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ORANGE COUNTY PERSPECTIVE

Adams Should Be Evaluated

October 20, 2002

The give and take of a political campaign should generate solid information for voters who are struggling to find the truth, which often gets lost in the blue smoke and mirrors. That's particularly true in judicial elections, in which winners are handed the power to determine the fate of those who appear in their courtrooms. And it's of the utmost importance in the unusual race for Judicial Office No. 21.

Voters had reason to hope that the race would calm down after the incumbent, accused child molester Ronald Kline, took his name off the ballot in order to focus on an upcoming trial for allegedly molesting a teenager and downloading child pornography onto his computer.

Former prosecutor Gay G. Sandoval and Dana Point attorney John Adams deserve credit for stepping up and campaigning as write-in candidates after it became clear that Kline no longer was a viable candidate.

Their appearance gave voters a welcome alternative to Kline, but the campaign trail since the March primary has been unexpectedly messy, with mud-slinging and attempts at obfuscating -- troubling developments, because voters are struggling to learn more about two relatively unknown write-in candidates seeking Kline's job on Nov. 5.

A private investigator working for one of Adams' former business associates has made public documents detailing Adams' past financial and political woes, as well as a bitter divorce. Sandoval subsequently sent letters to Adams supporters, urging them to study court documents flowing from the divorce and several civil lawsuits involving her opponent. Adams cried foul, arguing that he's done nothing improper and that Sandoval has no business making an issue of his private life.

Both candidates have campaigned hard and sought dozens of endorsements from city council members, mayors, judges, prosecutors and others in the political arena. They have proved that the write-in process works.

But Adams did voters a disservice by refusing to sit for the Orange County Bar Assn.'s candidate review. He argued that the bar association review wouldn't produce a full appraisal of his legal career.

Judicial candidates rarely decline to take part in the review, according to the president of the local bar. Most candidates complete a detailed questionnaire, conduct an interview with committee members and supply the names of judges and attorneys who can document their legal achievements.

It's not a perfect process, and some candidates question the political maneuvering that goes on as the ratings are completed. But most candidates welcome the opportunity to showcase their significant contributions in the legal arena.

Adams' refusal to submit to a peer review meant that the bar association was unable to make an official evaluation of his candidacy. Sandoval, who did take part, was rated as qualified to serve as a judge.

The bar association is just one measure of a candidate, but in an unusual race that pits lesser-known candidates against each other, it's a measure that Adams should have allowed.

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