Three Los Angeles Municipal Court judgeships and the Justice Court seat in Catalina are contested in the Nov. 8 general election. Municipal Courts are the “people’s courts,” those the average person is most likely to experience firsthand. Municipal Court judges hear traffic cases, misdemeanors and civil cases involving less than $25,000 and also conduct preliminary hearings in felony cases.
The Times reaches its decisions on endorsements after interviews with the candidates and inquiries throughout the legal community. We consider the ratings by the Los Angeles County Bar Assn.'s Judicial Evaluation Committee, but we do not always agree with them. In general we regard bench experience, as an appointed commissioner or a full-fledged judge, as helpful but not essential for the Municipal Court.
In the contested races we prefer:
Los Angeles Office No. 4--JULIE CATHEY. A Municipal Court commissioner for three years, Cathey draws almost universal praise from sitting judges and the attorneys who appear before her for her diligence, decisiveness and courtesy. Widowed before she was 30, Cathey reared six children while attending law school and establishing a career as an attorney and a member of California’s Youthful Offenders Parole Board. One sign of her colleagues’ confidence is that Cathey has been entrusted to handle the master calendar court downtown, the cogwheel of the system.
Office No. 6--JOHN GUNN. Both candidates for this open seat were rated “well-qualified” by the bar association, but we prefer Gunn. A Municipal Court commissioner for 20 years, he has essentially performed the duties of a judge and handled the same kinds of cases he would face on the bench. Gunn has repeatedly demonstrated that he can run a high-volume courtroom with intelligence and tact. His opponent, Superior Court Commissioner Gary A. Polinsky, is also very able, but his experience has not been on the Municipal Court.
Office No. 8--MARION J. JOHNSON. A 20-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department, Johnson would bring broad law enforcement experience to the bench. On the force, he rose to the rank of lieutenant and served in the traffic, narcotics and vice divisions. Since 1978 he has worked as an administrator for the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations, a criminal defense attorney and more recently as a prosecutor, handling career gang offenders. Public defenders regard him as hard-nosed but reasonable, and sitting judges rate him ahead of his opponent.
Catalina Justice Court--PETER MIRICH JR. In the runoff election for this one-day-a-week post, we prefer Mirich, a very capable San Pedro attorney and Superior Court referee whose low-keyed demeanor and trial experience make him particularly suited for the bench. Rated “well-qualified” by the Bar, he also impressed Catalinans during the tumultuous primary campaign, which drew 16 candidates. He has said he would also sit, as needed, on other courts in Los Angeles County.