Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Metropolitan News-Enterprise Endorses David Berger for Judge

April 22, 2016. Los Angeles' leading legal newspaper, the Metropolitan News-Enterprise, announced their endorsement of David Berger for Judge of the Superior Court, Office No. 158, one of four open seats in this years' judicial elections.

The Met News said:

ONE CANDIDATE IN THIS RACE STANDS OUT: Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney David Berger.
Composed, articulate, and knowledgeable, he would run a court in a steady and effective manner. Berger has a quick mind, and would render reasoned decisions without long pondering.
At 59, with 20 years experience as a prosecutor, he would not flounder.
The only other candidate in the race worthy of consideration is Deputy Attorney General Kim L. Nguyen.

At 39, she comes across as somewhat younger than her actual age. While Berger is mature and urbane, Nguyen—a delightful person—is sprightly. She is, like Berger, quite articulate and, like Berger, would surely conduct herself on the bench with appropriate judicial demeanor.
However, she has never handled a trial and, unlike Berger, would not be up to the job from Day One. There is only so much that can be taught at Judges School.

We emphatically disagree with her view that her candidacy should receive special consideration because, if elected, she would become the Los Angeles Superior Court’s only Vietnamese American judge. In our view, ethnicity, religion, gender, and sexual orientation are factors that should not result either in merits or demerits; either way, it’s mindless discrimination. Ability, and that alone, is what should count.

Besides, it could be that one of her opponents, attorney Naser Khoury, if elected, would be the court’s only Jordanian American judge. Perhaps Deputy District Attorney Fred Mesropi would be the sole Iranian American judge on the court. Berger would be its only British American member. Deputy Los Angeles City Attorney Onica Valle Cole might well be the only African American/Mexican American on the bench. But should any of that matter?

Mespropi, while a misimpression that there is a canon forbidding judicial candidates from criticizing opponents, was quite willing to adhere to that supposed stricture. He conveyed that during an interview session with this newspaper. It is disquieting that someone who might become a judge would think that such a patently unconstitutional rule had been promulgated, and would be enforceable.

Mesropi also expressed the notion that it might be a matter warranting discipline if Berger were to maintain his blog if he became a judge. Yet, judges do possess First Amendment rights. While it is established by case law that some political activity on the part of judges may be proscribed, a ban on all journalistic expression by a judge is not in effect, and surely could not, constitutionally, be erected.
There is no reason to anticipate that if he were elected as a judge, Berger would engage in the sort of robust expressions of political views he has in the past. On his blog now is an objective run-down on each of the judicial candidates as of the time of the posting, including his opponents, with links to their websites.

In answer to a hypothetical question, Mesropi asserts that it would be “not becoming” for a judge to write a newspaper column. Yet, we’ve never heard criticism of Court of Appeal Presiding Justice Arthur Gilbert for writing a column for a particular newspaper (we regret not this one) over the past 28 years. Nor do we know of criticisms of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt for writing her “My Day” column.

Mesropi would be willing to have his right to criticize opponents in his political race forbade, and would see no problem in generally restraining speech of candidates or judges. We see that as a problem so far as his ability to grasp that there are limits on governmental regimentation of individuals and curtailment of their liberties.

Though the candidate is personable and, from what we have gleaned, an able prosecutor, we do question whether he possesses aptitude for judicial service. Mesropi tends to make assertions based on suppositions—such as assuming that Nguyen, because she is in the A.G.’s Office, handles criminal appeals when, in fact, all of the work she does is on civil cases.

The Los Angeles County Bar Association has rated both Nguyen and Mesropi “well qualified” and has tentatively branded Berger “not qualified” (apparently based on his expressions of political views, in past years, on his blogs). We believe strongly that the subcommittee of the Judicial Elections Evaluation Committee has it wrong. In our view, it is Berger who is well qualified while we see Nguyen as unripe for a judgeship (“qualified” at best), and Mesropi as unfit for one (“not qualified”).

Cole has a sharp mind and thinks quickly. It is, however, troublesome that she would proclaim on her website: “Onica volunteers as a Temporary Judge for the Los Angeles Superior Court and is regularly called upon to fulfill the duties of a judge.”
She has handled one half-day calendar. That she has four more stints scheduled is irrelevant. She is attempting to create a false impression as to extensive past service.
Cole has a somewhat theatrical manner. She would be ideal for the role of a television judge.
But not a judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court.

Khoury—who has a history of a reckless driving conviction, resulting in a private State Bar reproval, tax liens against his law partnership, and going into bankruptcy—does not display the judgment expected of a jurist. While his devotion to his religion is commendable, interjecting religion into a campaign for a secular office is, we would suggest, inappropriate.

While Nguyen has impressive attributes, it is clear that David Berger possesses credential far exceeding those of any of his rivals. We endorse his candidacy.