The preamble to the California Code of Judicial Ethics states, “Our legal system is based on the principle that an independent, fair, and competent judiciary will interpret and apply the laws that govern us. The role of the judiciary is central to American concepts of justice and the rule of law.”
The document goes on to provide a list of Canons that judges and “judicial candidates” must adhere to. Cannon 3 states, “A judge shall perform the duties of judicial office impartially, competently, and diligently. This means the absence of bias or prejudice in favor of, or against particular parties. . . as well as the maintenance of an open mind in considering issues that may come before a judge.”
It is not hard to imagine what happens when political extremism produces judges who, without a grip on the “impartial” slide down the slippery slope of the “political”. We need look no further than the U.S. Supreme Court for an example of how political maneuvering has produced a cadre of Supreme Court justices so rooted in their political ideology that the idea of impartiality seems anathema to them.
The same questions of impartiality can also be applied when local district attorneys advocate for their minions to become Superior Court judges.
Superior Court judges can oversee a variety of cases including all criminal cases such as felonies, misdemeanors, and infractions, like traffic tickets; all civil cases including family law, probate, juvenile, etc.; small claims cases and appeals as well as appeals of civil cases involving $25,000 or less.
It begs the hypothetical question, ‘How impartial will judicial candidates be when they become judges riding on the winds of a key endorsement during their campaigns from their their former boss, the county district attorney?’
The role district attorneys play is critical to the criminal justice system in the counties they serve because they are the connective tissue between the sheriffs/police who arrest suspects and the courts who convict and sentence them. When these relationships are so interdependent and that interdependency is further solidified by a common source of political funding–sheriff and police unions–it completes the 360 trap that too often disporportionately ensnares Blacks and tightens around their necks like a noose. Data and real life experiences of minorities and/or the poor related to criminal justice, proves the quest for equity and impartiality in the criminal justice system too often remains elusive.
It should come as no surprise then, that in Riverside County, District Attorney Mike Hestrin, has endorsed a slate of minions from his office to fill Superior judge openings in the 2022 election. I would not be surprised that a review of 2016 records could reveal a similar pattern.
Hestrin, who is seeking a third term as the county’s top attorney, stands accused of everything from disproportionately charging Black people with crimes, to concerns over the possibility of missing cases, to being overly aggressive in his application of the death penalty, to being securely in the pockets of local police unions that fund/have funded his campaigns, to mishandling high profile cases involving children, to claiming misappropriateness in the 2022 Election in support of Trump’s Big Lie and the list goes on.
Crisis of Connections
The issue of judges and elections being intimately connected not only applies at the federal level in relation to presidential appointments of Supreme Court Justices, appeals and district court judges, but also locally, when District Attorneys put their thumbs on the scale in local elections for their favorite candidates for Superior Court judges.
Judges are being elected in four Superior Court Offices in Riverside County this year including 4, 11, 26 and 28.
There are ten candidates vying for these four positions. Six of the candidates, in other words, 60%, are not only endorsed by Hestrin but the majority of these candidates also enjoy the support of Hestrin’s incapable and incompetent side-kick and sheriff-who-aligns with-accused insurrectionists, Chad Bianco.
You will not be surprised to also learn these same judicial candidates like their endorsers enjoy strong support of sheriff/police unions–we all know what “birds of a feather” like to do…mostly resist any efforts aimed at substantive and meaningful systemic reform.
If you have not voted
For those of you who are yet to cast your June 7 primary votes, I encourage you to consider the following candidates to fill the open judicial positions in Riverside County who are not aligned with Hestrin and Bianco (who I believe have failed to serve the best interests of all county residents).
Make your vote count by supporting the following candidates for Superior Court judgeships:
Superior Court Judge Office #4, Richard V. Swanson, Attorney at Law
Superior Court Judge Office #11, Laura Garcia, Superior Court Commissioner
Superior Court Judge Office #26, Eric Issac, Superior Court Commissioner
Superior Court Judge Office #28, Christopher J. Whelton, Attorney/Business Owner
There are many important roads to equity and impartiality in the judicial system and voting for judges who are not under the influence of their former District Attorney boss is one of the most essential ways we can help ensure the change we seek.
Of course this is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real.