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Four picks for L.A. County Superior Court

Four picks for L.A. County Superior Court
The Stanley Mosk Courthouse, which is the main civil courthouse of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County in downtown Los Angeles on May 18, 2017. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

There are four runoffs for Los Angeles County Superior Court seats on the Nov. 6 ballot, and each includes a candidate that The Times endorsed in the June primary. We believe we made the correct choices then, and we again endorse those four candidates for the court.

Our recommendations come against the backdrop of not just the recent politicized confirmation hearings for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, but also the stream of calls and emails we’ve received from readers who urged us to change our minds about one of the candidates we backed. The candidate is Redondo Beach Senior Deputy City Prosecutor Sydne Jane Michel, and the issue is not that she played one of the girls who mercilessly bullied Sissy Spacek’s character in “Carrie” 42 years ago, or even that she appeared in “Piranha.”

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It’s that she is now married to C.D. “Chuck” Michel, a lawyer whose clients include the National Rifle Assn. and who is president of the California Rifle and Pistol Assn., which described her as a strong supporter of gun rights. The argument seems to be that a vote for Sydne Michel is a vote for the NRA, and how could The Times, with its long history of editorial positions in favor of sensible gun laws that are opposed at every turn by the gun lobby, in good conscience endorse such a person?

We do so because we reject the notion that Michel’s candidacy represents an attempt by gun interests to somehow take over the court. Voters who worry that just such a thing may be afoot should take a deep breath and then consider the following:

Michel is the candidate, not her husband. She has not represented the NRA — but so what if she had? Just as being a criminal defense lawyer who represents rapists and murderers does not disqualify one from serving as an evenhanded, fair-minded judge, neither would representing an organization that takes positions on hot-button issues, even if we find those positions repugnant. But again, it is Michel who is the candidate, and there is no suggestion that her husband’s profession has in any way impeded her vigor in prosecuting crimes in Redondo Beach, including some involving guns. Rejecting a candidate not because of her own values and experiences but because of her husband’s — well, that strikes us as a dated and even offensive notion.

There are personal and political positions that can indeed put a judicial candidate beyond the pale. The Times, for example, rejected judicial candidate William Daniel Johnson, an avowed white nationalist who wrote a book espousing deportation of all nonwhites, as unfit for a position that requires application of equal justice under law. Being married to a lawyer who represents a client we don’t like doesn’t fall into the same category.

The Times supports Michel because between her and rival Patricia “Patti” Hunter, a Los Angeles deputy city attorney, she is the better candidate and would make a better judge.

Our recommendations:

Office No. 4: Alfred A. Coletta

Office No. 16: Sydne Jane Michel

Office No. 60: Holly L. Hancock

Office No. 113: Michael Ribons

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