Endorsement: Steve Morgan, David Berger, David Diamond for L.A. County Superior Court
This year’s general election ballot includes three Los Angeles County Superior Court runoffs — contests in which no one emerged from the March 3 primary with a majority of the vote. The Times endorsed candidates in those races, and upon reflection, we have decided to endorse the same candidates for the general election: Steve Morgan, David Berger and David Diamond.
Needless to say, a lot has happened since March 3: the COVID-19 pandemic and the death of George Floyd. Many Americans have been compelled to face, to a degree and in numbers as never before, the most basic issues of law, liberty, race, public safety, equality, dignity and fairness.
In this election season, confidence in basic principles and institutions — from the Postal Service, to the election system, to the police, to the succession and selection process for Supreme Court justices, to democracy itself — has been shaken.
In such a time, positions like judicial seats on the Los Angeles County Superior Court — the largest unified trial court in the nation — loom large as building blocks in a foundation of justice. While the governor fills most of the court’s more than 450 judicial offices, voters have a chance to help shape this critical tribunal.
The Times analyzes judicial candidates according to the qualities we deem essential: integrity, intelligence, compassion, knowledge of and respect for the law, and an ability to run a courtroom with a sense of fairness. We endorse:
Superior Court Office No. 72: Steve Morgan. Trial judges have numerous tasks and must handle a variety of proceedings, but in the end, trial judges are trial judges and must be adept at handling trials. That means trial experience is essential, either as an attorney or as a court commissioner (or other bench officer). Morgan has been in numerous trials, some as a criminal defense lawyer, some as a prosecutor, some in military court and many in the L.A. Superior Court. Judges before whom he has appeared and lawyers whom he has worked with and against praise his skill and his demeanor. His opponent, Myanna Dellinger, a law professor in South Dakota, has strong positions on many issues with which the Times editorial page generally agrees, including racial equity and animal trophy hunting, and there is little doubt that the court needs more women on the bench. But she has never handled a trial. This isn’t the job for her.
Superior Court Office No. 80: David Berger. Berger has handled trials as a criminal prosecutor for 24 years, which should tell voters that he can handle himself in a courtroom, and there’s a reason the Superior Court bench is filled with so many ex-prosecutors: They do one trial after another and know the routine cold. If that’s all Berger had going for him, though, it would be easy to reject him as just one more deputy district attorney on a court that badly needs some diversity. But Berger has developed over the years from an old-school tough-on-crime prosecutor to one who recognizes the importance of rehabilitative alternatives to incarceration. To be fair, Klint James McKay, an administrative law judge for a state agency, is also a good candidate with solid courtroom experience, and we’d be pleased to see him on the court as well. If The Times were to pick the three best candidates out of the six running, McKay might well make the list. But that’s not the way judicial elections work. They are organized by office, and voters must pick between the two finalists for each office. Of the two candidates for Office No. 80, Berger is the better choice.
Superior Court Office No. 162: David D. Diamond. Diamond brings some of the breadth of experience it would be nice to have more of on the bench, yet he’s also got solid trial experience. He has worked as a family lawyer, a civil litigator and a criminal defense lawyer. He’s a former member of the Burbank Police Commission. He’s the better choice over Scott Andrew Yang, a young deputy district attorney who has acknowledged using his middle name on the primary ballot to capitalize on the name recognition of then-presidential candidate Andrew Yang.
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