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How can L.A. voters pick judicial candidates?

April 19, 2012|By Robert Greene
  • The Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Courts Building in downtown Los Angeles is one of the Superior Court's hubs.
The Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Courts Building in downtown Los Angeles… (Los Angeles Times )

There is no shortage of information about candidates for Congress, district attorney, the Legislature or any of the other contests on the June 5 ballot -- except, for course, in the races for Los Angeles Superior Court judge. Who are those 16 people vying for six judicial seats? How do they differ?

In making endorsements, The Times' editorial board examines the candidates carefully, and we do our best to give voters not just recommendations but the reasons for our choices. Other news organizations and interest groups endorse as well. Later this election season, the Los Angeles County Bar Assn. will release its ratings -- from "exceptionally well qualified" to "not qualified" -- of each of the candidates who participate in the process. Some candidates buy their way on to slate mailers that will begin arriving in voters' mailboxes the last week or two before voting day.

Is that enough? Of course not. Many voters want a chance to see, hear and meet the candidates. In a county the size of Los Angeles, though, there are few opportunities to do that.

In fact, for most voters, their only chance may come Saturday at 10 a.m. at a judicial candidates forum in Hacienda Heights, at Steinmetz Community Center, 1545 S. Stimson Avenue. Organizers Charles and Martha House have presented similar forums in past elections. They do everything themselves, down to details such as making the tent-style name cards for each candidate who appears.

The moderator is a very heavy hitter: Robert C. Bonner, who has served as U.S. attorney for the district that includes Los Angeles and Orange counties, a federal judge in the same district, administrator of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and commissioner of the U.S. Customs Service. Bonner also headed the state Commission on Judicial Performance, which investigates allegations of wrongdoing by state judges and recommends disciplinary measures. Bonner currently is a member of the Los Angeles County Citizens Commission on Jail Violence.

Look for The Times’ judicial endorsements in two parts -- on Friday and Sunday -- and in between, spend a Saturday morning in Hacienda Heights to meet the candidates and see if you agree with our choices.

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