Barry's Guide to the Spring 2008 Election
There are only two propositions on the June 2008 ballot. Both deal with
eminent domain. It is a subject that generates lots of grumbles and concerns but
is in reality hardly that big an issue in California. The reason is that
California laws have become very tight over the years in how government agencies
can take (meaning buy) private land.
I work for a community that has used eminent domain for economic development
purposes. It is never grandma's house we buy through eminent domain. Most
cities don't even have the ability to use eminent domain on homes for
redevelopment. They don't need it. What they need is the ability to buy
commercial and industrial properties to encourage higher quality development and
clean up messes. Specifically, we're talking junk yards, run down properties,
and vacant buildings.
If a city uses eminent domain to buy your property for any purpose, your
business gets top dollar for the land (even in bad real estate markets like this
one), moving expenses, help with preparing a new site, and even new government
paid letterhead and business cards with your new address. This is a deal, folks.
Okay, let's talk about these two propositions.
Proposition 98 is from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. This bunch
has totally sold out to special interest. They had a deal in the legislature on
eminent domain reform and backed out when the apartment owners and mobile home
park owners offered to pay for this legislation. While it severely limits
eminent domain, it also ends rent control. That is the real reason for this
proposition. These folks paid to have it on the ballot. Hiding behind eminent
domain is just a sham put over on the voters. I don't see how this initiative is
even legal since it mixes more than one subject.
Prop 98 is so sloppy that it bans eminent domain for water systems even. That
means that an aqueduct along the edge of some farm could be blocked because that
farmer (AKA big corporation) knows they can hold out for any price they want for
that strip of land. It also puts in a bunch of new rules limiting cities'
ability to regulate any development. I sure hope you like that new fertilizer
plant by your house. Once again, we see what a mess legislation by initiative
Proposition 99 is sponsored by the League of
California Cities. No, they didn't use tax dollars to put this together -- one
of several lies you here from the Prop 98 shills. They raised the money from
crazy people like me who support real safeguards. Prop 99 bans the use of
eminent domain on single family homes for economic development purposes. That's
it. It also cancels out Prop 98.
Here's the No on 98 web site. Enjoy.
And next time you see the "Jarvis Taxpayers" sponsoring anything, ask them who
is paying for it. That group is now officially useless in my book. What a pity.
Okay, on to the judges. In recent years, so very odd
people have realized it's not hard to get elected as a judge. Previously, voters
could be fairly sure the people on the ballot were generally qualified. Through
slick campaigns, we have had some unqualified (the Bar Association's term)
people elected. My colleague Tom Long, an attorney and councilman from the city
of Rancho Palos Verdes, has put together a review of judges on the ballot. I
think these are generally LA County. For other areas, please look for your bar
association's reviews. If you need help on that, let me know and I'll find it
Here is Tom's review on the judges reprinted by his permission and with my
The June primary election is coming up and there are literally dozens of
attorneys running for judicial positions that we are asked to vote on. The Los
Angeles County Bar Association interviews and rates most candidates. Their
ratings can be found at the web link below:
In general where more than one candidate is rated at least "qualified" (and this
is often the case) I tend to vote for the candidate who is not a prosecutor.
The reason I do this is that so many prosecutors are appointed or elected as
judges that the criminal courtrooms are full and these attorneys overflow into
civil courtrooms where they are asked to handle matters of civil law on which
they have no experience. This serves to make our legal system much less
I am wary of candidates who describe themselves as "gang prosecutors." Most
prosecutorial offices are not so specialized, but to the extent they are, the
courtrooms are not. An attorney whose experience is limited to prosecuting
gangs will have a struggle to learn the job of judge. Where the Bar Association
rates other candidates as highly as "gang prosecutors" I recommend choosing the
For office number 69 the Bar Association has not interviewed or rated the
candidates but Serena Murillo is endorsed by a local legal newspaper (see
For office number 84 all of the candidates are rated "not qualified." I don't
know anything about them. I will try to learn more and pass the information
METRO NEWS EDITORIAL ON OFFICE NUMBER 69
Deputy Los Angeles District Attorney Serena R. Murillo is in a contest with Los
Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Harvey A. Silberman.
We favor her, notwithstanding Silberman's judicial experience (three-and-a-half
years as a subordinate judicial officer) and his quick mind. We believe that
attorneys and colleagues would find Murillo easier to deal with and steadier.
Murillo is a prosecutor whose attributes-including her honesty and
diligence-have gained her the respect of her counterparts in the Public
Defender's Office...and, significantly, the endorsement of Public Defender
Michael Judge. It is rare that a candidate boasts the backing of both Judge and
District Attorney Steve Cooley.
Murillo has been a prosecutor for 11 years. What she has viewed, from the
counsel table, and has been a participant in, has included the conducting of
jury trials in serious felony cases and sentencing.
Prior to that, she was in civil practice, working for 11 months at McNicholas &
McNicholas, where she was viewed as a quick study, bright, and even then, as a
novice lawyer (admitted in November, 1996), learned in the law. She left that
firm because the hiring freeze at the District Attorney's Office-where she truly
wanted to be-had melted.
In light of Murillo's intelligence, maturity, and temperament, we endorse her
That having been said, we note a concern about Silberman which fortifies, but is
independent of the core basis for, our conclusion.
The commissioner wanted to get out of jury service in a 2006 case destined to
last four months. It was reasonable that a judicial officer whose services were
needed by the court would not be diverted from his public duties for that long a
period of time. However, that wholly legitimate concern did not initially
impress Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gregory Alarcon, who was presiding over
the case in which Silberman wound up as a potential alternate juror.
The web links below contain articles on the current candidacy of a white
supremecist, a Mr. Johnson, for judge in the upcoming election. One article
also discusses the surprising defeat of Judge Janavs in the last judicial
election. The Governor immediately re-appointed Janavs. But if Johnson is
elected, the governor will not be able to do anything.
I specifically recommend to voters both Tom Rubinson for Office No. 82 and
Serena Murillo for Office No. 69. They both come to me recommended by others
whose judgment I trust.