Four Westside Municipal Court judges were celebrating Wednesday after contentious campaigns in which they successfully fought off challengers.
Judge Lawrence J. Mira in Malibu Municipal Court, Judge Bert Glennon Jr. of Culver City Municipal Court, Presiding Judge Judith O. Stein of Beverly Hills Municipal Court and Judge Michael Nash in the Hollywood branch of Los Angeles Municipal Court all were reelected. Theirs were the only contested judgeships on the Westside, and they were among only eight contested races out of 91 Municipal Court judges up for election in Los Angeles County.
Mira, 45, was elated Wednesday morning after his easy victory over 55-year-old attorney Raymond David. The race was the most rancorous of the Westside judicial contests. According to returns reported Wednesday morning, Mira received 12,572 votes, nearly 85%, while David tallied 2,267, according to a spokesman for the county registrar of voters.
In an interview, Mira attributed his strong win to a campaign stressing his qualifications, which included a "well qualified" ranking by the Los Angeles County Bar Assn. David was rated "not qualified."
Voters can see for themselves what kind of a job a judge is doing by visiting the courtroom, said Mira, who was appointed by Gov. George Deukmejian in 1986. "If they want to see what a judge is doing all they have to do is go watch him," he said.
In an exceptionally bitter campaign, David attacked Mira's administration of the court and his limited use of the Calabasas courthouse.
Mira, meanwhile, charged David with running a "deceptive and grimy campaign." Although David has not served as a judge, during the campaign he handed out cards picturing himself in judicial robes. In addition, Mira obtained a court order forcing David to change his ballot designation to arbitrator from arbitration judge.
David, a practicing attorney for 26 years, dismissed Mira's allegation as a matter of semantics and denied his campaign was deceptive.
In Culver City, Glennon won election with 7,762 votes, about 58%, to defeat Culver City attorney Jacqueline Powell, who received 5,584 votes. Glennon, 49, was appointed in 1986 and was rated "well qualified" by the bar association. He was on vacation Wednesday and could not be reached for comment. Powell, 54, was rated "not qualified."
In Beverly Hills, Stein received 9,487 votes, about 65% of those cast, to defeat West Hollywood attorney Brian S. Braff, who got 6,000 votes, according to county election officials.
In a nonpartisan race that critics said became politicized, Braff received endorsements from powerful Democrats, including U.S. Reps. Henry A. Waxman of Los Angeles and Howard L. Berman of Panorama City. Stein, a conservative appointed in 1986, was endorsed by Republicans, including Deukmejian, but also by Democrats, including former Gov. Edmund G. (Pat) Brown.
Stein, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday, won in spite of receiving a lower rating from the bar association than her opponent. Stein, 51, received a "qualified" rating, while Braff, 45, was ranked "well qualified."
In another of several races countywide where voters seemed to ignore ratings from the bar association, controversial Judge Nash defeated Los Angeles attorney Enda Thomas Brennan for the Hollywood branch of Los Angeles Municipal Court. Nash, who was appointed in 1985, was rated "not qualified," while Brennan, a former public defender, was rated "qualified."
To come up with the ratings, a panel of 58 bar association members analyze judicial candidates, evaluating their integrity, judgment, intellectual capacity, fairness, experience, knowledge of the law, reputation in the community and judicial temperament. The three-tier system rates candidates as "well qualified," "qualified" or "not qualified."
The impartiality of the ratings has been questioned by certain judicial candidates who received less favorable rankings, including Nash, who said in a pre-election interview that he may have been penalized for strict court procedures that angered public defenders and other attorneys.
For example, he said, he strictly adhered to laws regulating postponements of hearings, and required written explanations and sufficient cause for these so-called "continuances." Nash said his "not qualified" rating could be retaliation from attorneys. On Wednesday, Nash was vacationing and unavailable for comment.
Larry Feldman, president of the bar association, announced last week that the 24,000-member association "needs to be more definitive in explaining" why an incumbent is rated anything less than "well qualified." The association plans a review of ratings procedures, he said.
In this year's election, the bar association rated more sitting judges "not qualified" than ever before in its history.
Municipal judges earn $77,409 a year and handle misdemeanor trials, preliminary hearings in felony cases, arraignments for misdemeanor and felony arrests, and civil and small claims cases. They are elected to six-year terms.
JUDGES Municipal Court Races Beverly Hills
100% Precincts Reporting Votes % Judith O Stein, inc. 9,487 61 Brian S. Baff 6,000 39
100% Precincts Reporting Votes % Bert Glennon Jr., inc. 7,762 58 Jacqueline Powell 5,584 42
Los Angeles, Office No. 28
99% Precincts Reporting Votes % Michael Nash, inc. 244,319 61 Enda T. Brennan 155,657 39
100% Precincts Reporting Votes % Larry Mira, inc. 12,572 85 Raymond David 2,261 15