The candidate that might have the biggest impact on you or your community is not at the top of the ticket, but instead at the bottom – candidates for judges. I often stress to my clients that the judicial system is part of a community’s business infrastructure and to pay attention to these races.
I say this having once been in-house counsel at a company that was, in effect, put out of business by an Orange County judge who let a ridiculous trade secret claim (it included Microsoft products so it could not be a trade secret) go the jury, read magazines during the trial and then refused to reverse a $16 million damage award that was based on a model the foreman created on his own. A year later, that company shut down and the community lost approximately two hundred jobs. I was told repeatedly, that such a case would have been thrown out at an early stage had it been heard in Northern California.
As a lawyer who represents technology companies and handles cases involving internet abuse, I understand that it is my job to educate the judge and jury on the relevant technology in a given case. That, however, is harder to do when you have judges who candidly tell you they “don’t do internet cases” or they don’t like dealing with internet cases and may not admit your evidence if you don’t settle.
So there may come a time when the fate of your company or a loved one depends on having an informed and competent judge to consider their case. That is why the judicial races should not be ignored or voted on an “eeny, meeny, miny, moe” basis. Unfortunately, information on the races is not easily accessible to mosts voters.
For Los Angeles County voters, LAist has done the homework for you and provided a summary of the races with links to the candidate websites and ratings from the Los Angeles County Bar Association (LACBA) that is available here. (Note to aspiring judicial candidates – remember to buy drinks for people at LACBA events).
The LAist summary is very useful. For example, one of the candidates is “Judge Mike Cummins” who not only is not a judge (it is his first name) but he also was rated “not qualified” by LACBA. Other resources include:
- Your local newspaper which often includes judicial races in its slate of endorsements (for example, the Los Angeles Times list is here): and
- Ballotpedia which covers races nationwide (click here for its Los Angeles county summary).
If you cannot find resources for your area, ask your lawyer friends what they think. I have fielded several such calls.
In evaluating the candidates, check the candidate’s endorsements to see if they have broad support in the community. If the candidate comes from a background as a prosecutor, consider whether they have had exposure to business or other issues that may be relevant to you.
For the most part, I think our judges are capable and dedicated public servants. Our job on election day is to make sure that the most capable candidates are elected.