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Ventura County Focus | Countywide

D.A.'s Office Defends Judges' Endorsements

June 30, 1998|JOEL P. ENGARDIO

The district attorney's office joined the fray over judicial endorsements Monday, filing a brief that contends that four Ventura County judges who backed a prosecutor running for the bench should not be disqualified from hearing cases.

Public defenders have filed legal challenges against the four judges, saying that a letter of endorsement and radio advertisement for judicial candidate Kevin McGee, an assistant district attorney, shows they are biased against public defenders. Running against McGee is Assistant Public Defender Gary Windom.

Prosecutors Michael K. Frawley and Michael D. Schwartz wrote in the brief that the legal challenges by the public defenders were illogical.

"Disqualification would lead to absurd results and would be contrary to the public interest," they wrote. "If Gary Windom is elected and the logic of the challenge in this case is followed, then he would be precluded from hearing any cases prosecuted by the district attorney."

The prosecutors said the endorsement of McGee by judges Charles W. Campbell, Barry Klopfer, Vincent O'Neill and Donald Coleman did not show any prejudice.

"The letter describes positive qualities of Mr. McGee, but neither mentions the opponents by name nor makes any negative comments about them," they wrote. "The radio advertisement, like the letter, makes no negative comments . . . and is not an evidence of bias."

Prosecutors also cited the code of judicial ethics, pointing out that although endorsements of nonjudicial candidates are prohibited, those of judicial candidates are permitted.

McGee faces Windom in a November runoff election for the seat vacated by suspended Judge Robert C. Bradley.

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