge Blasts Bar Assn. Rating

October 27, 1994|EMILY ADAMS

Two court commissioners competing for a judge's seat on Compton Municipal Court have received widely different ratings from the Los Angeles County Bar Assn.

Court Commissioner Thomas Townsend was rated "not qualified" by the association's judicial evaluation committee. Townsend had appealed the committee's preliminary decision to label him not qualified, but the rating remained unchanged.

The committee rated Townsend's opponent, Commissioner Kelvin D. Filer, "well qualified."

A letter from the committee said that Townsend's objectivity was in question and that the committee believed Townsend had preconceptions that could affect his judgment of the law. The letter did not elaborate.

This week, an angry Townsend attributed the unfavorable rating to the committee's dislike of his campaign tactics and to Filer's political connections. Filer, former president of the Compton Unified School District board, is the son of former City Councilman Maxcy D. Filer.

The committee was particularly unhappy with Townsend's decision to publicize Filer's earnings as a court-appointed defense attorney, Townsend said. "They feel it's beneath the dignity of a judicial campaign," Townsend said.

Townsend said he made an average of $39,000 a year as a court-appointed attorney, while Filer averaged about $150,000 while he was also president of the school board. In campaign literature, Townsend questioned whether Filer shortchanged Compton students by paying more attention to his law practice than his school board duties.

Townsend said he believes the concern about his objectivity stems from two cases that he handled, without charge, as a defense attorney. Townsend said he believes he is being punished for being a zealous advocate in those cases. But Filer said the committee's decision more likely refers to Townsend's sample ballot statement, in which Townsend states that his tough courtroom policies include high bail in certain cases and maximum sentencing in others.

The committee discussed the ballot statements and the cases that Townsend handled, said attorney Rex Heinke, chairman of the 50-member group. "But since we don't poll members on specifics . . . I can't say why anyone voted the way they did," he said.

Heinke denied that politics played a part in the committee's decision. He also said Townsend's campaign tactics were not "the major element" in the final rating.

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