Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Another crazy election for San Diego Superior Court judge

I agree with Bonnie Dumanis on this one, “I think what we are seeing now is an assault on the judiciary.”

Judging San Diego’s Judicial Candidates (Video)
By Ryann Grochowski
September 17, 2012

...Vying for a seat on the Superior Court bench is veteran prosecutor Robert Amador who has judges, lawyers, Democrats and Republicans on his side. His opponent is Jim Miller Jr., a private practitioner from El Cajon who touts his diverse legal experience and conservative credentials.

Who to vote for? The county bar association is pressing to be the credible voice. It rated Amador well qualified and Miller not qualified. Some of the most high-profile legal names in the county are urging voters to pay attention to the bar. Miller and the Republican Party, though, say not so fast: there is more to the story.

A crowd gathered early one Monday evening late last month to eat hors d'oeuvres, drink cocktails and write checks for Amador.

There was an urgency among the dozens of lawyers and judges. They said they want to ensure voters don’t make the same mistake they made in June: electing a candidate the county bar association deemed as “lacking qualifications.”

“I’m as guilty as probably a lot of us in this room for taking that race for granted,” county Sheriff William Gore told the crowd. “And we saw what happened. We can’t let that happen again.”

“What happened” was the election of Gary Kreep, a conservative, constitutional lawyer in private practice and member of the “birther” movement. He beat prosecutor Garland Peed by less than 2,000 votes.

That race for county judge became known across the country as the one with the funny name: Kreep versus Peed. National political commentator Rachel Maddow came to tears with laughter as she described it.

But the people at the fundraiser for deputy district attorney Amador weren’t laughing.

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis told the group: “I think what we are seeing now is an assault on the judiciary.”

In California, Superior Court is the official name for the county-level court that presides over civil, criminal, family, juvenile and probate cases. Superior Court judges can decide life in prison, they can assess millions of dollars in damages and they can decide custody of children.

There are more than 110 active Superior Court judges in San Diego County. Some are appointed by the governor and then subject to election by the voters. Others, like Amador and Miller, run for an open seat outright. Judges serve six-year terms.

Amador, who is 55 and a 29-year deputy district attorney, says he is the best candidate because he has proven himself in tough situations, including the prosecution of a death penalty case. By his count, he has handled more than 100 jury trials and 250 court trials. He admits to a lack of experience in the civil realm, but believes his criminal law expertise carries over to civil cases.

“I think until you’ve actually done a lot of things in the criminal justice system, you’re not really prepared to be a judge,” he said.

Miller, 42, is an attorney in El Cajon specializing in family law, a practice he took over after his father’s unexpected death in 2009. Miller’s legal experience is broad; he emphasizes his work in the five areas of the county court. He touts his “outsider” status with pride. He believes his civil law background is sorely needed in courts overrun with judges who were once prosecutors and other government attorneys.

“They don’t want somebody coming in who’s going to upset their apple cart,” he said.

Miller and his wife have four children. His eldest stepdaughters graduated from his alma mater, Valhalla High School in El Cajon.

...A registered Republican, Amador has some support from the other side -- the county Democratic party, while not endorsing Amador, passed a resolution advising Democrats not to vote for Miller. His list of endorsements includes high-profile members of both parties, as well as independents.

Miller is backed by the county and state Republican Party, the Lincoln Club of San Diego and many local tea party groups, including the Chula Vista Patriots and the Fallbrook Tea Party. Miller said he was happy to see Kreep, a tea party-backed constitutional lawyer who does not believe President Obama is a U.S. citizen, elected to the bench...

Jim Miller Jr.
Age: 42

Education: Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego State University

Bar Rating: Lacking qualifications
Key Endorsements: Republican Party of San Diego, Lincoln Club of San Diego, California Republican Party, councilman and mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio, several tea party organizations.


Anonymous said...

I heard about Amador taking a gun into the courtroom, one day, when he lost his mind. Such a person should not have judicial authority. He apparently suffered no reprimand, and the incident was hushed, allowing him to continue as an officer of the court. If anyone else took a gun into the court, they would have been jailed. An attorney should, at the very least, lose his license to practice law, not be promoted to judge.

Maura Larkins said...

Dear Anonymous:
Who told you this fascinating story? And why don't you give your real name? Perhaps your informant created one of those urban legends.

I myself accidentally took scissors to the court, along with other office supplies. I was told to take them out and leave them in my car, but I didn't have time to do a round trip to my car. Fortunately, the trash cans in front of the court had just been cleaned. I set my scissors on the bottom of the clean plastic liner of the trash can. Those cans apparently aren't used much. When I came back, I saw my scissors sitting where I'd left them, with not so much as a scrap of paper on top of them. I reached in and got them and was on my way. Of course, it would not be safe to do this with a gun.

But I don't think I would have been jailed even if it had been a gun, as long as I had a permit to carry a concealed weapon. I would have broken no law. I would simply have been told to come back without the gun.

I found the following article about Amador's opponent.

When the extremely conservative Lincoln Club pulls its support from an extremely conservative candidate, you suspect that this candidate (Jim Miller) might have some real problems:


Jim Miller, candidate for Superior Court Judge, failed to disclose in his candidate questionnaire that he had been removed for cause as a Judge Pro Tempore, the San Diego Lincoln Club announced today. A press release issued by the conservative business group states that Miller “misrepresented the facts” when asked for comments on the allegations in private.

“Such conduct does not meet the high ethical standards that Lincoln Club members believe are required for judicial officers,” the release concludes. Last night, the Club’s Board of Directors voted to withdraw its endorsement of Miller and to endorse his opponent, Deputy District Attorney Robert Amador.