TWO OF CALIFORNIA’S SEVEN Supreme Court justices are up for retention this year. Carol A. Corrigan was appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in January and is facing voters for the first time. Joyce L. Kennard was appointed by former Gov. George Deukmejian in 1989 and has weathered previous elections. Both of these excellent jurists should be retained.
Corrigan is a centrist former Democrat, now a Republican, who led an effort to turn standard legalese jury instructions into more understandable English. A former prosecutor and trial judge, she has written well-reasoned and carefully crafted judicial opinions, and her appointment has moved the court of six Republicans and one Democrat further to the center. Kennard had been a Los Angeles Superior Court judge and state Court of Appeal justice. Tough and probing in oral argument, she writes opinions that are both principled and pragmatic.
California’s up-or-down vote on appellate justices is meant to balance judicial independence with public oversight. It doesn’t always work out that way; justices tend to either be rubber-stamped at the ballot box or targeted for defeat by single-issue activists. In 1986, voters ousted Chief Justice Rose Bird and associate justices Joseph Grodin and Cruz Reynoso after a campaign focusing on their rulings to delay executions or overturn death sentences. No justices have been tossed out since, but not for lack of trying.
A more subtle danger to the courts’ integrity is voters who fail to read up on the justices or, worse, flippantly vote no because of any one of a number of specious reasons. But judicial independence depends on citizens learning as much as possible about the courts and the justices.
California’s Court of Appeal is an intermediate court divided into six geographic districts. Justices of the 2nd District hear appeals from trial courts in Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. The following justices are on the ballot, have served with distinction and deserve a “yes” vote: Robert M. Mallano, Frances Rothschild, Roger W. Boren, Victoria M. Chavez, Patti S. Kitching, Richard D. Aldrich, Norman L. Epstein, Thomas L. Willhite, Nora M. Manella, Steve Suzukawa, Richard M. Mosk, Sandy R. Kriegler, Arthur Gilbert, Dennis M. Perluss, Fred Woods, Laurie D. Zelon, Candace D. Cooper and Madeleine Flier.
For Los Angeles Superior Court, four offices offer voters a choice. For Office No. 8, Bob Henry, a California deputy attorney general, has broad experience in criminal and civil law. For Office No. 18, Daviann Mitchell is a former police officer who now prosecutes gang crimes as a Los Angeles deputy district attorney. Two other current deputy district attorneys also deserve to be elected: Hayden Zacky for Office No. 102 and David W. Stuart for Office No. 144.
On the Web: For other Times endorsements, see www.latimes.com/endorsements