Spring 2008 Election

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Barry's Guide to the Spring 2008 Election

Proposition 98

Proposition 99


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 is.

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 for you.

Here is Tom's review on the judges reprinted by his permission and with my thanks:

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 efficient.

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 other candidates. 

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 endorsement below).

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 along.


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 unhesitatingly.

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.

Tom Long

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Last modified: 08/25/2020