Judge Assigned Public Defenders' Challenge

The controversy surrounding endorsements for Ventura County prosecutor and judicial candidate Kevin J. McGee has landed on the desk of a Santa Barbara County judge.

Superior Court Judge Thomas P. Anderle was assigned the first of a series of legal challenges brought by public defenders against four Ventura County judges who signed a letter of support for McGee in his race for judge.

The motion before Anderle seeks to disqualify Presiding Judge Charles W. Campbell from a criminal case, accusing the judge of being biased. Similar challenges have been made against Judges Barry Klopfer, Vincent O'Neill and Donald Coleman.

Individually, the motions seek to disqualify the judges from specific criminal cases on the grounds the jurists are biased in favor of the prosecution and may have violated ethical standards by endorsing McGee.

The prosecutor faces public defender Gary Windom in a November run-off election for the seat vacated by suspended jurist Robert C. Bradley.

The legal challenges come in response to a letter of endorsement signed by 14 judges and a radio advertisement in which Campbell encourages voters to join him and other judges in voting for McGee.

Public defenders have argued that the letter and the radio advertisement lend an appearance of impropriety and bias toward the prosecution.

Most of the judges have filed written responses contesting those claims.

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