June 2012 Election, Los Angeles County, California/Letters to Candidates

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Letters to candidates in the June 2012 Election, Los Angeles County, California.

Superior Court Judge

I'm a voter and blogger looking to get more insight into the candidates that I will need to choose between in the upcoming election this June, so I'm emailing all of the Judicial candidates (excepting those I could not find an email address for) these four questions to help me learn more about them.

What inspires you to seek a seat as a Superior Court Judge?

What responsibility you see individual citizens as having in promoting their own welfare, and the welfare of society, and what kinds of limitations you see to that responsibility?

How do you think Superior Court Judges can act as a check against abuse of power by the legislative and executive branches of government at their level?

What do you think the purpose of punishing criminals to be?

    Sean Cox


Matt Schonbrun

Received: 14/May/2012

Dear Mr. Cox

Thank you very much for reaching out to me, as well as the rest of the candidates. It sounds like you like me also feel that much of the public is uninformed regarding the qualifications of judicial candidates, and I am happy to provide you with some information about me so that you may see yourself making an informed choice.

I have over 10,000 hours of actual courtroom experience under my belt. As a criminal prosecutor, I work closely and collaboratively with judges, defense attorneys, courtroom staff and members of the public to ensure that our criminal cases are handled appropriately and judiciously. As a prosecutor, I have always taken my role as an officer of the Court seriously, and have pursued justice at all costs. Sometimes that meant zealously pursuing convictions against those amongst us who would violate the law, and at other times that meant dismissing cases outright when appropriate.

I am a strict constructionist and feel that judges should not be activists. The Legislature is the appropriate body to enact legislation and pass laws, and I feel strongly that judges should not legislate from the Bench.

My personal views on subjects such as the death penalty, abortion, and other highly charged issues, shall remain personal to me. As a potential bench officer my duty is to uphold the law, even if the law may conflict with a personally held belief. In fact, there are canons of judicial ethics that prevent judges from expressing personal views in certain situations. I will follow that ethical prohibition, but I'd like to also assure you Mr. Cox, that regardless of my personal views, my main duty is to faithfully follow the laws as they are enacted. I have zero desire to impose my worldview on others, and would never attempt to do so from the Bench.

I have sent this from my personal email address and look forward to hearing back from you if you have any additional questions. I will do my best in addressing them in this very busy election season.

All my best

Matt Schonbrun

Berj Parseghian

Received: 14/May/2012

Dear Mr. Cox,

Thank you for your email.

I am running for Superior Court Judge because I want to serve our community. I volunteer as a temporary judge for the Los Angeles Superior Court and have presided over more than 1,000 traffic and small claims cases throughout Los Angeles County. A Superior Court Judge interacts with hundreds of people every day and has a tremendous opportunity to benefit our community by applying the law in a fair, unbiased and timely manner.

My personal view is that individual liberty is a cornerstone of American values. As a first-generation American, I know how much an individual can accomplish through hard-work and dedication. I do, however, also feel a moral responsibility to give back to my community and help those that are less fortunate; and I encourage others to do so, too.

The judicial branches, both at the federal and state level, were specifically designed to be checks on the power of the legislative and executive branches. The judicial branches are responsible for determining whether legislative and executive actions are unconstitutional, and this applies at the Superior Court level, as well as the appellate levels.

The purpose of criminal punishment is a complicated question, and I think the best way to answer it is to refer to the law. California Rule of Court 4.410 states that the "general objectives of sentencing include: (1) Protecting society; (2) Punishing the defendant; (3) Encouraging the defendant to lead a law-abiding life in the future and deterring him or her from future offenses; (4) Deterring others from criminal conduct by demonstrating its consequences; (5) Preventing the defendant from committing new crimes by isolating him or her for the period of incarceration; (6) Securing restitution for the victims of crime; and (7) Achieving uniformity in sentencing." However, the rule also recognizes that "[b]ecause in some instances these objectives may suggest inconsistent dispositions, the sentencing judge must consider which objectives are of primary importance in the particular case. The sentencing judge should be guided by statutory statements of policy, the criteria in these rules, and the facts and circumstances of the case." One example of a statutory statement of policy is California Penal Code section 1170, which states that "The Legislature finds and declares that the purpose of imprisonment for crime is punishment." But this same statute also provides that "the Legislature further finds and declares that programs should be available for inmates, including, but not limited to, educational programs, that are designed to prepare nonviolent felony offenders for successful reentry into the community." Thus, it is important to look at the specific provisions of the law that apply in a particular case.

I appreciate the opportunity to respond to your questions, and I hope this was helpful. Please let me know if you have any other questions. I would be pleased to schedule a call or a meeting with you.

Best regards,


Craig Gold

Received: 10/May/2012

Hi Sean

My name is Craig Gold and I am a Deputy District Attorney candidate for LA County Superior Court Judge Seat 3 in the June 5, 2012 primary election.

My website is: www.craiggoldforjudge.com

In regard to your questions, here are my response:

1) I am inspired to become an LA County Superior Court Judge because I can make a contribution to the community by seeking public safety and economic justice in the courts. I am a very experienced criminal and civil trial prosecutor with over 22 years in the District Attorney's Office along with having worked as a labor negotiator for the flight attendants and as corporate labor relations' professional after graduating from Cornell University.I want to ensure that convicted felons being transferred from state prison to the county jails and being released early because of jail overcrowding due to the realignment policy set by Governor Brown are monitored by an experienced judge like me so they do not pose a threat to the community at large. Also, the civil courts presently are so overburdened with cases in these severe budgetary cutbacks that there is no equal access for justice in the courts for the entrepreneur and small business person with limited resources who may have to file a lawsuit against a large corporation or wealthy indivdual with unlimited financial and legal resources. The courts need to be fair, independent and service the needs of all parties who have been wronged despite having limited resources to fight their cases to trial. I believe strongly in civil counsel assistance, public mediation and public arbitration services to resolve case trial disputes.

2) Individual citizens are the backbone of our democracy. They have the responsibility to promote their own welfare particularly with regard to reasonable and affordable healthcare, public education, housing, and their ability to peacefully express their first amendment rights legally. Individual citizens also have a duty to promote the best welfare interests of the society including these aforementioned issues and others that will enable people to become educated, successful, and concerned members of the community. The limits on individual citizens is based on constitutional ones such as the illegal exercise of violence against the government and the unwillingness to respect the privacy and constitutional rights of others in the community despite their different religious beliefs or alternative life styles.

3) Superior Court Judges are a check against the excesses by the legislative and executive branches of government. However, in practicality, they serve primarily as trial judges in civil and the criminal courts to uphold the laws. They rarely deal with constititutional issues which are mostly involving appellate court and State Supreme Court rulings.

4) I believe the purpose of punishing violent, serious, and serial felons is to take them away from the community because they pose a deadly or serious threat of harm. I believe the criminal justice system's purpose should be to place non violent substance abuse offenders involving drugs and alcohol into mental health courts to treat them for the underlying health disorders and help to rehabilitate them back to get a job and become a self-sufficient member of society. Punishment should be for the violent and dangerous felon who is socio-pathic and who is unable to turn himself or herself around to become a productive member of the community.

Thank you.

Craig Gold, DDA Candidate for LA County Superior Court Judge Seat 3

Douglas W. Weitzman

Received: 8/May/2012

I thank you very much for writing and I will answer your questions.

I invite you to go to smartvoter.org, type in my full name, Douglas Weitzman, and you can read a lot about me and some of your questions are actually answered there.

I have always been a neutral in everything I have done. I have been referee in junior high, high school, and in college. I was the main referee in many college football games at Berkeley.

I have been an arbitrator/mediator and volunteer temporary judge for more than half of my legal career.

I want to help people solve problems. I like having people with disagreements present them to me, and finding solutions to those problems. That is what a judge is supposed to do, but if the parties can't agree, then the judge has to make a final determination.

All individuals should act in such a way as to promote a life worth living, and help themselves and others of the benefits of our free country. We all have equal opportunities to be great, and I encourage everyone to go out and "just do it"(Nike logo).

A judge is a member of the judicial branch. The checks and balances of this branch is to strike down unconstitutional laws, or otherwise "bad law". If the people, through the legislature believe that the judge is too "activist", then they can pass new laws, subject to the executive branch of federal, state or local law signing it for passage, or vetoing it.

I believe some crimes need to have punishment that is punitive. Jail and prison. Some crimes lead to rehabilitative remedies, such as first time offenders and many drug offenses. Young criminals should be given training for jobs and education, so that they can become productive members of society, and so that we do not have to pay for their incarceration for years, decades or life.

Some crimes that are henous should be punitive only, and prison, up to life, is appropriate. Murder, Robbery with injury, Mayhem, torture, crimes against children and the elderly, and some other crimes fit this bill.

I hope that answers some of your questions. You may contact me if you have other questions. Please vote for me and tell as many people as you know to do the same thing.

Thank you.

Douglas Weitzman Attorney at Law Real Estate Broker Candidate for Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge, Office 38

Sean D. Coen

Received: 8/May/2012

Dear Mr. Cox,

Thank you for taking the time to become more informed about the judicial candidates for Los Angeles County. Here are some short answers to some of your questions.

What inspires you to seek a seat as a Superior Court Judge?
I have been a criminal prosecutor with the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office for 12 years. In that time I have tried more felony jury trial than any other candidate in my race. Due to my experience in court I have had the opportunity to see things that work in the courtroom and things that do not work in the courtroom. We are facing a major budget crisis that is effecting our courts. We have already had some court closures. I want to take my experience in the courtroom and apply it to the bench to effectively manage and run an efficient courtroom to help out during this financial crisis. Moreover, I am currently assigned to the Hardcore Gang Division in the District Attorney's Office. I solely prosecute gang murder and attempted murder cases. I have had the opportunity to see first hand the effect of terrible violence on victims and family members of victims. I want to do my part to make sure the most violent criminals in Los Angeles County receive the most appropriate sentence.

What responsibility do you see individual citizens as having in promoting their own welfare, and the welfare of society, and what kinds of limitations do you see to that responsibility?
One of the most important roles a citizen can serve in promoting their own welfare is to fulfill their civic duty and serve as a juror. I just completed an attempted murder case, my 101st felony jury trial. In all 101 of those felony trials citizens, of course, are annoyed and complain about having to serve as a juror. However, it is those same people that, after chosen as a juror, absolutely love the experience they had serving their role in the judicial system. Jurors are so very important. They are the judges of the facts of a case and can have an enormous influence over the community in which they live. Also citizens have a responsibility to report crimes to police. Many of the cases that I have dealt with, citizens fail to initially report crimes, which just allows people who break the law to continue in that manner. I really see no limitation in those responsibilities of citizens.

How do you think Superior Court Judges can act as a check against abuse of power by the legislative and executive branches of government at their level?
Superior Court judges have very little to do with the legislative or executive branches of government. The most important role of a Superior Court judge is to simply follow the law whether or not he/she agrees with that law. As a Superior Court judge you follow the law without making changes to that law as would an appellate court or supreme court justice would. There is so much case law that has already been decided to set precedent with decisions. It is very important for a Superior Court judge to follow that law without influence of any kind to make sure that California law is followed in a uniform fashion throughout the state.

What do you think the purpose of punishing criminals to be?
There are several purposes of punishing criminals. The purpose many times has a lot to do with the sort of crime. For example, the majority of cases that I deal with a defendant has either murdered a victim or attempted to murder a victim. That defendant is usually looking at a very large sentence in state prison. The purpose of such a sentence is to protect the public and act as a deterrent to other individuals who may be thinking of committing a similar crime. On some of the lighter sentences and some misdemeanor cases, some punishments can act as a rehabilitative sentence. If a defendant is sentenced to a drug treatment, or counseling program as a low level offender, hopefully he/she will learn from such a punishment so as to lower any chance of recidivism.

Well I hope my answers aren't too long. Of course you can learn more about me from my website, www.coenforjudge2012.com. The Metropolitan News-Enterprise and the Los Angeles Times both wrote endorsement articles about me that are informative. I hope this was helpful. Feel free to contact me if you have any other questions at seancoenforjudge2012@gmail.com.

Yours truly,

Sean D. Coen